You will need:
- 1/4 cup alcohol (make sure it is 70-91% rubbing alcohol)- this is what will disinfect your brushes, cutting down on the amount of bacteria that makeup brushes can product
- 2 tbsp hand dish washing detergent (Palmolive is probably the best) - cuts through grease making it most effective in cleaning oil based makeup from your brushes, such as lip brushes, as well as the natural oils from your skin
- 1 tbsp Infusium 23 Leave-In Treatment or a spray-on leave-in conditioner- this conditions the bristles which maintains their softness (I suggest the Infusium 23 or spray-on conditioner rather than a cream conditioner since its more liquid-y and gets in between the hairs of the bristles better, rather than just coating the outside hairs)
- a container in which to keep your solution such as a bottle
- quality brand paper towels (to avoid transferring lint or fuzz to your brushes)
- a plate
To clean your brushes:
1. Pour a small amount of your cleaning solution onto a plate.
2. Swirl the bristles of your brushes in the solution. You will see the residue from the brushes coming off before your eyes! Then wipe the brushes inside the palm of your (clean) hand in a back and forth motion. Be sure to treat your brushes with care to avoid loss of the bristles- wipe gently!
3. Dip and swirl the brushes back into the solution and wipe again.
4. Continue this dip, swirl, and wipe method until you no longer see any color residue on your hand.
5. Rinse the bristles under warm, not hot, water.
6. Gently squeeze out any excess moisture with your fingertips to help speed up drying time and then use either a quality brand paper towel and do the back and forth wiping motion. If you see any makeup on the paper towel, you have not completely cleaned the brush and will have to go back to step 2.
Now we need to properly dry the brushes. Many say that brushes should be dried flat, and while this method is better than drying them standing bristle side up, the problem is that even when laid out flat, moisture from the bristles can still seep into the ferrule (the metal part of the brush) which ruins the glue causing the hairs to fall out, the ferrule to separate from the handle, and/or cause the wood and paint of the handle to crack, peel, and/or swell. For this very reason is why I discourage soaking brushes in liquid cleansers, which is the majority of the brush cleaners out in the market.
The preferred method of drying your brushes is to dry them bristle side down, where gravity helps pull all the moisture down the hair shafts and away from the ferrule. To dry them upside down, without ruining the shape of the bristles, you will need brush guards, otherwise brushes placed directly upside down on the hairs will crush the hairs causing them to fall out or ruin the shape of the bristles. Some brushes come with brush guards or you can buy universal brush guards that are flexible enough to fit a variety of different brands of brushes. When fitting the brushes into the brush guards, insert the brush handle side first into the guard, and be sure to leave about 1/2 inch space between the bristles and the end of the brush guard. This will allow you to stand the brushes up without smashing the hairs. You then place them in a cup where the lip of the cup helps support the weight. You can buy universal brush guards for cheap here.
Foundation brushes, eyeliner brushes (especially those that are used on the waterline of your eye), and any other brush that is used with liquid or cream type cosmetics, should be cleaned after every use. Brushes that are used to apply powder type cosmetics don't harbor bacteria as quickly as those that are moist, and can be cleaned about once a week or whenever you are changing up colors (such as eyeshadow brushes).
Not cleaning your brushes is very much like never washing your face! So with these tips and this recipe for homemade brush cleaner, you can not only save yourself money on pricey commercial brush cleaners but also prevent skin breakouts and eye irritations, keep your makeup looking fresh, and extend the life out of your cosmetic brushes. With proper care, even a set of cheap brushes can last you a long time!