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If you can’t remember the last time you cleaned them, it’s probably time.

Your makeup brushes get a lot of wear and tear. After you use them, they probably go right back in your makeup bag until next time. And you likely don’t think about them until it’s time to use them again. While your brushes may be idle, there’s activity happening in those bristles.

Over time, your brushes hold a buildup of old makeup, oils from your skin and even dead skin cells. 

“This buildup creates prime real estate for bacteria to grow, which can spell trouble for your skin,” says Mary Brady, MD, a dermatologist at Geisinger. 

That’s why it’s essential to clean them regularly.

Clean brushes are happy brushes

Just how often do you need to clean dirty brushes?

“Aim for cleaning makeup brushes every seven to 10 days,” Dr. Brady says.

Anything you use to apply liquid makeup, like sponges, needs more frequent cleaning. Spot clean them after every use. 

Keep brush cleaning on the schedule by setting a reminder on your phone, calendar or digital assistant.

Giving your brushes a bath benefits you in many ways. Keeping them dirt-free helps them last longer, which can save you money. Cleaning makeup brushes also reduces your risk of:

  • Clogged pores
  • Breakouts
  • Irritated skin
  • Pink eye
  • Rash

Besides keeping your brushes clean, keep them to yourself.

“To cut the risk of infection, avoid sharing makeup brushes,” says Dr. Brady.

How to clean your makeup brushes

Keeping your tools clean is quick and easy. And you can find everything you need in your bathroom. To freshen up dirty makeup brushes, follow these simple steps:

  1. Rinse the tip of your brush under the faucet. This helps remove any residual buildup.
  2. Fill a cup with warm water and a few drops of shampoo or dish soap. You can use brush cleaner but it’s not necessary.
  3. Swirl your brush around in the cup and massage the bristles.
  4. Rinse until the water runs clear.
  5. Squeeze excess water from the bristles.
  6. Lay at an angle to dry. Brush tips should be lower than the handle.

If you’ve used a different eye color or notice excess color on your brush between cleanings, give it a quick rinse.

When in doubt, throw it out

Besides scrubbing your brushes, there’s another good way to protect your skin. Take a look at your makeup supply and throw out anything you’ve had for a while. If you’re unsure when you got it, it’s time for a replacement. You might love that mascara you’ve had forever, but it’s likely a breeding ground for bacteria. 

“Eye and skin infections can happen with old or expired makeup, so clean out your makeup bag often,” Dr. Brady says.

Not sure when to toss your old beauty products? Dr. Brady suggests these guidelines:

  • Lipstick: One year
  • Mascara: Three months
  • Cream makeup or foundation: Six months to one year
  • Eyeshadow: One to two years
  • Liquid eyeliner: Three months
  • Eyeliner pencil: Two years

Breaking out and think your makeup is to blame? Contact your healthcare provider. They can refer you to a dermatologist to keep your skin its healthiest.

Next steps:

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Meet Mary Brady, MD