Beauty Clinic: De-gunking makeup brushes the pro way


Q. Confession time! It’s probably months since I washed my two foundation brushes and now the foundation seems stuck in there.  How can I wash it out and are there any tips for the future?

A. We suspect you’re far from being the only one who doesn't wash makeup brushes regularly and frequently.  The concerns about having a gunky brush are bacterial build up on your skin, and/or the brush head becoming dry and scratchy, leaving your skin red.

As a rescue measure for now, makeup artist Jenny Jordan ( suggests taking your brushes into the shower with you and cleaning them thoroughly with shampoo. Once you have got them clean, squeeze out the water and flail the brushes round (rather like drying salad leaves in a tea cloth), then re-mould the head to its original shape.  Dry the brush lying on a flat surface with the head free so it keeps the shape - the rim of a basin does nicely.

In the future, the key thing is to use your foundation brush differently.  First, brushes made of soft synthetic fibres (eg nylon) are easier to use and clean (as well as being preferable for vegetarians and vegans).  Jenny recommends brands such as Real Techniques, real beauty steals, or Mii Cosmetics (, which is a great brand for makeup too. 

Rather than using your brush to apply the foundation, see it as a finishing and setting tool, advises Jenny.  ‘Apply the product with your fingers, stroking it over your face. Then put a little on the back of your hand and dip your brush in it - don't load it on and don't push it down into the hairs.   Then lightly skim the foundation over your skin.  Because you are using a cool brush, rather than warm fingers, it will last longer. Alternatively, dab dots of foundation over the different areas of your face then blend in gently with your brush.’

For both methods, Jenny’s tip is to use downward strokes so the hairs on your face lie flat.  ‘This will make it look smoother and more polished.  Always check the sides of your face to make sure the foundation isn’t catching on the longer downy hairs there and on your jawline,’ she adds.

Now, the cleaning bit: after every use, wipe the brush on a wet wipe immediately and then clean in the shower, as above, every two weeks.