Getting Nerdie With The Skin Nerd: Why Not Cleaning Your Makeup Brushes Is Bad For Your Skin

The Skin Nerd I am not stepping in here and pretending that I am the first to say that not regularly cleaning your makeup brushes is bad for your skin. All of us know that our makeup brushes are a breeding ground for bacteria, being placed in random bags alongside pencil parings in bathrooms, of all places. Nonetheless, many of us are guilty of not cleansing our makeup brushes often enough – raise your hand, you know you’re included.

As skincare lovers, we invest in products designed to make our skin as healthy as possible, products that anti-bacterialise our faces, that reduce the amount of acne-causing bacteria and that provide us with for the perfect canvas for makeup. This investment is essentially moot if you’re not cleansing your makeup brushes.

When we do not cleanse our makeup brushes properly, there are numerous effects:

Bacteria, sebum and old skincare product accumulates on the brushes
Most of our skin’s own bacteria is beneficial, however some forms exacerbate acne and spots, as can oil that has sat on a brush for a period of days. The reason that the back of your skincare products recommends that you seal them properly is to ensure that air does not contaminate the product, allowing for bacterial growth, so traces of your freshly applied SPF and serums sitting on your makeup brush for days on end ain’t good either.

Getting Nerdie With The Skin Nerd: Why Not Cleaning Your Makeup Brushes Is Bad For Your Skin

Bacteria and grime from where you store your brushes accumulates on your brushes too
At least you know where your face has been… If you’re storing your brushes in a makeup bag that you aren’t washing regularly or (worse) loose in your handbag, they are collecting debris and bacteria from everything else that has been in there. If you’ve ever left your lipstick on the sink of a nightclub whilst searching for something, the bacteria from that nightclub is now on your makeup brush. Lord knows that this is asking for trouble.

Your makeup brushes won’t work as well as they are supposed to
Less of a health-related issue, indeed, but makeup brushes that are caked in old foundation, blush and powder do not create as smooth a finish as cleansed makeup brushes without product build-up. On top of that, your brushes will last much longer if taken care of properly.

So, what can this bacteria and debris spell for your skin?

Best case scenario, acne, congestion and spots caused by bacteria being introduced to the skin. Worst case scenario, a staph infection (Staphylococcus Aureus). Staph infections occur when the staphylococcus aureus bacteria finds a way into the skin, such as through a cut or when someone pops a spot. Staph infections can appear as an inflamed pus-filled abscess on the skin (sorry) or as cellulitis, when the infection has gotten as far as the dermis, below the superficial layers of the skin. As the inflammation is occurring so deep into the skin, the surface will be swollen and there may be a blister at the top. Staph infections can require antibiotics, and like most infections, worsen without medical treatment. It is painful and can be unsightly, which should be enough reason to start anti-bacterialising your makeup brushes sharp-ish.

How and what to cleanse your brushes with

You may have read this smugly, thinking “I wash my brushes weekly”. However, if you’re washing your brushes with something that is not killing bacteria, the endeavour is pointless. We have many Nerd Network members who will proudly say that they wash their makeup brushes with baby shampoo, something often touted by Youtube makeup gurus as a cheap, accessible and effective solution. Unfortunately, baby shampoo is not antibacterial enough so won’t do the job.


I adore Ella & Jo’s Squeaky Clean Brush Cleanser (€20.00, The Skin Nerd store) for my daily brush cleanse. All you do is spritz the orange-scented brush cleanser onto your makeup brushes and wipe them clean using a piece of cloth or kitchen roll (or an old Cleanse Off Mitt, I’ve done this myself) and your makeup brushes are bacteria-free and ready to go again. It’s ideal for everyone, but makeup artists in particular love it. Another pro point is that it is Irish, created by professional makeup artist Charlene Jones and skin therapist and makeup artist Niamh Ryan.

On top of your quick daily cleanse, you need to do a deep clean at least once a month or preferably once a week. Use a mild antibacterial soap to do this by applying it to a wet face cloth or a sponge and gently rolling your makeup brushes around in circles, ensuring that you are getting deep into the bristles and not just washing the tips. So long as the antibacterial soap is not too harsh, the brushes are rinsed out properly and they are left to hang dry, this will not damage your brushes but will clean them and get rid of bacteria.

So there you have it, solid reasoning as to why regular makeup brush disinfecting should be added to your new year’s beauty resolution list this second!

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