For makeup sponges in particular, NYC makeup artist Holly Gowers recommends cleaning after every single use with liquid soap or bar soap.
When should you replace your makeup brushes and sponges altogether?
Everyone seemed to agree that if you treat your makeup brushes right, you can use them faithfully for years without running into issues. “I very rarely throw a brush away,” Schumacher says, “and if it doesn’t make the cut for my kit any longer, I would usually recycle them by using them for craft art brushes.”
How long your brush will last all depends on how regularly (and intensely) you’re using it, as well as how you take care of it between uses. That being said, there are some clear-cut signs it’s time to throw away a brush. Much like split ends are a reliable sign you need a haircut, splitting brush hairs, or brush hairs falling out, indicate that it’s time for that brush to head into retirement, according to Nam and Gowers. Another sign is when your brush or makeup sponge begins to emit a foul smell. “When your Beautyblender is cracking, or smelling funky, you should replace it,” Gowers says.
To prolong the life of your brushes, Gowers also recommends cleaning the container that your makeup brushes sit in every once in a while. If you’re noticing that the bristles on your brushes are getting mangled from being stuffed in the same cramped container all the time, Nam recommends going the extra mile and slipping brush guards ($13, Beautylish) on your brushes to keep them in mint condition.
The Tools You’ll Need to Clean Makeup Brushes at Home
There are lots of makeup-brush cleaners on the market that come in a spray form. These are handy and convenient for quick and easy cleanings. However, they’re not totally necessary to clean your brushes.
Another popular option is a liquid brush cleaner—more on how to use one below. All of the makeup artists that we spoke with preferred to use liquid brush cleaners on their own brushes. One of Schumacher’s favorites is the Parian Spirit cleaner, which she uses for quick, daily cleanups. “It removes and disinfects in one step,” she says.
Nam adds that one of the few liquid brush cleaning solutions she actually likes is from MAC Cosmetics: “It disinfects and gets the makeup out quickly, and it dries down pretty fast. My brushes don’t smell like chemicals, and they feel soft and ready to use again afterwards.”
Meanwhile, Gowers swears by Cinema Secrets, which is a concentrated, professional-grade option that lasts for a long time since a little goes a long way. “If you use it properly,” she says, “it’s a deeper clean than soap and water.” She also finds that the formula dries really quickly, preserves brushes longer, and conditions without leaving an oily sheen behind.
Lots of makeup lovers, and even the pros, look to everyday dish soaps and hand soaps to deep-clean their brushes. Why? They’re gentle enough to use on makeup brushes and contain the right ingredients to break down oils and powders.