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 • Makeup  • Makeup Guides  • Why You’ll Probably Want to Clean Your Eye Makeup Brushes (and How to Do it)

Why You’ll Probably Want to Clean Your Eye Makeup Brushes (and How to Do it)

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Main image – Studiofirma/Stocksy

If, like me, you’re a devoted eye makeup wearer you’ll know that even the most subtle shadow look helps to provide gorgeous definition. It can also add colour, as well as tie up any loose ends by bringing together your whole eye makeup look in one fell swoop. Genius stuff. 

So, being the eye makeup queen you are, you’ll also know that applying it with a brush is brilliant for creating a whole variety of different looks. 

And we all know that cleaning our makeup brushes is important, but does anyone actually give any extra thought to their eye makeup brushes?  (Asking for a friend…)  Because I’ve heard on the grapevine that not washing them could be detrimental to both your finished makeup look, and your skin. 

Here, makeup artists Azesha Ramcharan and Ashley Gibson, and opthamologist Dr Diane Hilal-Campo explain why dirty eye makeup brushes can lead to infection, how to wash yours effectively and how often you should be doing it. 

And in the name of solidarity, I also share my experiences with eye makeup cleanliness. Let’s just say it involves a mascara and an eye infection. And the eye infection wins. *Buys brush cleanser immediately*


Image – Bonninstudio/Stocksy


Why you should be cleaning your eye makeup brushes

“Taking good care of your brushes extends their life, ensures a smoother makeup application and keeps your skin healthy,” explains Gibson.

Not to gross you out, but there’s a lot of bacteria living in your makeup bag, particularly around your eye makeup. “Liquid and cream eyeliners are the perfect breeding grounds for bacteria – damp, dark tubes and jars,” explains Dr Hilal-Campo.

“That bacteria will transfer to your brushes and then your eyes whenever you use a dirty brush or contaminated product. Eyes are very susceptible to infection; we only get one set of eyes and taking care of our ocular health is critical!” You have been warned. 

I once had Conjunctivitis (an eye infection) as a teen. I was banned by my doctor from wearing mascara for a week but apparently, I knew better so I continued to wear it. 

Unsurprisingly, the infection got worse. This is because every time I dipped my contaminated mascara brush back into the tube, I kept re-infecting myself again and again when I applied it. 

Word to the wise: if you don’t like the feeling of your eyes being stuck together, always listen to your doctor. 


How often should you clean your eye makeup brushes?

“As an eye doctor, I believe that you should clean your eye makeup brushes daily,” says Dr Hilal-Campo. Don’t let this put you off though. “If you find this to be inconvenient, consider getting disposable brushes,” she adds.

My advice is to give your brushes a quick sanitise after every use, then do a deeper clean once a week. 


The tools you’ll need


How to clean your makeup brushes, step by step

After every use

  • “Spray with a brush cleaning spray,” says Ramcharan. Try Sephora Collection Daily Cleaner Spray
  • “Wipe off makeup residue onto a paper towel or tissue after each time they’re used.”

Once a week

  • “Swirl the brushes around in the bowl, using the side of the bowl to really push the pigment out of the brushes,” explains Dr Hilal-Campo. “Do this until the brushes are fully clean.”
  • “Then rinse them under warm running water to make sure the cleanser is washed away and the water runs clear from the brush,” she says.
  • “Then, I recommend spraying the brushes with a sanitiser.”
  • ‘After washing, gently reshape the bristles with your fingers,” says Gibson. “This will prevent them from drying in an odd shape.”
  • On a clean towel, “dry the brushes flat overnight,” Dr Hilal-Campo advises. This is so that the water doesn’t run down to the bottom of the bristles, which can damage the brush and keep the bristles wet.

PRO TIP: “Be careful not to get water in the ferrule (the metal part that holds the bristles) and never soak the bristles in water as this can loosen the glue over time and cause bristle fall out,” warns Gibson


The takeaway

To avoid the risk of infection and/or messy, uncomfortable application, cleansing your eyeliner brushes is crucial. And it’s not as time-consuming as you might have thought. 

Whilst swirling them in warm water every day couldn’t hurt, not everyone has the luxury of time. But giving your brushes a quick spritz after every use will ensure they are nicely sanitised until you get the chance to give them a deeper clean.

And it’s not just your brushes that need a clean out either. “You should also change out your liquid and cream eye formulas every three to six months,” says Dr Hilal-Campo. “I recommend labelling your product with a piece of masking tape with the opening date written on it, so you have a daily reminder of the product’s lifespan.”

The doctor’s always right!


Meet the experts

Azesha Ramcharan is a makeup artist based in NY’s Hudson Valley region. Clients have included NBC, The Juilliard School, Hessel Museum of Art, Craftsy, and VOZ.


Ashley Nichole Gibson is a licensed aesthetician and makeup artist who owns Paraposh, which provides on-site makeup services. Specialising in bridal makeup, her experience also extends to training and education for cosmetic brands, conducting master classes at Ulta, and working as a makeup artist at QVC for beauty brands.


Dr. Diane Hilal-Campo is a board-certified ophthalmologist and founder of Twenty/Twenty Beauty.


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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University

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