10 Makeup Cleaning Tips From a Makeup Artist!

Makeup looks pretty but leaves a pretty sizable mess behind. And funny enough, before I got into to doing videos, I really didn’t have much interest in heavy makeup. I mean, I wore mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow every now and then, and lipstick for special occasions. I had my makeup done for my wedding and the artist did a KILLER job. While she was doing it, I was just fascinated by all the products and tools she was using. I thought that there was no way I’d be able to pull that all off. Well, as time went on and I started doing more videos—alongside us getting an HD video camera—makeup quickly became a necessity! HD picks up every single flaw, so there’s some prep work required before you go on camera. If you’re a friend of mine, you’ll know that I’m a pretty casual girl and hardly wear makeup otherwise.

I’ve taken a few makeup lessons with Vicki Millar, a professional makeup artist, to help me learn how to do my makeup properly for camera work. I’ve learned a lot along the way and I supplement what I learn with some Goss makeup videos. Recently, Vicki was over teaching me how to do a killer smokey eye (and winged eyeliner which requires mucho practice), and I asked her for some of her best makeup clean-up tips that I could share with our community members. She generously obliged, and now I get to tell you all about them! I’ve combined her tips with a few of my own to create a KILLER top 10 makeup cleaning tip list!

Makeup Cleanup Tip #1

Brushes with wood bases need to dry on an angle so as to not soak and deform the wood brush handle.

My MAC 266 brush I distinctly remember purchasing with a pot of gel eyeliner many years ago.  I never thought to clean the brush (this was long before I started Clean My Space) and eventually it became crusty, stiff and unusable.  I figured that I would eventually get around to cleaning it, and one day I did.  I plopped that brush in a container with soapy water and let it soak, overnight.  In the morning I found the wood on the brush cracked and expanded.  The finish came off. It looked like a chewed up pencil, it was sad.  Now, due to my frugality, I kept it and I still use it to this day, but that brush is a constant reminder that you can’t let brushes soak, or even absorb water.  If they do, this cracking and splitting is an inevitability.

So what Vicki taught me is this: after I clean the brush, roll a washcloth up and lay the brushes on the top of the roll, tilting the bristled end ever so slightly downward.  That way, the water won’t absorb back into the wood.  Brilliant, and my brushes have been in terrific shape since I started doing this.

I’ve also learned how to hang the brushes from my towel rack to dry.  Sounds strange but works like a charm!  Take a hair elastic and twist to create two loops.  Then, wrap the loop around the back of your towel bar, exposing the two loop ends on either side of the towel bar facing you.  You should have two loops, and now you can slip the brush, bristles down, through the two loops!  Watch the video to see how this is done, I assure you, you’ll love it.

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Makeup Cleanup Tip #2

Clean your brushes after each use, you can even use anti-bacterial hand soap

Woah.  OK.  This was a major news flash to me.  Firstly, I never, ever thought I needed to clean my brushes that frequently, and secondly, anti-bacterial soap seems so sacrilegious for use on brushes!  I did a video on making your own brush cleaner, and the recipe is really good…but Vicki says it’s really not necessary.  In fact, we can use dish soap, vegetable soap, anti-bacterial hand soap or shampoo.  I’ve tried it and it worked fine, and my brushes are A-OK.  What I now do is take a drop of soap, roll the bristles in the soap, and run under lukewarm water, rolling the brush bristles around on my hand.  I keep the water going until the colour runs clear and then blot off the excess water and lay to dry.  It works wonderfully.  Now, cleaning the brush every time is something she does as a professional artist, but for someone like me, I will clean my brushes when I think they need it – so foundation and concealer get cleaned after every use, and eyeshadows and blush brushes get cleaned weekly.  It takes no time, I’ve spent good money on my makeup brushes so it’s worth taking care of them.

I’ve also got a post up on how to clean a Beautyblender (or related makeup sponge), so be sure to check that out!

Makeup Cleanup Tip #3

Change your mascara monthly

Admittedly, I don’t do this.  When Vicki told this to me, I asked her why.  She said that mascara is the fastest way to spread an eye infection and that changing it regularly is crucial.  Now, to her defense, she is a makeup artist and works with a lot of different people (although she does use disposable applicators).  What I know about mascara is that it dries out quickly, especially if pumped frequently.  What I do is change mine every 2-3 months, but if I get sick (or should I get an eye infection) I would change it right after.  So, I suppose for the more ‘germ aware’ people out there, you can change it monthly, and for people who are not as ‘germ aware’, you can stick with the lower frequency if your health doesn’t change.

Makeup Cleanup Tip #4

Disinfect your eyeshadows

Sanitize your eyeshadows, this sounds strange?  But let’s say someone borrows your makeup, or you used it right when you got sick.  If you want to kill the germs which may fester, here’s what you can do.  Skim the tip layer of the shadow by just removing it with a tissue (i.e. rubbing it quickly to brush off the top layer), and then spritz it quickly with rubbing alcohol and let it dry.  This won’t actually harm the shadow, just kill the germs.  This is a handy tip!

Makeup Cleanup Tip #5

Avoid cross-contamination by using a spatula instead of your finger

If you have a pot of moisturizer or use any makeup product by digging it out with your finger, you may be better served using a small makeup spatula.  They are inexpensive and readily available.  the kind of look like a dental tool!  All you do is take the product you need out with the spatula, and place it either on your hand or a small palette and work from there, refilling with a scoop from the clean spatula as necessary.  It’s quite simple and keeps your products clean.

Makeup Cleanup Tip #6

Easily repair a smashed powder with rubbing alcohol

This is a really fun and easy tip.  I’ve dropped my makeup plenty of times, and have seen my expensive eyeshadows smash to pieces.  I pick them all up and just let them sit in the pan, and the whole situation gets messy.  Vicki tells me there’s a magical fix for this, and it works for any compact powdered makeup.  All you need to do is assemble the pieces back together as best you can (and this should be fairly simple if you drop the container and all product is contained), and spray it with rubbing alcohol and let it dry.  It works and it saves you money, this is a great tip!!!

Makeup Cleanup Tip #7

Clean an eyelash curler’s pads weekly and replace every 3 months

Eyelash curlers are so funny because they terrify men.  I can’t blame them, they look like Medieval contraptions that are designed for the sole purpose to pluck your eyeball right out.  Love it.  On that note, the little pads that actually clamp your lash tend to get build-up over time, and when Vicki teaches me she explains that you can curl and coat with mascara several times to achieve a very lovely lash.  So, I do that and it does load up the curler with mascara, that’s for sure.  What you need to do is pour some rubbing alcohol on a cotton pad and wipe the pads clean, ideally weekly. Then, purchase the refill pads for your brand of curler and replace every few months.

Makeup Cleanup Tip #8

Protecting your clothes from makeup when you put a top or dress on

Always consider prevention, this is the message behind tip#8.  Protect your clothing when applying makeup but wearing a robe over the garment or something similar.  Sometimes, I will do my makeup before getting dressed, and my sister-in-law actually told me that you can tie silk (or similar material, I actually wouldn’t use silk) scarf around your face (please avoid anything dangerous) while putting on your top to avoid smearing your makeup all over the garment.  I just went to my cousin’s wedding and wore a gorgeous bodycon dress, which I needed my husband to help me get into strictly because I didn’t want it to ruin my makeup or the dress.  The silk scarf would have helped, big time.  If you’ve ever seen my ‘how to clean a cutting board video’, you’ll see I am in a white turtleneck.  That shirt was actually meant for another video, but I got makeup all over the shirt, again, same reason.  So, using a scarf is an awesome idea.

Makeup Cleanup Tip #9

Removing makeup stains

Like any stain, the answer is ‘it’s complicated’, much like a Facebook status.  Truth is, there are zillions of combinations of products, materials and other variables that go into creating a stain.  So, some good general tips are helpful, but perhaps it is best to research your particular stain combination as back-up.

Now, if you do get a stain, you can use dish liquid as a pre-treater, to remove the spot on the garment.  If you use a little makeup sponge, it will help absorb the stain, and you can also use a cleaning toothbrush with soft bristles to gently buff out the stain.  Rinse and repeat.  Many people swear by using makeup remover as a way to get rid of makeup stains.  This is a great idea, but keep in mind that many of these are oil-based, so you’ll need to rinse the garment very well to remove the oil as well, so follow up with dish liquid.  I’ve also heard of people using baby wipes to get rid of makeup around their collar, which seems to work well.  I’ve used hairspray to remove lipstick from a shirt before, and to my excitement and delight (and relief), it worked!  Finally, powdered oxygen bleach (Oxiclean) will work well for makeup stain removal, so follow the product label, as well as the fabric care label and the product, should do the heavy lifting for you.

Makeup Cleanup Tip #10

Cleaning your lipstick

Let’s say you are sick, and right before it hit you, you donned your hottest shade of lipstick.  Or, your friend borrowed your lipstick and you’re a bit queasy about the whole situation.  Even if that didn’t happen, our mouths carry bacteria and cleaning your lipstick every so often isn’t a terrible idea.  I’ve seen this in many makeup shops before, and for good reason.   Quite simply, turn your lipstick tube up slightly, and wipe off the top layer of lipstick, just with a tissue.  Then, pour a small amount of rubbing alcohol (or vodka) into a glass (I think a shot glass would be sensible here) and dip the exposed lipstick into the alcohol for 30 seconds.  Then, remove it and gently dab the alcohol off and allow to dry.  This is harmless to the lipstick and will keep it clean and in good shape.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, I think it’s super helpful and I’ve started to use these tricks with my makeup routine.

I want to learn more about your makeup cleaning tips because your responses are always amazing.  So please tell me, what are your makeup cleaning tips?

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  1. […] I believe that replacing all eye makeup is not necessary because it is on such a small part of the face (aka the eyes). But, it is recommended that you replace mascara and eyeliner regularly, as well as cleaning your makeup brushes. For more information regarding cleaning makeup tips check out this article. […]

  2. I learnt using liquid products is hard to get off but with a make up remover you get most of it off before cleaning the brush or even a sponge 🙂 (I’m a trainee make up artist)

  3. I’ve heard Vaseline is great for removing makeup stains on clothing. I’ve been concerned that the Vaseline would stain the clothes itself and haven’t had a piece of clothes with any stains but I recently got a makeup melt balm that seems to be the same consistency as Vaseline and I have to say I used it to clean my makeup eraser cloth not expecting it too do anything and it even removed the old stains that washing didn’t!

  4. Great useful tips. I always prefer natural bamboo wipes to wipe out my makeup and I highly recommend using natural cleaning wipes which is biodegradable and good for us as well as for our environment. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Wow…very impressive tips I must say. Thanks for sharing such a detailed guide. As my skin is very sensitive so I always get worried about make up stuff.

  6. Wash your makeup brushes with shampoo and use a lightweight conditioner afterwards. Better yet, I use an overnight cream instead of conditioner, because its noncomedogenic. Rinse like you would your hair, and dry as above. This keeps your bristles moisturized and keeps them from breaking.

  7. I have a problem 🙁 I traed to wash my Makeup brushes with eye makeup remover and now they are all greasy and disgusting. Is there any way to make it go away? 🙁 they are new and I don’t want to buy new ones

    • Mariana, your brushes are greasy because you cleaned them with oil based makeup remover. There are hundreds of different DIY brush cleaners, but the one i’ve found most effective is to use dish cleaning liquid (I use Dawn because its very gentle on natural hairs as well) and just dab the brush in the soap, rinse under water, lather slightly on the palm of your hand and RINSE THOROUGHLY! That is the most important part! I hope this helps 🙂

  8. Peppermint castle soap is AMAZING,for cleaning brushes. I teach theater makeup and spend a whole class on sanitation. 🙂

  9. How about eye pencil? I read somewhere that we should discard it after so many months etc. What I do is this: I pour rubbing alcohol in the sharpener and sharpen the pencil. I would think this should clean everything since the eye pencil once it is sharpened it should be clean. Should we discard eye pencils at all? Thanks.

  10. As a beauty therapist & make-up artist myself – this is mostly what we we would do, except for the lipstick thing – Once u’ve sanitised the lipstick in alcohol, u shouldn’t touch it with tissues as ur undoing the cleansing that u’ve just done. The alcohol will evaporate in seconds by itself, causing no harm to the lipstick – just leave it to do that.

  11. Shot for your trouble! It will soon ease mine, the moment the pharmacy opens and one can get hold of some strong booze and try to not drink it all on the way home. O.k.- just get 2 bottles and my male-attachment can drive, lazy slave. Anyway, my mom used to mix together the leftovers of her old lipsticks, heat ’em and cast a “hope-she-won’t-wear-that-in-the-daylight” and I was a-wondering, now with microwave and all, and the sterilization-capabilities they praise it for, if one could be really nasty and follow in Mom’s footsteps. I mean, she looks like she might make it another 30-odd years and she did the whole thing on stove-tpp. I’ve got a cool bronzer as well, but that might be pushing the envelope. Ah heck, if you don’t hear from me again, don’t melt down your ancient bronzer. Love your article! Thank you!

  12. I have to disagree with Vicki. If you curl your lashes with mascara on them, you are going to break your lashes. If you have a manual lash curler try blasting the metal part with your blowdryer for a few seconds, take care not to use it until it’s still warm to the touch. Then, starting at the root base of your lashes, clamp down and release 4 or 5 times in a ‘C’ motion, until you reach the end of your lashes. If you really want to have super curl, use an electric lash curler after you put your mascara on. They are designed for that purpose.

    • as professionals, we often use eyelash curlers to help with the bonding process of false lashes, & often, a thin layer of mascara is used for maximum adhesion … I prefer a gentle heated (& super cheap from eBay) one with silicone pads, as u don’t hv to go thru all of the above to get a curl & it doesn’t stick as much, but ur right – ppl are often far too harsh & rough on their eye area, which does result in not only broken lashes, but also prematurely aged, sagging skin … I also have the metal lash curlers & a heated wand as everybody’s lashes are different – my own for instance, grow downwards & also grow up thru part of my eyelid – not pretty :/ & very resistant to curling.

  13. Use antibacterial dish liquid to clean your brushes. Squeeze the dish liquid onto a plate (optional: mix in a bit of olive oil to keep the brush hairs conditioned). Dab the brush into the mixture and swirl around on your palm. Rinse and repeat until all the makeup product is out of the brush.

  14. Maybe TMI, but if you ever get a fungal skin infection on your lips and happen to wear lipstick or lipbalm and contaminate the product, just toss the product. Fungus is really tough to kill, even with an alcohol (antiseptic grade 91% isopropanol) soak, and it took me 2 re-infections to be more ruthless with my purging.

    • that would be because fungal infections need to be treated with specific anti-fungal medications & not alcohol … fungal infections can also be systemic (throughout the body), so ur not just treating the visible site in many cases, u need to treat the entire body … a professional would have referred u for medical treatment.

  15. Though it greatly provides good skin effects, it does not mean that it went through a simple process. In fact, turning someone skin into a best one is never easy and this was proven by this facial cleansing brush because the manufacturing of this product is also not easy.


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