We often give our favorite foundations, blushes, bronzers, eyeshadows and highlighters credit for creating our flawless makeup looks—but if we’re honest, makeup brushes are the real stars of the show. How else would we apply, blend and set our Insta-worthy looks? As much as we rely on makeup brushes, however, it turns out, many of us haven’t been giving our brushes the TLC they truly deserve. Well, that stops today.

The first step to properly caring for your makeup brushes? Making sure they’re squeaky clean. This week on The Arch, we’re breaking down how to clean makeup brushes in a few simple steps. Whether you’re new to makeup brushes or are looking to improve your cleaning technique, we’ve got everything you need to know.

Why Clean Your Makeup Brushes?

Just like you should wash your hands before you touch your face, it’s in your best interest to make sure that anything that comes in contact with your face is as clean as possible. It may not seem like your makeup brushes lead a particularly interesting life, but they actually come in contact with a lot of bacteria. Bacteria isn’t the only thing to be wary of, however. Your makeup brushes also accumulate dead skin cells, oil and product buildup that can possibly clog your pores and lead to breakouts.

While keeping makeup brushes clean is essential to help prevent the passing of bacteria between your face and brushes, it’s also the key to helping you apply your makeup as flawlessly as possible. Your makeup looks are only as good as the products and tools you use, and even the most high-quality makeup can appear streaky and cakey when applied with dirty brushes. Whether you’re applying foundation, concealer or eyeshadow, having clean bristles is one of the best ways to ensure a smooth makeup application.


How Often Should You Clean Your Makeup Brushes?

How often you should clean your makeup brushes depends on how often you wear makeup. If you’re the full-face-everyday type, it is probably best for you to gently wipe your makeup brushes after each use and to deep clean them at least once a month. If you are more likely to wear makeup only for special occasions, it would be a good idea to make it a habit to wash your brushes after every special event. If you use some of your brushes more than others, expect to wash those brushes more often if you want to keep them in tip-top shape.


How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes in 4 Easy Steps

For general maintenance, we recommend that you perform a regular cleaning of your brushes, such as with a brush cleansing spray and paper towel. About every 1–2 weeks, spritz your brush bristles with a cleansing spray and then gently swirl the brush head over a paper towel on a flat surface. Be sure to only mist the bristles and not the handle to avoid causing damage to the ferrule. A cleansing spray is quick-drying and hassle-free, making this chore more of a breeze.

For a more thorough, deep cleaning of your makeup brushes, you should have a few things handy: a bowl of lukewarm water, a makeup brush cleanser, a clean towel and a playlist that you love. If you have an extensive brush collection complete with eyebrow, lip, eyeshadow, and face brushes, it may take you some time to wash all your brushes thoroughly, so listen to your favorite tunes and have fun with it!

When you’re ready to start washing your brushes, dip your brush bristles into the bowl of lukewarm water—remember to never get the handle wet. Apply a drop of makeup brush cleansing gel into your hand (you can also use a solid cleanser). Gently swirl the damp brush in your palm and lather up the brush bristles. Then, carefully rinse the brush in lukewarm water. Repeat these steps as many times as necessary until the lather is completely free of makeup. After you rinse your brush for the last time, gently pat the brush with a clean towel to remove excess moisture and then reshape your brush bristles

Your brushes may be clean, but you’re not done with them just yet. After you’ve washed all of your brushes, take another clean towel and lay your brushes flat to dry. If possible, lay the tip of the brushes over the edge of a counter for better ventilation. It is essential that they’re completely dry before placing them back into your makeup bag or vanity. Damp brushes can often be breeding grounds for bacteria.


How Long Do Makeup Brushes Last?

How long your makeup brushes will last can depend on how often you use them and how well you care for them. If you use your makeup brushes almost every day, you may have to replace them sooner than someone who only uses them every once in a while.

Keeping your brushes clean will go a long way in ensuring their longevity—but cleaning alone won’t guarantee a long life for your beloved makeup brushes. In addition to keeping your brushes clean and free of bacteria and product buildup, it is a good idea to store your makeup brushes in a safe place, like a makeup bag or vanity, to make sure the bristles don’t collect dust or become squashed or prematurely frayed. Like most things in life, however, makeup brushes won’t last forever. The great thing about makeup brushes is that they will tell you when it’s time to toss them.

If your brushes have begun to fray, lose bristles or are having a hard time maintaining their shape, it’s probably a good time to head to the store for a new brush.

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