Taking Care of Your Sigma (or other brand!) Makeup Brushes

After I did my Sigma brush review last week, I got a lot of great feedback via Twitter and this blog, so a thank you to everyone for sharing their thoughts. I'm glad that so many enjoyed the review! Along with the feedback, I also received a request to write a blog post about how I take care of my Sigma brushes, so I thought I'd share my cleansing routine with you. As always, if you have any additional questions, please let me know!

Why should I  cleanse my brushes?
There are three primary reasons that cleansing your makeup brushes should become second nature:

1) It allows you to achieve the true pigmentation of the products you are using. If you used a peach blush yesterday and are trying to apply a pink blush today, you're going to wind up with a weird mix of both unless you remove the leftover product from the day before. Even though the brush may appear clean, tiny particles get deep into the bristles and might not even be visible if the fibers are black!

2) You extend the life of your brushes AND your makeup. By always using a sanitary, clean brush with your makeup products, you help keep bacteria from infiltrating it. Although makeup exposed to the air will gather bacteria over time regardless (which is why nearly all products have expiration dates or small symbols to show you how long it is safe to keep a product once opened), by only dipping disinfected brushes into your products, you slow this process down a bit. Furthermore, cleansing your brushes extends their lives too, because dirt particles can seep down into the base of your brush and cause it to shed its bristles faster. With a product like a foundation or concealer specifically, the sticky substance can wrap around individual bristles, changing their texture and making the brush less effective in applying product. Finally, lighter colored bristles can even become permanently stained if left dirty for too long! Since Sigma brushes are an investment, you'll want to make them last you for a while!

3) You help prevent breakouts! Every time you use one of your face brushes, you are dusting skin particles, oils and bits of underlying product onto your brush. Every time you re-use that brush without cleansing it, you are taking those old, dirty particles and putting them BACK onto your clean face! That's certainly one way to clog pores and help acne-causing bacteria burrow into your skin.

What is the proper way to cleanse my brushes?
There are many methods that you can use to cleanse your brushes -- it's all about figuring out what works for you! The most widely used method seems to be alternating between spot cleaning and deep cleaning. Spot cleaning is more of a surface-cleaning method that allows brushes to dry and be reused in a short time period. Deep cleaning is exactly that -- a method that really allows you to get out deep-seated dirt, but this requires more drying time and takes longer to do.

Spot Cleaning: To spot clean you will need a roll of paper towels, your dirty brushes, a brush cleanser of choice (I use MAC's brush cleanser, which is $11 for a big bottle), and a spray bottle (I got mine at CVS for $3). I use a spray bottle to dispense my product because I find that it allows me to use just the right amount without wasting any, which can happen if you just pour the product onto your paper towel.

First, tear off one sheet of paper towel and fold it into quarters. Next, spray the top 2/3 of your brush lightly with brush cleanser, spinning the brush in your hand as you go so that you are coating all sides of the brush. Then lightly rub your brush into the paper towel in a small circular motion, moving your hand around the towel to clean spots as you notice the color coming out of your brush. When swirling your brush results in nothing but clean towel, you know that you are done! With your larger brushes, I sometimes spritz and rub twice to remove all of the color -- as a rule of thumb, if that doesn't get the brush clean, it's probably a sign that your brush is in need of a deep cleaning.

Once your brush is clean, use your fingers to lightly re-shape the bristles and then lay your brush flat to dry. With spot cleaning, the drying process should take only about 5 minutes, and then you are good to put them away or use them again! Generally, I find that I use one side of the quartered paper towel to properly clean my large face brushes, but with smaller eye shadow brushes, I clean several of them on the same side of the towel (just use a clean spot each time). If you want to be more environmentally friendly and prefer not to use paper towels, an old rag or washcloth that is soft can also be used to spot clean. When you're done, you can just toss the rag into your hamper!

Deep Cleaning: To deep clean you will need a roll of paper towels (or an old rag), a gentle shampoo (I use Johnson & Johnson's Baby Shampoo), a sink, and as an option, a clean kitchen sponge. To deep clean, I turn the sink on to lukewarm water and wet the brush, making sure that I don't get any water on the part where the metal meets the wooden handle (if water seeps in here, it can loosen the glue that holds the brush together and cause it to break faster). Once the brush is damp, I place a drop of the shampoo onto the wet kitchen sponge (you can just use the palm of your hand if you prefer) and gently massage the shampoo into the brush until it lathers up. In general, I use an amount proportionate to the brush size, so eye brushes get just a pea-sized dot of shampoo, whereas with larger brushes, I use a quarter-size or half-dollar size. While you are massaging the shampoo into the brush, you should start to notice the color coming to the surface and dripping into the sink. After about 30 seconds, gently rinse your brush under the warm water, squeezing slightly, until the water runs clean. For particularly dense brushes, I generally repeat this process to make sure I've gotten all of the residue out. Once the brush is clean, gently squeeze the water out, reshape the bristles with your fingers and lay the brush flat to dry (again, you want to avoid getting water into the base of the brush!).

Occasionally, air-dried brushes will slightly lose their shape, especially when it comes to larger blush brushes and angled, fluffy brushes. There is a company that sells brush guards that you can use to prevent this (available at http://www.thebrushguard.com/), or you can just watch Dusty Hunter's YouTube video that explains how to solve this issue using the paper towels you already have at home (watch his video here).

How often should I cleanse my brushes?
Generally, I spot clean my eye brushes every day, or every other day at the latest, depending on the use. If I just used my SS224 blending brush to blend out colors (but didn't dip it into any product), I'll wait to clean it until the second day. But other than that, I like to apply different colors every day, so I usually clean off the old product every night so my brushes are ready to go and fresh in the morning. I follow a somewhat similar rule when spot cleaning my face brushes, although here I'm a bit more lenient. I generally clean my blush, bronzer and foundation brushes every 1-2 days, but go a little longer with my powder brush since I use it with the same color every day (I thus clean it about every 3 days).

As for deep cleaning, I do this with my face brushes once a week, because I feel like spot cleaning still leaves a bit of makeup deep inside the brush, whereas I do it about once a month for my eye brushes, as I feel like the spot cleaning does a pretty good job on its own.

I've gotten a few questions as to whether or not cleansing your brushes daily is bad for them, and while I don't know definitively, I think this probably depends on whether you are spot or deep cleaning, and what product you are using. The reason I like MAC's brush cleanser is because it has conditioning treatments as well, so it keeps my brushes soft AND clean. I imagine that daily deep cleaning could dry out your brushes from the sulfates in the shampoo.

After cleansing...
After cleansing, it's up to you how you choose to store your brushes, but I would suggest doing so in some sort of container that is is separate from your makeup, and is in a small space reserved just for your brushes. The reason for the separate storage is so that your clean brushes don't mingle with the small bits of blusher, powder and shadow that inevitably sneak outside of their packaging and can dirty them. The small container reserved just for your brushes (i.e. a brush roll, glass jar, vase, a deep but narrow drawer) will help maintain their shape. For example, if you were to throw your brushes into a drawer with your hairbrush or some other bottles/containers, one of your brushes could wind up getting smushed in a corner or a bottle could get stuck in the bristles, causing them to splay out. Not good! As you'll recall from my initial Sigma brush review, you can purchase a nice faux-leather brush roll from their web site at http://www.sigmamakeup.com/ for $20 (it comes free with the Premium Professional Kit), or you can look for one in Sally Beauty Supply, or any other beauty supply store. Glass jars are obviously easy to find, and can make for a fun crafts project if you have a vanity to display them on!

I hope that you enjoyed this simple tutorial! Until next time, here's to clean, beautiful brushes!


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