The Real Cost of Using Dirty Makeup Brushes

The Real Cost of Using Dirty Makeup Brushes
by Truly Beauty

Do you remember the last time you washed your makeup brushes? If your answer lies somewhere between “no” and “weeks ago,” you are not alone. According to a survey, 39% of makeup brush users clean them less than once per month. And 22% don’t even wash their brushes at all. That’s 61% of women who aren’t cleaning their makeup tools right. Are you one of them?

Here’s the wake-up call you need to finally start washing your bristles.


Dirty Makeup Brushes are a Breeding Ground for Bacteria

“Layers of oil from your skin, mixed with makeup pigments and dead skin cells, make brushes a breeding ground for bacteria,” says makeup artist Caroline Barnes.

Think about it. Every time you use a brush, you’re adding more product to it: more foundation, more concealer, more gel liner – whatever. In short, it’s getting more caked in product with each use. Add dust into the equation, and you’ve got yourself a germy build-up that’s transferring not only to your precious products but your skin too. That’s a lot of gross stuff accumulating on your skin.


It Could Be the Reason You’re Breaking Out

It’s funny how we couldn’t envision going more than a day without washing our face and yet with our makeup brushes – it totally slips our mind! If you wear makeup daily and you’re not cleaning your brushes as regularly, your face-washing efforts really are going to waste.

“If you don’t wash your makeup brushes enough, you spread dirt and bacteria from your face, to your makeup, then back to your face,” explains makeup artist Laramie. “If you’ve been breaking out and you’ve tried or ruled out everything else, your makeup brushes could be at fault.”


Tiny Creatures Could Be Living on Your Skin

Gross – we know!

“Under the microscope, you may see the remains of mites on your brushes,” reveals cosmetic scientist Lynne Sanders. “They’re generally considered harmless, but they may be implicated in acne.”


Wanna know what’s even grosser? The fact that using unwashed makeup tools could give you a staph infection.

Yup, through daily use of dirty makeup brushes, it won’t just be tiny bugs crawling on your skin. Everything from staphylococcus, streptococcus, e coli, fungus, and viruses could transfer to your skin.


Your Makeup Won’t Look as Good

Most people use makeup brushes to achieve a smoother application. But if they’re already caked up with two weeks’ worth of makeup, they won’t be able to apply today’s makeup properly.

When brushes are dirty, pigments deposit unevenly and blending works less efficiently. Not only that! Not maintaining them actually shortens their lifespan. So if you spent a fortune on high-quality brushes, make sure you look after them if you want them to last.


Don’t Even Think About Using Sponges

As great as beauty blenders and sponges are at giving you that dewy, flawless look, in the long term, they’re your skin’s worst frenemy!

“I avoid using sponges as pigments and grease wedge themselves deep inside so they never look or feel totally clean,” says Barnes.

They’re also not very wallet-friendly (or eco-friendly!). You need to replace them every three months.



It depends on the tool.

Foundation and concealer brushes should be cleaned once a week, minimum, to prevent product build-up and keep your pores clear. Ideally, if you’re using them daily, try aiming for 2-3 times per week to keep them squeaky clean. You can be a little less diligent with your eye shadow and liner brushes.

In the words of legendary makeup artist Bobbi Brown, “Brushes that are used around the eyes should be cleaned at least twice a month.”



Nope, running them under the tap for 10 seconds won’t cut it. To ensure super hygienic brushes, you’ll need to give them a pro-level clean. Here’s how.

  1. Wash

Hand wash your brushes in lukewarm water using anti-bacterial soap or dirt-destroying cleanser like Truly’s Hemp Anti-Blemish Cleanser.

“Dip each brush individually under the running water, and then into a bowl of gentle shampoo or soap and rub gently with fingers to get a good lather for a few minutes,” says makeup pro Christabel Draffin.


  1. Rinse

Now rinse the bristles thoroughly, ensuring the remaining soap and makeup residue gets washed away.

“If there is still residue on the brush, I repeat the process. If not, I squeeze the water out of the brush and lay it flat on a towel next to the sink to dry,” says Draffin.

You can also spray them with a florally mist like Truly’s Rosewater Mist to make them smell fabulous.


  1. Dry

Once all your brushes are washed, lay them in a row on your kitchen or bathroom counter to dry. Don’t leave them to dry on a towel – it’ll turn them mildew-y and make them smell strange. To speed up the process, place them underneath your radiator.


Never Put Them in Your Washing Machine

It is not an acceptable shortcut. Don’t do it!

“The heat of the machine will break down the glue that holds the brush to the handle,” warns Barnes. Instead, follow the makeup washing method above to keep your tools super clean and your skin clear.



While frequent cleansing can extend your brushes’ lifeline, there are times when you have to accept your tools need to be replaced. If your brushes aren’t doing their best job despite your cleaning efforts, that’s a clear sign. 

“It’s time to toss your makeup brush when the bristles start to fray, shed, or lose their shape,” says Brown. “I can’t emphasize enough that the right tools are as important in getting the look you want as the actual makeup itself. If your brushes become too pinched or squashed, then they simply will not be up to the job.”

And when you do invest in some new tools, remember to show them more care and attention! It’ll pay off!



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