The 16 Best Makeup Brush Cleaners, According to Beauty Experts
Stop neglecting your makeup brushes! Choose an expert-approved makeup brush cleaner from this list to banish bacteria and get gorgeous, glowing skin.
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Don’t skip this essential step!
We have a confession to make: Sometimes we’ll go weeks (or months!) without cleaning our makeup brushes. Chances are, you do the same thing. Unlike, say, mascara, which obviously needs to be refreshed regularly, makeup brushes are an easy beauty essential to neglect unless they’re obviously dirty. After all, who has time to think about pristine blush brushes when there’s so much else crowding our brains these days? No one, but you have to make the time. The good news is that with the right makeup brush cleaners, this task will take mere minutes. Do it a few times a month and you’ll be all set.
So, why is this so important? Even if your brushes look clean, they might be teeming with bacteria, says makeup artist Marcia Williams, founder of Embellish Beauty Concepts. When you don’t clean your makeup brushes, she explains, “it can lead to skin breakouts and other harmful growths.” Yuck. Plus, dirty brushes interfere with proper makeup application, which can make foundation or eye shadow look blotchy or otherwise unblended. A perfectly blended look, by the way, is one of the makeup secrets of women who always look put together. And one more thing: If you don’t clean your makeup brushes regularly, it can shorten their life span. That means you’ll have to replace them more frequently, which can put a serious dent in your wallet.
Nobody uses and relies on brushes more than makeup artists, so we quizzed them on their can’t-live-without-’em picks. From the most gentle liquid cleaners that will make your brushes last forever to the gadgets that shorten cleaning time, this list details the best of the best, so you can easily find what’s right for you. Once you’ve chosen the perfect product, learn how to clean your makeup brushes the right way.
Note: Prices listed were accurate as of press time; pricing fluctuations may occur.
Best gentle shampoo: Paul Mitchell Baby Don’t Cry
The best makeup brush cleaners are ones that don’t harm delicate brush hairs. After all, you want them to last as long as possible. Not only will that save you money, but it will also prevent the brush from shedding on your face as you apply your makeup. Believe it or not, baby shampoos are especially popular with makeup artists because they’re so gentle, explains Tracy Ftacek, founder and owner of the Pretty Convenient app. She personally uses Paul Mitchell Baby Don’t Cry, explaining that “it is one of the most gentle and cruelty-free options available.” Plus, if you have a little one in your life, this tear-free formula can pull double duty. In the market for an affordable shampoo for your hair? Check out these under-$15 shampoos that stylists admit to using at home.
Best liquid soap: Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap
Liquid soaps make for wonderful makeup brush cleaners because they cut through the dirt and oil that can accumulate on brushes. The trick is finding a soap that’s not too harsh. Celebrity makeup artist Terri Bryant, founder of Guide Beauty, recommends Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap. “I run my brushes under a little lukewarm water, add a drop of Dr. Bronner’s, and gently swirl the brush hair around,” says Bryant. After rinsing out the soap and squeezing out water, she lays the brushes flat to dry. For a gorgeous look, don’t miss these inexpensive beauty tricks only the experts know.
Best solid makeup brush cleaner: BeautyBlender BlenderCleanser Sponge and Brush Cleanser
Solid makeup brush cleaners have gained popularity because they are great for deep cleans and really get in crevices. Ftacek is a fan of this BeautyBlender Sponge and Brush Cleanser, and it’s a staple in her makeup kit. This professional-grade, vegan formula contains palm oil, aloe, and coconut oil, and it’s scented in lovely lavender. More important, according to the product description, it “protects against 99.7 percent of germs for up to 24 hours after cleansing.” How do you use it, exactly? Simply lather your brush with the soap provided and then scrub it against the mat. Make sure you know these 18 makeup rules by the time you’re 40.
Best makeup brush cleaning mat: Sigma Spa Brush Cleaning Mat
Brush-cleaning mats may seem unusual, but they’re becoming an increasingly popular option. “The silicone mat fits neatly into the base of your sink and has different patterned grooves to remove residual makeup and anything else caught in the brush hairs,” explains Bryant, who’s a fan. Use it with your favorite cleanser or baby shampoo. Looking for a practical and affordable gift for a friend? This qualifies!
Best conditioning cleanser: MAC Cosmetics Brush Cleaner
Unsurprisingly, this makeup brush cleaner from MAC is a popular staple in many makeup artists’ kits. It’s great for quick and easy cleaning with minimal fuss and no water necessary. Apply a few drops of cleaner directly on the brush itself, or apply on a towel, and then swirl the brush around until it runs clean. Its conditioning formula is designed specifically to be gentle on makeup brushes and help them last as long as possible. Not cleaning your brushes regularly is one of the makeup mistakes pros wish you’d stop making.
Best budget makeup brush cleaner: e.l.f. Solid Brush and Sponge Cleanser
Proof positive that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a great product. Available at your local drugstore for the price of a latte, this e.l.f. solid makeup brush cleaner is adored by everybody from drugstore devotees in search of a bargain to professional makeup artists who can afford cleaners ten times the price. It includes detoxifying charcoal to help cut through residue and minimize breakouts. Bonus: It comes in a travel-friendly case, so it’s great if you’re always on the go.
Best antimicrobial makeup brush cleaner: Cinema Secrets Makeup Brush Cleaner Kit
This quick-drying, perennial makeup artist favorite is particularly good for acne-prone skin because of its antimicrobial properties. Alex Rutkay, a TV and film makeup artist in New York City, calls it her go-to. “It sanitizes and really gets the gunk out of the brushes, and the best part is that you don’t need to rinse it,” she says. “It dries quickly and doesn’t leave a greasy film on the brushes like some do.” Rutkay also praises its vanilla scent. Sometimes breakouts are about more than just bacteria, of course. This is what the acne on every part of your body is trying to tell you.
Best eco-friendly makeup brush cleaner: Parian Spirit Professional Makeup Brush Cleaner
Devotees rave about this natural cleanser, which is a bit under the radar but boasts a cult following. Not only does it thoroughly clean brushes, but it’s also made without harsh chemicals and has a pleasant orange scent. So, what ingredients make this so magical for your brushes and for the environment? Citrus spirits and food-grade solvents. Here are more products with a cult following that are 100 percent worth it.
Best cleansing duo: Morphe Brush Cleansing Balm + Scrubber
This cleansing duo from popular makeup brush brand Morphe packs a powerful punch thanks to its solid cleansing balm and scrubber method. Lather the brush by swirling it into the balm, then use the textured scrubber to get the brushes pristine. Reviewers rave that it makes brushes seem “brand spanking new” and that the scent isn’t overpowering.
Best-smelling makeup brush cleaner: IT Brushes Brush Bath Purifying Makeup Cleaner
This cruelty-free brush cleaner, from beloved makeup brand IT Cosmetics, is not only gentle on brushes but also has a clean, refreshing smell, thanks to ingredients including lavender oil, lemon peel extract, and orange peel extract. Simply spray it on brushes and swirl around for easy, speedy spot cleaning. FYI, these are the things you should never store in your bathroom.
Longest-lasting makeup brush cleaner: Bobbi Brown Brush Cleanser
A little goes a long way with this holy grail makeup brush cleaner, which is adored by fans of the classic makeup line. The concentrated yet gentle liquid formula deeply cleanses brushes, and devotees report that even with frequent usage, they’re often able to make a bottle last for an entire year.
Best bargain makeup brush cleaner: Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid
Sometimes you want fancy, and sometimes you want cheap (but still good), especially when you’re in a pinch. Classic drugstore dishwashing liquid Dawn definitely fits the bill: It gets rid of even the most intense buildup from heavy-duty makeup, and it also won’t break the bank for even the tightest budget. Just note that it’s not quite as gentle as the other cleansers on this list, and a little goes a long way, so use sparingly.
Best makeup brush cleaner for sensitive skin: EcoTools Makeup Brush Cleansing Shampoo
This fragrance-free, hypoallergenic makeup brush shampoo spray is not only made with plant-based ingredients and without parabens, phthalates, or petroleum—it’s also tested and approved by dermatologists. That makes it an excellent choice for easily irritated skin, as well as the delicate brushes themselves. Plus, it’s an eco-friendly brand: The cleanser is packaged in a 40 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottle, and EcoTools donates $100,000 to a non-profit each year.
Best electric makeup brush cleaner: StylPro Automatic Makeup Brush Cleaner and Dryer
If you’ve never used an electric brush cleaner to do all the makeup cleaning work for you, you’re missing out. This popular version from StylPro takes only 30 seconds to wash and dry brushes, and it comes with its own cleaner or can be used with the liquid soap of your choice. With its eight included silicone collars, it’s sure to accommodate whatever brushes you own.
Best makeup brush cleaner for oily skin: Clinique Makeup Brush Cleanser
Specifically designed with antimicrobial properties, this classic brush cleaner hits all the marks: It gets brushes deeply clean, helps resist breakouts, and is gentle enough for delicate brushes. Plus, it sprays on for ease of use and no mess.
Best makeup brush cleaner for removing concealer: BeautyBlender Liquid Beautycleanser
New York City-based makeup artist Mary Wiles swears by this cleansing liquid from BeautyBlender—the same brand behind those cute little hot pink makeup sponges, another makeup artist favorite. She says it’s best from removing cakey concealer from brushes. Its demineralized water and natural sea salt gets the job done as it detoxifies brushes, plus its lavender scent soothes the senses and provides aromatherapy benefits.
- Marcia Williams, makeup artist and founder of Embellish Beauty Concepts
- Tracy Ftacek, founder and owner of the Pretty Convenient app
- Terri Bryant, celebrity makeup artist and Guide Beauty founder
- Alex Rutkay, TV and film makeup artist in New York City
- Mary Wiles, a New York City–based makeup artist
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