You’ve asked and now we’re answering. Keep them coming by commenting below your most
pressing questions on all things beauty + skincare and our new Beauty Director, make-up artist Michelle Acosta will answer them. 

Being beautiful isn’t an easy job, but someone has to do it. Anyone can have a good day (eyeliner even, contour perfect, lashes extended, brow game STRONG), but the real challenge is maintaining that level of perfection. After all the hours you’ve spent experimenting with different brands, shades, and routines that works for you, it turns out that there’s a whole other set of options that you didn’t even consider.

There’s an entire bevy of brushes out on the market. Buying quality make up is obvious because that’s going to go directly on your skin, but is spending $30 for a single brush an unnecessary luxury? How often are you supposed to clean them? How do you even clean them? Relax TTFs, our readers (and me) asked Michelle for what to do and she’s here to rescue us.

Why do brush sets come with so many individual brushes? How many brushes would you recommend that someone have in their regular routine? — Lisa F. 

Short answer: 1 brush for each application and/or product.

Brush sets are great, but they’re most convenient when they include the brushes you actually want. Brush sets are a great way to try different shapes and styles of brushes, and get them (hopefully!) at a better price than if you were to buy the brushes individually. But if that’s not what you’re looking for, I recommend investing in a few high-quality brushes that you buy individually. You can find brushes sold individually anywhere from Target to Tom Ford, but I HIGHLY suggest purchasing high-quality brushes for a couple of reasons in particular: they last longer (when taken care of, of course), they are made of better-quality materials that aren’t irritating on sensitive skin, and they wont “shed” as much (meaning the individual bristles won’t fall out as quickly). So, all that being said, the last question is, “what is my everyday makeup routine”? My most general advice is to have a brush for each makeup item you use. If you use 1 brush for multiple applications, say 1 brush for primer and foundation, your foundation application just can’t do its best work.

I think one of the best ways to answer this is to tell you what I use for my everyday look: 1 brush for primer, 1 brush for liquid foundation (I’m actually using a Beauty Blender right now for the winter season), 1 brush for concealer (using your finger with a light hand can replace a brush in most cases), 1 brush for cream shadow, 1 brush to smudge my eyeliner, 1 brush for blush, and last but certainly not least, a brush to blend my eyebrows after filling them in. I use these particular brushes (all by MAC): 109, 187, 195, 217, 228, 116, and 204, respectively.

I know this might seem like a bit much, but think of it as an investment. Trust me, if you buy high-quality brushes, they will last for YEARS. I’ve had some of my brushes for almost 10 years, and they still look almost brand new. If you store your brushes properly and clean them gently, they will literally last for years and years. As a makeup artist, my collection includes over 30 brushes, each brush being able to serve many functions. Who knows, you soon might find yourself with a growing collection of great brushes!

Synthetic vs Natural. Can you end the Great Debate? — Amy G. 

A simple answer lies in the application that the brush will be used for, or which product your using. Quality, as always, plays a huge role, but here’s the short answer:

Natural brushes — great for applying powders and light applications of cream products. Application examples: applying powder bronzer, setting your foundation with a powder, and eye shadow application.

Synthetic brushes — great for many liquid applications and heavy cream-product applications. Application examples: applying heavy “paint” makeup for more costume-like looks, liquid eyeliner, heavy concealer application.

The rule still applies –- there are no rules! If a fluffy, synthetic brush gives you a perfect application of your favorite bronzer, then go ahead and use it! In most cases, the shape of the brush is what affects the application the most. But like with all things makeup and beauty, trial and error is the best way to find what works for you.

How often should I be cleaning my brushes? What’s the worst that’s going to happen if I wait a long time to do so? — Barb S. 

If you are using brushes on others (whether you’re a professional makeup artist or not), you need to wash your brushes between each person/client – absolutely no exceptions.

Now for individual use: there are a few major benefits from washing your brushes often. Dirty brushes can irritate skin and even cause major issues with blemishes/acne from all of the bacteria build-up, your makeup will be a difficult mess to put on (think of streaky foundation), and you simply can’t get the true color out of the products you’re using if you’re using the same brush for multiple products/colors (think of going from a dark brown eye shadow to a creamy beige – that’ll never work). Of course, if mixing colors is intentional, ignore that last point.

To get down to the basics of how often you should clean your brushes, you can narrow it down to the product that the brush is used for:

  • Liquid/Cream Products: Let’s say your brush is used to apply the same foundation day after day, I would recommend deep cleaning the brush at least once a week. If you really want the best makeup application possible, you would need to wash the brush after each use (or every 2 uses at the most). I know this sounds a little excessive, but trust me, you won’t believe the difference it makes – especially for foundation. For my primer and concealer brush, I sometimes go for 2 applications before cleaning.
  • Dry/Powder Products: The same advice applies here: if you’re using the same eye shadow everyday, you can go a week to 10 days without washing the brush. This is primarily for hygiene reasons. No matter what, dust and other not-so-wonderful things pile up in the brush fibers over time, and you really don’t want that on your skin.

Do I need to buy a special cleaner to wash my brushes? — Tri D. 

Nope! But cleaning your brushes on a regular basis is necessary, and there are two options when going about cleaning your brushes:

  1. Deep Cleaning: Baby Shampoo is the best and most affordable product I’ve used so far for my regular, deep cleaning. It doesn’t dry out the brush bristles at all, there isn’t any scent that lingers after the brushes dry, and the glue that hold the brush fibers together doesn’t get dried out, ultimately leading to minimal brush shedding.How to deep clean your brush: (1) Run lukewarm water in a clean sink (2) Put a dime-size amount of baby shampoo in the palm of your hand (3) Wet the brush (4) Softly and gently whirl the brush in your hand with the shampoo (5) Rinse the brush until there isn’t a single trace of soap (the water from the brush should run completely clear) (6) Reshape the brush and set it on a towel until it dries completely.
  2. “Spot” Cleaning: If you’re in a pinch, and just need a quick “surface cleaning”, I recommend MAC Brush Cleanser.How to “spot clean” your brush: (1) Put a small amount of the brush cleaner on a cloth or paper towel (2) Gently wipe the dirty brush back and forth (preferably in the direction of the hairs) until the brush looks clean (3) Reshape the brush if necessary and lay flat on a dry towel to dry. You may need to repeat steps 1 and 2 couple times for brushes covered in dark pigments or waterproof products. You’ll know the brush is clean if it doesn’t put any more product/color of the towel.

I don’t recommend spot cleaning often because this product (MAC Brush Cleanser) contains alcohol ingredients. Many other products labeled “brush cleanser” contain significant amounts of alcohol as well. Over the years, I noticed that my brushes had shed more when I only used this cleanser regularly, so I use it sparingly on my brushes. However, this is a great, easy-to-use, everyday cleanser for my Beauty Blender sponge!


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