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The Importance of Tool Hygiene: How Do You Clean Your Makeup Brushes While Traveling

The Importance of Tool Hygiene: How Do You Clean Your Makeup Brushes While Traveling

Girl Holding a Makeup BrushTable of Contents

The Importance of Tool Hygiene: How Do You Clean Your Makeup Brushes While Traveling?

Let’s have a chat, Subtl Beauties: How do you clean your makeup brushes while traveling? Do you pull them out of your carry-on for a little TLC pretty often? If you’re hesitant to answer, we totally get it; giving your makeup brushes some hygienic care isn’t the most fun thing to do when traveling. But with the American Dermatology Association reporting that dirty makeup brushes are breeding grounds for bacteria – it’s time to get them tools spick and span.  

But how do you clean your makeup brushes while traveling? To learn more about why makeup brush hygiene is important, when and how to clean your makeup brushes, and some brush care tips, keep reading:

Why Tool Hygiene Is Important While Traveling With Makeup Brushes

Imagine you’ve just woken up to a breakout on your last day vacationing through Europe. For the past few weeks, you’ve used your makeup brushes daily, but the same can’t be said about cleaning them. Could they be responsible for the blemishes compromising your vacay? According to dermatologists and makeup artists, you should be cleaning your makeup tools to prevent bacteria buildup, which can cause breakouts.

Here’s a more in-depth look at why keeping your makeup brushes clean while traveling (and at home!) is so important:

  • Hygiene: Did you know that makeup brushes can accumulate dirt, oils, bacteria, and old makeup residue over time? When you apply makeup with dirty brushes, you're essentially spreading these contaminants onto your skin, resulting in clogged pores, breakouts, infections, and skin irritation. Regularly cleaning your brushes helps maintain good hygiene and prevents these issues from putting a damper on your trip.
  • Makeup Application: Clean brushes perform so much better when it comes to applying makeup. Dirty brushes can have leftover product residue, which can affect the color payoff and blendability of your cosmetics (sometimes making them appear oxidized). Clean brushes ensure a smooth and precise application every time.
  • Longevity of Brushes: With regular cleaning and proper maintenance, you can extend the lifespan of your makeup brushes. The accumulation of makeup, oils, and bacteria can degrade the bristles over time, leading to shedding, splaying, and decreased performance. By keeping your brushes clean, you can preserve their quality, saving you money in the long run.

When Do You Clean Your Makeup Brushes?

While there’s not an exact time frame to mark on your calendar, most experts agree that you should clean your makeup brushes often. "I recommend washing makeup brushes at least every two weeks or more if you start to see that there is any makeup visible on the brush," says Loretta Ciraldo, a Miami-based board-certified dermatologist.

According to Bobbi Brown (legendary makeup artist), you can be more lenient with the brushes that you use for your travel eyeshadow and liner. But she does mention: 

"Brushes that are used around the eyes should be cleaned at least twice a month.” Other professionals say that cleaning your brushes once a week is a safe option.

While it’s important to clean your travel makeup brushes to ensure they won’t wreak havoc on your skin, giving them some suds may also leave you with a more radiant complexion. "Brush hairs are porous, so they hold onto oils, debris, and bacteria," Ashleigh Ciucc, a New York-based makeup artist, says. "If they’re dirty, your application will be spotty and blending will be difficult. If they’re clean, everything should go smoothly!"

Makeup Brush Cleaning Chart

How Do You Clean Your Makeup Brushes?

Tell us – how do you clean your makeup brushes? If you said something along the lines of, “You know, soap, water, the works,” then you’re on the right track. But to make things easier on you and your brushes, here’s an easy six-step cleaning process that you can do anywhere:

  1. Grab your makeup brushes and delicately run warm water over their bristles.
  2. Wash your hands and place a drop of brush cleanser into your palm.
  3. Create a lather and massage the tips of the brush bristles to get the old makeup out.
  4. Rinse the bristles thoroughly.
  5. Squeeze out any excess moisture with a clean towel.
  6. Re-form the brush back into its original shape by hanging it off the edge of a counter to air-dry.

SUBTL PROTIP: Take a look at one of your makeup brushes. Do you see where the bristles connect with the handle? Make sure to keep this area away from water as it can cause the glue that’s holding the bristles to disintegrate and come loose.

Makeup Brushes and Daily Disinfecting

In addition to cleaning your brushes, you can also use a disinfecting mist for some extra cleanliness in between uses or while you’re backpacking through your vacation. To start, grab a spray bottle from your local convenience store. Combine 4 ounces of witch hazel extract with 12 drops of grapefruit essential oil. Spray on your brush and wipe clean.

Grapefruit essential oil provides a super clean scent, but it also has antimicrobial properties. This means that grapefruit essential oil can kill microorganisms (AKA bacteria and mold) and stop them from growing. Witch hazel extract commonly contains 14% alcohol that works to get rid of any makeup build-up on your brushes. Plus, it helps your bushes dry quickly while distributing the essential oil evenly throughout. 

SUBTL PROTIP: If you’re not a grapefruit kind of gal, you can use other antimicrobial essential oils like lavender or tea tree. Stay away from peppermint essential oil as it has a very powerful scent that may irritate your eyes. 

Stackable Makeup portable brush and bag

Practice Makeup Brush Hygiene With Subtl Beauty

According to one Huffington Post survey, only 61% of women clean their makeup brushes once a month. Almost two-fifths (39%) of women cleaned their brushes less than once a month, with 22% admitting to never cleaning them at all. Pretty eye-opening statistics, right?

At Subtl Beauty, we know the importance of time and multi-tasking. So – embrace your inner Subtl by slapping on a calming sheet mask (because being in new climates while traveling can inflame your skin) and get to work on cleaning your makeup brushes.

In need of a good makeup brush? Meet your new Subtl Stack Brush BFF; it’s an adjustable, multi-use brush that’s perfect for both precision use and all-over face application, which means that it has all your travel makeup needs covered. 

And guess what? It’s free with every purchase!

Ready to shop ‘til you drop and claim your free Stack Brush BFF? Take this quiz to find the products perfect for you and your skin. Need a quick beauty fix before traveling? You can grab one of these premade stacks. Either way, happy traveling, and cheers to good brush hygiene!

Now tell us – how do you clean your makeup brushes? 


  1. Huffington Post   |   How Often Should You Wash Your Makeup Brushes? Expert Advice
  2. American Academy of Dermatology   |   How To Clean Your Makeup Brushes
  3. Allure   |   How to Clean Makeup Brushes and Makeup Sponges the Right Way
  4. NY Times   |   How to Clean Makeup Brushes
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