Here’s How Dirty Makeup Brushes Can Affect Your Skin

November 28, 2022
Ariel Wodarcyk
By: Ariel Wodarcyk | by L'Oréal
Image of a model taking a makeup brush out of a black cup full of other makeup brushes

Breakouts are a normal part of life — some skin types are more acne-prone than others, some of us experience bouts of hormonal acne and others might experience frequent pimples from triggers that seem surprising, like a dirty phone screen or an unwashed pillowcase. Another potential cause for breakouts is using dirty makeup brushes. That’s right, the foundation sponge and blush brush you’ve been using for months could be harboring bacteria that sets off a flare of breakouts, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). To find out more about the impact dirty makeup brushes could have on your skin, keep reading. We also have tips from a professional makeup artist on how to clean each brush between uses.

What Happens if You Use Dirty Makeup Brushes?

According to the AAD, “makeup brushes are a breeding ground for bacteria.” With each use, they collect any dirt and oil that may remain on your skin, and they cling to residue from the products you apply with them.

It’s especially important to rinse the makeup brushes you use with cream or liquid formulas. Similar to paint, it’s easier for these products to seep into your brush’s bristles, which can have a negative impact on not just your skin, but your brush’s overall performance. “If you’re noticing streaking with your foundation brush, that’s a sign that your brush is so saturated that the bristles are sticking together and aren’t sprawled out the way they are intended because of that buildup,” says consulting makeup artist, Karol Rodriguez.

How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes

The AAD suggests washing your brushes every seven to ten days. That may seem like a hassle, but it will keep your brushes in better condition, make for a more seamless makeup application, and help keep acne-causing bacteria away from your skin.

If you’re looking to quickly wash off your brushes while doing an intricate makeup look, like a colorful smoky eye, Rodriguez swears by the Parian Spirit Professional Makeup Brush Cleaner. “I’ll dip the very tip of the brush in a small amount of Parian Spirit and create small circles and brush strokes on clean paper towels,” they say. “You’ll see all the makeup residue leave your brush in a matter of seconds. The best part is what makes it my go-to holy grail: It dries just as quickly as it cleans, making it perfect for on-the-go, quick yet effective cleaning.”

While the mist is ideal for quick clean-ups, as in the middle of a makeup look, reach for an unscented dish soap or gentle shampoo every time you want to do a deep clean. Rodriguez uses the Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Pure-Castile Liquid Soap

Rinse the tips of your bristles with warm water, then fill a bowl with water and your gentle soap of choice. Swirl the tip of each brush in the bowel, then continue rinsing until the water runs clear. Once you’re done, wipe off any residue with a clean paper towel. “I like to lay my brushes on the edge of my countertop and tables with the bristles hanging off the table so that they dry in an even shape,” Rodriguez says.


Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Pure-Castile Liquid Soap


Photo: Chaunte Vaughn

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