People close to me know that I'm a brush-holic. I love and treasure my Japanese hand-crafted brushes and obviously I want to make them last as long as possible. Excellent brushes might be an investment, but caring for them doesn't have to be expensive or difficult at all! In this requested post I'll share you how I care and wash my Japanese fude brushes.
Storing and everyday use
I'm very grateful my kitten, Kiko, takes no interest in my brushes, but in the case she did, I try to not forget my brushes unguarded on my desk/vanity. To keep the brushes nice and dust free I recommend storing them inside a cabinet, original packaging or a closet. Avoid humid places or direct sunlight! Personally I have a glass cabinet, which also works as a nice display for the brushes. I store my brushes in old mugs or cleaned candle jars, hair-side up so the brushes will keep their shape.
Every time I use a brush, I gently wipe the excess color in a clean tissue or a kitchen towel. A microfiber cloth should work just as well. Next time I use my brush I can use it freely without worrying about mixing pigments unintentionally, which can result in muddy or unwanted colors. I do the same with concealer and liquid foundation brushes to keep the brush as clean as possible and avoid growing bacteria. Unless you're a makeup artist, I do not recommend using disinfectants or spot cleansers as they will damage the brush hairs. Spot cleaning means spraying a towel/tissue with a cleansing spray and wiping the brush, washing brushe with water is often referred as "deep cleansing".
Cleansing makeup brushes
There's a lot of bad advice on the Internet, I once saw an article you can clean a Beauty Blender with dishwasher soap and microwaving it.. Yup. You wouldn't wash your hair, pet or a silk blouse with dishwasher soap, so why makeup tools? Natural brush hairs, such as squirrel hair, are not only expensive but delicate. I believe daily tools are meant to be used and enjoyed, but treating them with care prevents brushes from shedding, loosing color (dyed hair) or splaying. Washing and drying are crucial parts of brush care, but I promise you it's an easy task.
How often should you wash makeup brushes? There are two schools in this: one is keeping your brushes as clean and hygienic as possible and the other is prolonging the life of your brush. In my opinion it depends on the amount of usage, hair type and do you use it for liquid/cream or powder products. I used to wash my all brushes after every use (basically every day), but I quit after chatting with a Sales Associate at the Hakuhodo Omotesando store. She made a point the most delicate hairs should be washed as little as possible, so nowadays I'm trying to extend the time between washes. Depending how much you use your squirrel brushes washing once a month or less should be enough if you wipe them after every use with a tissue or microfiber cloth. Goat (rough types), kolinsky, weasel, synthetic etc. can be washed more regularly. I switch my liquid foundation brushes after every couple use and weekly wash my cream/liquid brushes.
When you first purchase a quality brush, it is completely normal that some "loose hairs" will fall out; these hairs were not pinched in the ferrule in the making process. In finishing production the loose hairs are shaken out, but sometimes (especially in bigger, fluffier brushes) some of these hairs remain. 3-4 loose hairs in each use is completely normal and doesn't mean the brush is defective. You can wash, gently shake the brush or carefully pull the hairs that poke out. After a few uses the brush should no longer drop loose hairs.
If the hairs are very short, shorter than the brush head, it can indicate the hairs can be cut due to improper use/drying. If the brush sheds a lot, please contact the brush company or dealer for additional details and help.
Brush soap should be mild and conditioning so it won't damage the brush hairs or strip from their natural oils, but cleansing enough you get all traces of makeup and dirt off. Avoid heavily alcohol-based or other drying cleansers as they will dry and damage the brush hairs. Personally I use 2-3 kinds of soaps: a mild baby shampoo and savon de marseille.
Savon de marseille is a traditional hard soap made of vegetable oils. It's usually sold in quite large blocks and can be found in many well provided stores, even art shops. For example, in Finland you can purchase savon de marseille from Sokos and Stockmann department stores and Tempera art supply store for ~3€/$3.55. Savon de marseille foams lightly, removing traces of liquid makeup very effortlessly and doesn't dry out the brush hairs. I usually use this soap for kolinsky, synthetic and goat etc. durable brushes.
For squirrel hairs I use even milder organic baby shampoo that has less lathering ingredients. Always select unscented soaps and cleansers for brushes! Mine is by a brand called Mild by Nature that I've purchased as a travel size from iHerb. I also have one designated brush soap from Clean Apothecary (sold on Beautylish), which is very nice and convenient but I find that savon de marseille is cheaper and performs just as well.
Opposite to storing, upside down is the best. You want to avoid water dripping inside the ferule as it will loosen the glue over time. This may cause the ferule loosening or even shedding. My recommendation is to invest in a 'brush tree' aka a drying rack for your brushes. It has a silicone grippers to hold the brushes upside down and the tree collapses after using, so it's easy to store. You can purchase a Benjabelle brush tree from Beautylish or Amazon, but personally I have an inexpensive no-brand alternative from eBay. After you've towel dried the brush gently, you simply place your brush in the tree and wait about ~overnight: different size and hair types take longer to dry, for example goat dries very fast. Trust me on this, if you own 10 or more brushes your life will be so much more convenient with a brush tree.
If a brush tree is not an alternative for you, brush guards work almost as well. Brush guards are stretchy and breathable polyester sleeves, which help brushes to keep their shape and protect while travelling. Put your brushes individually in brush guards and let them stand upside down in a jar. I used to wrap my brushes in a paper towel with a rubber band and place them in a jar in a similar manner, but this is both time consuming and wasteful method.
Third option, which I don't recommend for extended use, but you can place brushes horizontally on a counter top. Some water may get in the ferule, but it's a better method than letting the brushes dry vertically the hair-side up.
When your brush contains a lot of makeup, gently wash it with warm water and soap I described. Dip the brush in water, up to the ferrule. Water should not go any higher than the ferrule - excess water can get inside the ferrule and ruin the glueing!
Gently wet the brush, roll the head on your soap bar or use a liquid cleanser for a mild lather, then either stroke the hairs with your fingers or gently rotate against the palm of your hand. I prefer the latter method. Rinse in lukewarm water (avoiding the ferule) and once properly rinsed, press the hairs with a clean towel. You can shape the brush head a bit with your fingers or use a brush guard for larger brushes such as bronzer or powder. A brush guard helps the brush head to retain its shape, drying without makes the brush head just fluffier. They're now read to be dried on your brush tree!
I hope this post was helpful and perhaps you learned something new! I didn't talk about combing brushes as personally I don't find the need to do it. Here's an older but excellent article by Sonia of Sweet Makeup Temptations and Hakuhodo's How-to for more information. I will most likely update this article as needed – I'm happy to answer any questions you may have about brush caring! I'll post about travelling with brushes and pictures of my brush rolls in a separately. Please write your comments below, I'm always happy to chat with fellow brush fanatics. x