- There’s so much advice out there about how to clean your makeup brushes that it can be a challenge to find the method that works best for you.
- Cinema Secrets Professional Brush Cleaner makes it easy to get a deep clean without spending an hour hunched over the sink.
- If you find your brushes are too far gone, even after a deep clean, check out our guide to the best makeup brush sets.
- Editor’s Note: InStyle has reported that the coronavirus may be able to live on makeup brushes and in makeup, but the virus’ longevity has not explicitly been tested in beauty products. Soaps and alcohol-based cleansers will render the virus inactive, but doctors still advise that if you test positive for COVID-19 you should refrain from using potentially contaminated products.
I love just about everything that comes with wearing makeup – applying it, removing it, shopping for it. But cleaning my makeup brushes? I could do without that part.
And in fact, I often do.
I definitely don’t wash them as often as I should. My signal that it’s finally time to clean them is when the bristles on my go-to eyeshadow brushes are so gross that all my looks turn a singular muddy shade of sorta-glittery brown.
But please, don’t take that as your signal. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a full cleaning of your makeup brushes every seven to 10 days in order to wash away any harmful bacteria and buildup that could irritate your skin.
Having a good cleansing method takes a lot of the stress and guesswork out of the situation. If you have an effective makeup brush cleaner, you’ll be less likely to put off the task. From DIY options to instant brush cleaners to deep-cleaning shampoos and fancy tools, there are a ton of makeup brush cleansers on the market.
What type of brush cleaner you should use depends on how many brushes you have in your collection and your personal makeup habits. But no matter what, it’s a good idea to have both an option for deep cleaning and a spot treatment on hand. This way, you don’t have to worry about leftover powders mixing together while you’re doing your makeup, even when you’re in between washes.
Here are the best makeup brush cleaners:
- Best overall: Cinema Secrets Professional Brush Cleaner
- Best on a budget: e.l.f. Daily Brush Cleaner
- Best fast makeup brush cleaner: Sephora Collection Color Switch by Vera Mona Brush Cleaner
- Best for deep cleaning: Bobbi Brown Brush Cleanser
- Best cleaning mat: Sigma Spa Beauty Express Brush Cleaning Mat
Prices and links are current as of 3/18/2020.
The best overall
- Cinema Secrets
Cinema Secrets Professional Brush Cleaner was developed by a Hollywood makeup artist to deep-clean natural or synthetic makeup brushes.
Cinema Secrets Professional Brush Cleaner‘s formula deep-cleans natural and synthetic makeup brushes as well as tools like spatulas and refillable palettes, and you know it’s a real deal because it was developed by a professional makeup artist for TV and film. It’s quick-drying, so you don’t have to deal with every wash rendering your makeup brushes out of commission for a full day.
Unlike other fast-drying makeup cleaners, this one delivers more than a surface-level cleanse. Another great feature of the Cinema Secrets Professional Brush Cleaner is that it doesn’t require rinsing. You can simply dip your brush in the blue solution, watch it dissolve the makeup, and wait for it to dry. Just pour out a bit of the solution into a different container so you don’t contaminate the whole bottle.
It has a strong vanilla scent, so if you find that it lingers or you’re very sensitive to the smell, you can give the brushes a quick rinse after cleansing.
Pros: Quick-drying, cleans synthetic and artificial brushes as well as tools, comes in three sizes
Cons: Pricey, strong vanilla smell
The best on a budget
The e.l.f. Daily Brush Cleaner is a super-affordable option for spot cleaning your brushes throughout the week.
Sometimes you just need to clean your brushes in a jiffy. The e.l.f. Daily Brush Cleaner is a gentle spray cleanser that’s great for removing color and gunk from your brushes when you don’t have time to do a big clean. It’s also alcohol-based, so you can be assured it will fully disinfect your brushes.
I personally love to use this after using a bold eyeshadow so the colors won’t get muddied next time I reach for the brush. You can spray the bristles directly or spritz the formula onto a paper towel and swirl the brushes over the damp spot to clean them. Either way, I like to wipe the brushes afterward to make sure the bristles don’t dry stiff.
February 2020 update: This continues to be a great option for a quick clean. It doesn’t get the richest of eyeshadow colors out completely, so I’d recommend using it in conjunction with a weekly deep clean using one of the other options on this list to keep brushes in top shape.
Pros: Affordable, good for daily cleaning, dries quickly, easy-to-use spray bottle
Cons: Strong smell might be off-putting to some, can leave bristles stiff
The best fast makeup brush cleaner
- Sephora Collection
The Sephora Collection Color Switch by Vera Mona Brush Cleaner is a quick-cleaning sponge that lets you wipe your brushes while you’re working on your makeup.
If you’ve ever used a super bright eyeshadow, you’re probably familiar with the problem it poses for continuing your eye look.
Unless you have an endless supply of makeup brushes, sometimes you need to wipe them off in the middle of getting ready so you don’t end up with electric blue eyeshadow all over your face. Color Switch by Vera Mona Brush Cleaner is like a nail polish remover sponge for your makeup brushes.
It’s a dry makeup-removing sponge housed inside a tin that allows you to wipe colors off your brushes without any drying time required. Simply brush the bristles around to remove pigment. The sponge itself can be washed with a different brush cleaner or with warm water and soap.
Pros: Cleans brushes between uses, no liquid required, lets you use fewer brushes for beauty looks
Cons: Sponge needs to be washed, doesn’t deep clean, best for smaller brushes
The best for deep cleaning
- Bobbi Brown
The Bobbi Brown Brush Cleanser is a perfect option for treating the most luxe brushes in your collection thanks to its gentle formula.
The Bobbi Brown Brush Cleanser does wonders for preserving the life of your brushes. If you have high-quality, expensive makeup brushes that you want to last, it’s worth the investment.
This formula is very gentle and conditioning on delicate fibers but also provides the kind of deep clean your brushes deserve. Per the instructions, you’re meant to wet your brush heads, then work the cleanser directly onto the bristles and rinse. You’ll have to leave the brushes to dry on a towel, possibly overnight.
The Bobbi Brown Brush Cleanser has also been featured on Best Products, Elle UK, and StyleCraze. The formula is powerful enough to remove even creamy products like foundation and concealer from brushes, leaving them good as new.
Pros: Gentle, helps brushes retain shape and quality, a little goes a long way
Cons: Brushes must dry overnight after use
The best cleaning mat
- Sigma Spa
The Sigma Spa Express Brush Cleaning Mat features various raised sections to give all of your brushes the most thorough clean possible.
Makeup brush cleaning mats seem like a gimmick. Who needs a giant pink rubberized surface that sticks to the bottom of your sink when you can clean brushes with dish soap and the palm of your hand?
Well, if you have a ton of different brushes, the Sigma Spa Express Brush Cleaning Mat is a great investment.
This mat, beloved by YouTube personalities, makeup experts, and shoppers alike, features seven textured surfaces that help you get the best clean for every brush in your collection. The mat suctions to the bottom of your sink so it stays put while you work. Instructions help you figure out which areas should be used for which types of brushes.
Of course, the downside here is that you’ll need a separate soap or cleanser to use with the mat because the rubberized material won’t totally cleanse bristles on its own. This process might be overkill if you’ve only got a handful of brushes. But if your collection is huge, this could help you wash everything faster and more thoroughly.
Pros: Cleans all different types and sizes of brush, fits in most sinks, suctions down for secure cleaning
Cons: Needs a separate liquid cleanser
What else we considered
- Jose A. Bernat Bacete/Getty Images
There is a huge selection of makeup brush cleansers on the market. These are a few that we liked but that ultimately didn’t make the cut:
- Beautyblender Liquid Blendercleanser: The bottom line is that you don’t really need a separate cleanser for your makeup sponges – whatever you use on your brushes should do the trick. While Beautyblender’s formula is gentle and lacks harmful, irritating dyes, it’s pricey.
- EcoTools Makeup Brush Cleansing Cloths: Though affordable, these wipes aren’t as cost-effective as our affordable pick from e.l.f. and result in more waste.
- Sephora Collection Dry Clean: Billed as “a dry shampoo for your brushes,” this practically sounds too good to be true. Unlike the other Sephora Collection cleanser on this list, some reviews complain that Dry Clean doesn’t contain quite enough product to make it worth the relatively high price tag.
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