#MakeupMonday: Clean Your Brushes

If you do makeup at all, you know that you’re supposed to clean your brushes on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis. It’s like flossing. You KNOW you’re supposed to do it…. and yet…. days, weeks, months go by, and it is not done.

After the 5 week trip to Europe (and frankly, about a year of other traveling) my travel brushes were in a sickly state. Even I was grossed out by them.

And of course like magic, Instagram kept showing me a “Super -Fast Makeup Brush Cleaner” gadget each time I logged on. I resisted as long as I could, but of course I was going to buy it, it was just a matter of time. I mean, come on! It promises to instantly spin your brushes CLEAN AND DRY in under a minute!

Reader, I bought it.

Amazon actually has about 10 variations of this product, all from China. I picked one almost at random–it has good reviews. Is it the best, I have no idea.

But, here’s the thing: I cleaned my brushes.

Setup below. I had previously scored some super discounted BareMinerals Well-Cared-For Brush Cleaner at TJ Maxx a while back, so that’s what i used. I also had a brush cleaning mat from another TJ Maxx purchase, and brought that out just in case.

Setting to work, one by one, I took up a brush, found the rubber collar that matched its handle, inserted the brush, attached the collar to the battery-operated mechanism, stuck the brush head upside down in the little pot of sudsy water, and pressed the button. I spun the brush CLEAN up and down IN the water, and then I spun the brush DRY up above the water. (Watch the video at the Amazon link to see a demonstration). About 30 seconds or a minute of spinning per brush…. theoretically.

There was a definite learning curve involved. A surprising amount of things can go wrong with this apparently simple technology.

A: the brush handle forming a vacuum inside the rubber collar, and being almost impossible to get back out.

B: I quickly noticed that my beloved double-sided space-saving travel brushes (see below) would not fit in the rubber handle-collars. I had to do those by hand.

C: A learning moment: discovering that my foundation brushes are beyond the cleaning ability of my new little battery operated system. The thick black brush above on the right, with the white tips? That needed about three deep-cleanings, by hand, in hot water, before I’d removed all the embedded foundation.

D: Weird mishaps: about three brushes came apart during cleaning! The warm water melted the glue holding the handle and brush head together! Wut?! So, out came the handy superglue to fix that.

E: Another mishap: the rubberized handle of one Real Techniques brush turned permanently gunky/sticky from the hot water! But, it’s my absolute favorite contour brush and I’m not prepared to give it up! What to do? I grab a bottle of nail polish, and paint over the gunk! (see it drying on the left above). Two coats, and the brush handle was restored to a hard finish!

So brush-cleaning with this supposedly time-saving gadget took more fortitude and time than you’d expect. And no, the brushes were not spun “dry” after 10 seconds. They still needed to sit and dry for at least one hour.

But: feast your eyes on the clean fluffy glory of my brushes above. Do you see them? They’re transformed back to original state!

Below, my home brush set on the left side towel, and my travel brush kit on the right (minus a few sitting out to dry in the sun). All clean, fresh, fluffy, and soft.

And when I used them again the first time after washing? Whoa. Seriously, whoa. It was night and day. I had NOT been getting optimal performance out of those dirty brushes, most particularly any brush that dealt with foundation, either applying or blending.

So, I’m sold. I’ll be cleaning my brushes regularly from now on, and my new spinny gadget makes it fun. Was it quick? No, it was not. It took more than an hour to get through the entire ordeal. But assuming I don’t wait 1.5 years again, I expect the next time to go faster.

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About Karen Kelsky

I am a former tenured professor at two institutions--University of Oregon and University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. I have trained numerous Ph.D. students, now gainfully employed in academia, and handled a number of successful tenure cases as Department Head. I've created this business, The Professor Is In, to guide graduate students and junior faculty through grad school, the job search, and tenure. I am the advisor they should already have, but probably don't.


#MakeupMonday: Clean Your Brushes — 2 Comments

    • That’s amazing! I know a few friends who have bought an expensive solution from Sephora to rub on their brushes to get a similar effect. Never thought to try pure rubbing alcohol.

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