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How to clean your make-up bag and brushes

How to clean your make-up bag and brushes


If you’re a beauty hoarder, we get it; as one of life’s pick-me-ups, a dazzling eye shadow palette or soul-hugging fragrance can most definitely spark joy. But, that lipstick you’ve been clinging onto since the early 2000s really needs to go. 

Take good care of a make-up brush and you can probably hold onto it forever, but for most other beauty products this isn’t the case. “Always check the back of the packaging,” says Rachael, “it will have a little open jar printed with the number of months you can keep the item from the moment of opening without it spoiling.”

“Mascara should be kept no longer than three months for hygiene reasons and because the air will get to it once opened, which will affect the performance of the product. I would also be very particular with cream items as they can harbour more bacteria and be more damaging to the skin.”

And if you notice a product that has developed a strong smell, you should discontinue using it immediately.

Once you’ve separated the redundant items (recycle where possible), move onto the products you’ve kept unopened on your vanity just for the beauty of it. If you haven’t reached for it yet, chances are you probably never will, so be disciplined and consider passing on the joy to someone else – family, friends or charities. 

Clean up 

Hands up if you’ve washed your make-up brushes in the last week? Surely the last month? Well, washing your tools is still essential. 

“The most important things to keep clean are your make-up brushes and sponges – these build up the most bacteria and poor hygiene of these can lead to spots and effect the make-up application if not treated properly. I have brushes such as my NARS Yachiyo, £44, and 42 blending brush, £26, that have lasted me years through regular cleaning, and now is a great time to do so.”

Now, when it comes to cleaning, should we be chucking our brushes into the washing machine (as certain viral beauty hack videos would have you believe)? “I would say definitely not, this will 100 per cent ruin your brushes,” Rachael advises. “The heat and being fully submerged in water would disintegrate the glue that joins the hair to the handle and rot the wood (if there’s a wooden handle).”

Instead, clean your brushes every two weeks with baby shampoo, like the CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser, and warm water. Use your hands to create circular motions against the bristles until water runs off the brush clear.  Then, dry your brushes by laying them flat on a towel, but angled with the handle elevated – this stops water dislodging the glue in the handle, which can cause bristle shedding. For sponges, the washing machine trick does in fact apply. Rachael says you should rinse your sponges with soap, place them in an old pillow case and put them in the washing machine with a non-bio detergent on 40 degrees. 

It’s also worth cleaning and disinfecting your toiletry and make-up bags, as well as any storage areas where you like to keep your products. 

Get organised 

Start by grouping your products together; base make-up (foundations, concealers and primers), eye make-up (mascaras, eye shadow and liners), lip products and so on. You should do the same for sizable products like hair, body care and fragrances, which can be filed away in larger vanity cases. 

As for fiddly products, Rachael keeps her everyday must-haves, including the Nars Sheer Glow, £35, and Climax Mascara, £22, in a make-up bag on her dresser and swaps in new products as and when. Non-daily products are filed into clear Perspex drawers from Muji which are both practical and easy on the eye.