Confession: I’ve been making a big beauty mistake and didn’t even know it.
Last month, while visiting one of my favorite natural shops (essential oils, herbs, organic makeup–it’s a “crunchy mama” utopia) I overheard the herbalist on duty talking to a fellow customer about breakouts–the little unwanted guests that randomly pop-up on the face. The conversation instantly caught my attention. I quickly and very politely jumped in, “I’m not sure why my skin still breaks out at the most random moments. My diet is super clean, I drink a ton of water and make my own homemade products. Any tips?” The herbalist looked at me and asked a simple, yet skin-changing question, “Do you clean your makeup brushes?”
I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d never thought about cleaning my makeup brushes. Big mistake. As it turns out, cleaning makeup brushes is a pretty important task that can prevent bacteria from spreading on the skin.
Bacteria = breakouts.
Breakouts = makeup brush contamination.
Makeup brush contamination = more breakouts.
It’s a nasty cycle.
My search for the ultimate brush cleaner began.
There are a number of store-bought brush cleaner options, and there are also a number of DIY tutorials on Pinterest. Most of the ingredients used in both the store-bought and “homemade” versions are far from natural, in my opinion. I decided to create my own homemade brush cleaner. Take that Pinterest– PS: I still love you! With a few basic ingredients, which I already had on hand for DIY beauty products, I was able to easily whip up a natural solution.
The moment of truth came as I dipped my foundation powder brush into the solution. You guys, the resulting liquid was disgusting–oil, dirt, months worth of makeup! To say that I’m now a brush cleaning advocate is an understatement. Trust me, just try it once–dip your makeup brush in a few simple ingredients–your beauty routine will forever be changed.
From what I’ve read, most makeup professionals recommend cleaning brushes daily, particularly the ones used for foundation and blush. Daily feels a bit overwhelming and far from “simple,” so I’m practicing a twice a week system. Baby steps! Some cleaning at this point is much better than no cleaning at all. I’m now going on four weeks of this routine. My makeup brushes are incredibly soft and my skin feels clean. Bottom line: Do it! Clean your brushes. ASAP.
My homemade brush cleaner recipe works for any cleaning schedule since it makes enough solution for soaking sessions (my preferred method of cleaning) or daily spraying. Whichever method you choose, go with something that’s doable for you.
I recently added to this post with a tutorial on how to clean makeup brushes with this DIY recipe. Check out the updated post here.
Homemade Natural Makeup Brush Cleaner
- 1/2 cup witch hazel
- 2 tsp baby mild castile soap
- 1 tsp skin-nourishing oil like almond or olive oil, optional
- 1 cup distilled water
- In a bottle or mason jar, combine all the ingredients in the order listed (the recipe). Shake the bottle. This solution may be used multiple times to clean brushes. Store the mixture in the fridge.
- Combine as much of the mixture needed in a bowl. Add your makeup brushes to the mixture. I like to swish the brushes back in forth in the mixture and then let them soak for a few minutes. The mixture will go from clear to a dirty makeup mixture quickly. After a few minutes, remove the brushes, dump the solution, and rinse the brushes under the water.
- Let the brushes rest on a towel to dry. Repeat weekly or twice a month to keep your brushes clean.
1/2 tsp baby mild castile soap
1/4 cup distilled water
(optional) 1/4 tsp carrier oil, like grapeseed or olive oil
When you introduce water into a product without a preservative you always run the risk of introducing bacteria, so use water-based products quickly.
I have a few dr.bronners Castillo soaps but not the baby one. Do you think I could use one of those instead like rose or lavender? Also does jojoba oil work as a nourishing oil? Thanks so much! Excited to make this!
Hey Joanna, Definitely, you can make all those substitutions.
This didn’t work on my brushes. I’ll stick with baby shampoo.
Oh man, butterbean. I’m sorry to hear that. What happened when you used the solution? Can you share how exactly it didn’t work?
Hi – thanks for the great idea; I can’t wait to try! Will you share your method of cleaning the brushes (ex. how long to soak them for, if they should be rinsed with water, etc.)?
Hey Kristen, Thank you. I soak them for about 5 minutes, long enough to get all the makeup out. Then I rinse them until the water runs clear (no more makeup residue is left).
This works so well!! I’d been using baby shampoo to clean my brushes for years and it was fine. But when I recently switched to a facial oil as a moisturizer, I realized my brushes were picking some of that up and the shampoo wasn’t cleaning it out –leaving a cakey buildup on my brushes that started to cause minor breakouts. After washing with this solution, my brushes feel soft again and cleaner than ever! And I used the rose scented witch hazel which gives them a very light pleasant smell. Thanks for posting this!
Making this for the first time! Super excited! Thanks so much! How long do you think the “shelf” life is for a batch? I can’t wait to make some and send to my friends and mom too 🙂
Hey Rachel, Using distilled water it should last about 3-4 weeks. Enjoy!
Hi Kristen, I just found your recipe for make-up brush cleaner, and I’m excited to try it because the one I’ve been using is just synthetic chemicals, UGH! Just wanted to say that The Container Store has a lot of cute bottles, jars, tins, and containers of all sorts! If you’re not fortunate enough to live near a store, they can be ordered online. The inventory gets even better at Christmas. Happy hunting!
Awesome, Shannon. Thank you for sharing. A store just opened up in our area–I’ll have to check it out.
I am so excited to have found this recipe!! I have been following your posts for a while, and I never had the chance to try the recipes because it is extremely hard to find most ingredients and they get to be expensive if I order them to be shipped to Italy. I recently found an online alternative to order most ingredients you mention in your diy natural beauty essentials and hopefully in a couple of days I’ll have everything I need to tackle those brushes!! And more!! I am sooo excited!!!!
That’s so awesome, Erica!
This recipe is almost an exact match of one I found for DIY makeup remover. I’m pretty thrilled about this because having a dual purpose recipe really makes a lot of sense. Thanks for sharing!
That’s awesome, Kris! I love that!