I have a ton of makeup brushes and not a day goes by that I don't reach for at least a few when I'm putting on my makeup. They really help me to get precise application that looks great all day. However, the downside to having a million makeup brushes is having to clean them all. While I mostly have budget makeup brushes, I still consider buying brushes and tools to be an investment, and I'd like to keep them as long as possible. I'm very careful to buy brushes that don't shed, but the second step to making them live long and happy lives is cleaning them often. I once read that the biggest reason women replace their makeup brushes is because they're so soiled in product that they're unusable. Not only is that super gross, but it's also such a waste of money! According to Bobbi Brown in her books, you should be able to keep your makeup brushes for about ten years if you take care of them properly, which includes cleaning them!
I've also noticed that my makeup applies so much better off a clean brush. If you think about it, there's really no use buying a beautiful blush or a fancy eyeshadow palette if the colors are just going to muddle together on the brush. Even for cream or liquid products like foundation (where the colors are all going to be pretty much the same), you don't want little flakes of old dried up product mixing in with the new product (ew...) I always think of it like art class: every art teacher I've ever had has been really careful to make sure the students clean their paint brushes, otherwise students' future projects won't turn out well, no matter how talented they are at painting, because the brush is ruined from all the paint stuck in it. Also, dirty makeup brushes are pretty bad for your skin. Just think of all the bacteria that could build up in those and break you out. (Even if you don't break out, who really wants to put bacteria on their face?)
Regardless of all the benefits, cleaning your makeup brushes can still be a real pain. Here's what I do to keep my makeup brushes clean without going crazy:
MaintenanceI only wash my brushes using soap and water about once a week (except for the brushes I use for cream products...those I clean after two uses,) although twice a month is plenty if you don't want to commit to that. In the mean time, I keep them clean with a spray-on brush cleaner. I just spray each brush a couple times and then wipe it on a tissue. This helps get leftover product off (so I won't get the color-muddling I mentioned before) and sanitizes the brushes as well (although it's not a thorough cleanse, it does help your brushes stay germ-free.) It also comes in handy if you want to use another product on the same brush. For example, I do my eyeliner on an angled brow brush, and I'd rather not have black eyebrows, so I spray it down before I do my brows. It's a really handy product to have and e.l.f. sells one for $3 (they're all basically water and alcohol, which isn't something you need to splurge on.)
RotationI've noticed most people clean all their makeup brushes in one go, but this doesn't really work out for me. It takes a long time and some of my bigger brushes take over a day to dry, which can be really annoying in the mean time when I'm trying to do my makeup. Instead, I've taken to just washing a few makeup brushes every night. I just choose the ones I don't remember washing in a while, and take five minutes to clean them up. This way, I always have at least some makeup brushes to use, but they all stay pretty clean. I have a couple of each kind of brush, but even if you had just a few makeup brushes, I think it would be nice to only be short one at a time (that way you can skip the complex eyeshadow look one day, and go without blush the next instead of going without it all one day.) I know this won't work for everyone, but it might be something to try if cleaning your makeup brushes seems like a daunting task or you hate waiting for them to dry.
TechniqueAnd now for how I actually clean my makeup brushes. People use a variety of products to clean their brushes, but I stick to my Boots softening cleanser. When I wash my face at night, it removes all my makeup, while still being gentle, which is exactly what I want for my makeup brushes as well. I simply get my brushes wet, swirl them around in the cleanser, work the product through and rinse. (I try to avoid getting water too close to the handle though, because I don't want to loosen the glue.) For the longest time, I worked the product through with just my fingers, which works pretty well most of the time. However, I never could get all the product out of some of my brushes, and after hearing about products like the Real Techniques cleansing palette, I started to think about ways I could get my brushes spotless. I heard mixed reviews about the cleansing palette itself and wasn't about to spend $15 on that anyway, but I saw a lot of people talking about using simple household products, like silicone hot pads to get the same effect.
I picked up this dog grooming mitt at Target a while ago and I have been so impressed with the results! There are different sized grooves that work for different brushes and it really gets the whole brush clean. Some of my brushes that always seem to be a little bit stained (my blush brush is always pink, for example) are now back to their original color! At less than $7, it's definitely a better deal than the RT palette and I really like the fact that it's a glove instead of a palette. (And the funny thing is, I'm 99% sure this kind of thing wouldn't even work on my dog.)
The last thing I do before I lay my brushes flat to dry is twist the handle in between my hands. (It's the same motion a caveman would use when he's making a fire with a stick, if you're not sure what I meant.) This helps get some of the water out so the brush will dry faster and won't drip everywhere. It also helps the brush retain it's normal shape, although I still find myself adjusting the bristles really quick before I lay it down to dry.
That's all for how I clean my makeup brushes. It might seem like a lot, but it honestly takes me about 5 minutes a day. The trick is to find a system that works for you!