Monday, June 21, 2010

Makeup Brushes 101: The Idiot's guide to proper care of one's brushes


That's how I felt after perusing the May 2010 issue of Real Simple Magazine. I love this magazine to bits because of the practicality and tongue-in-cheek suggestions for anything and everything that's DIY. I was taken aback when, upon flipping to the beauty pages, it read: "clean your makeup brushes once a month with a mild soap or shampoo"...not verbatim, but something to that effect. First of all, the cover blurb is loud and clear, the May issue is "SPEED CLEANING". Readers, I assure you that washing your makeup brushes in mild soap and/or shampoo is not only the longest route you can take to cleanliness but the most impractical and unsanitary of all methods.

MAY 2010 Issue


So let's say you are an aspiring makeup artist, or maybe you've just purchased a set of very expensive brushes. Why not? all the best makeup artists and magazines tell you to invest in a good set of brushes because doing so is a worthwhile investment. I could not agree more. This is not some marketing ploy or conspiracy to make just one brand's brush line flourish. Investing in a good set of makeup brushes means a lifetime of brushes that deliver the best application. I'll let you in on a secret if you do not know it already: SOMETIMES IF THE MAKEUP BRAND IS NOT HIGH-END, WITH A GOOD SET OF BRUSHES YOUR NOT-SO-HIGH-END MAKEUP CAN LOOK LIKE A MILLION BUCKS. Reverse that phrase and honey, you've just flushed all that expensive makeup down the drain. Aside from near to perfect makeup application, a good set of brushes compliments a good skincare routine. How? well, calculate the amount of money you spend on skincare+trips to your dermatologist+treatments/facials,etc. So if you're not the soap and water kind of gal, yes dear, it is most likely that you cough up a fortune to keep your face as flawless as it can possibly be or have been spending a fortune to achieve flawlessness. Okay so given all that, you buy a set of brushes that are mediocre. For me, the definition of mediocre is any brush that is A. stiff and feels scratchy on the skin B. too soft that it doesn't really pick up any makeup. I can go on and on and on but it's not my intention to land on the makeup brush shit list. I'm simply sharing my knowledge and practical approach on how a bad set of brushes negates any skin care routine you've already invested in. Another thing, would you reach for a bar of "mild soap and/or shampoo" to take off all your makeup at the end of the day. Think about what I just said, yes that's it and let it sink in, I believe we are on the same page by now.

An aspiring makeup artist? say you have a 22-piece brush set. Correction, a very expensive 22-piece brush set. You have an assembly line of 6-15 models you have to makeup for a fashion show. OR 6 bridesmaids and a bride waiting in line to get made up. I doubt if you'll reach for "mild soap and/or shampoo" in between girls. Um, yeah I thought so. The most practical thing to do as a professional is to keep at least 3 sets of brushes as back up, because using the same brushes over on a different client is TOTALLY and COMPLETELY unacceptable to me. In some countries, this would be a lawsuit waiting to happen should you cross-infect a cold sore or a skin infection. You don't even want to hear the horror stories told to me by models. I have some clients who in fact, bring their own brushes when they get made up by me for the fear of spreading any sort of bacteria back and forth!


Well for starters, invest in a good set of brushes if you have not already. If you are a pro and would like to share any other brands which I do not mention, then by all means tweet me or make a comment on this post. We are all dying to know what else is out there!!! If I have not listed it, that only means I have not tried it, or I've tried it but would not vouch for it. I am privy to the following brands of makeup which carry these brushes:






Trish McEvoy (handy/travel size)


For personal brushes, cleaning them once a month is all you need PROVIDED the brushes either NEVER leave your home or are stored neatly in a brush roll or case. A lot of women are guilty of stashing their makeup brushes in the same kit alongside tubes of mascara and eyeliners. God only knows how much bacteria is breeding in that thing. A solution that I've provided is to have a separate set of brushes just for touching up. For personal use, you only really need at least 4 brushes: powder, blush, eyeshadow and lip/eyebrow. Keep the professional size ones at home on your dresser, anyway it's a hassle to tote these around. Buy handy-sized versions of whatever you have at home which sole purpose is for touch-ups at work and at play, easily stores in a small kit or clutch.
For professional brushes, I will sound like a broken record when I say please clean as you go. It is imperative that you do so because models have their beauty at stake and if you screw up someone's skin with your unsanitary ways, then the beauty gods shall unleash their karma on you, leaving you on your own and out on a limb. Nothing worse than a makeup artist with a reputation of dirty brushes/tools. Yuck. Brushes that require cleaning after EVERY client are: lip, eyeshadow, foundation and concealer brushes. These brushes work on the most sensitive and bacteria-prone parts of the face.


There are only 2 brands that I know of and use which acts as a disinfectant, brush cleaner and brush softener in one AND you may use your brushes right away with absolutely NO DOWN TIME/WAITING or WASHING. To anybody who wishes to challenge this statement, I would be willing and able in an arena where we can do an actual demonstration in front of a live audience. Again, if there are other products out there that I do not know about, please share them with me.

1. Shu Uemura Brush Cleaner (left) instantly drains ALL makeup from any brush. Put it to the test: take your greasiest grease paint and pour the cleaner into a small cup, the kind that comes with mouthwash and swirl your brush back and forth, you may repeat as necessary then wipe that on a white facial tissue back and forth strokes. TA-DA!!!! your brush is not only clean, but ready use and bacteria free. THAT'S IT FOLKS. No drying, no waiting, no washing, next model in line please? The only down side to this brush cleaner (I'VE TOLD THE FOLKS IN JAPAN TIME AND TIME AGAIN) is that it is only sold in one size. You kinda need to hoard a LOT of this because you will not be able to live without it. Another inconvenience is that for brushes bigger than an eyeshadow brush, you would need a bowl of the cleaner to go through one powder or blush brush alone. This is perfect for personal-use brushes which only require once-a-month cleaning.

2. Cinema Secrets Brush Cleaner (right) is the exact same type of cleaner as Shu Uemura. Unfortunately for us in the Philippines, the Cinema Secrets counters do not carry the big industrial size so you'll have to have it bought for you in the U.S. A friend of mine said that due to some packaging fail, the big size leaked in her suitcase soiling some of her clothes but loves the product anyway.

3. For big size brushes such as the ones used for powder, blush and the like, your best bet would be an anti-bacterial hand soap that foams. Not only are they NOT "mild shampoos" they smell great and do the job of ridding the grime and the grunge that builds up in your brushes. If you can splurge buy any anti-bacterial foaming hand wash from bath & body works or if you're on a budget brands like Ivory and Dove don't put a dent in your bank account available in most drug stores/groceries/supermarkets.


Brushes are very personal to me. As Mr. Shu Uemura says: "They are the extension of my hands and fingers". He could not have put it better. Treat them with care and respect and the love they deserve and know when to retire a brush that has served its purpose. Do I sound like a freak? well maybe I won't sound like one when you thank me in 10 years and your brushes are still intact. By the way, BEWARE of fake brushes being sold on Ebay and on the internet. Always question the authenticity, there is nothing wrong in doing so.


  1. Don't dry your brushes with a hand dryer or a blow dryer
  2. Don't lay your brushes down a towel while waiting for them to dry, instead lay them flat on a table with the bristles hanging off the edge, that way, all sides of the brush get to air dry properly
  3. Mold them back into their original shape with your hands, sometimes washing may cause them to open up like a fan or fountain
  4. Don't soak your brushes in a bowl, this will cause the bristles to fall out and break
  5. Don't throw away old brushes, you may use them to apply shimmer on the body, self-tanning products or clean your computer (HAHA), no seriously....