the science of makeup brush cleaners

the science of makeup brush cleaners

Each Sunday I spend my time doing exciting activities like cleaning and homework, and I always try to make sure I clean my makeup brushes as well. By cleaning my makeup brushes/tools weekly it prevents my brushes from age and wearing out as well as keeping them clear of bacteria which can clog my pores and cause breakouts.While I don’t see a lot of cleaners in stores, there are a lot of DIYs on Pinterest for how to make your own makeup brush cleaner. I currently own and love the Bare Minerals brush conditioning shampoo. All of this leads me to a very important cosmetic chemistry term: surfactant. 

Essentially a surfactant is a compound included in formulas to allow water and oils (or compounds of different densities) to stay in suspension in a homogeneous fashion. The basis of any soap, cleanser, shampoo, etc. is the use of a surfactant because of their incredible cleaning abilities. A surfactant molecule consists of a hydrophilic, charged head and a hydrophobic, neutral lipid tail. While being used as a soap, surfactants are referred to as anionic detergents because they become negatively charged when an ion is added. The most common example of this is sodium laureth sulfate. This highly debated surfactant is commonly included in shampoos because it’s cheap and an extremely good foaming agent.

sodium laureth sulfate

The really nifty part of these molecules is their cleaning ability. Because most makeup is oil-based, this makes surfactants perfect cleaning agents for brush cleaners, the hydrophobic lipid tail will attract oil and the hydrophilic head will attract the water.When the surfactant is added to the brush, and water is introduced, everything on the brush including the surfactant will be washed away, leaving the brush clean.


from my Instagram!

Every makeup brush cleaner on the market will contain some sort of surfactant, which is where the issues of Pinterest DIY’s come up. Most of the DIY brush cleaners I’ve found on Pinterest include; dish soap, vinegar, and water. While I’m sure this mixture is effective for cleaning brushes I see a few problems that could arise. If you have sensitive skin the combination of dish soap and vinegar, even being diluted with water, could be harsh. In my personal opinion, I would suggest for users to opt for a brush cleaner made by a legitimate brand, massive amounts of work are put their formulations. For the preservation of your brushes and the health of your skin using a brush cleanser created by cosmetic chemists is definitely the way to go. However if you’re more of a DIY-er, go for it! Just be aware of your ingredients so you can create a safe formula.

Hopefully, this little chemistry lesson will help you think about what’s happening on the molecular level next time you’re cleaning your makeup brushes! Have you ever tried a DIY brush cleaner? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below.

One thought on “the science of makeup brush cleaners

  1. suzanne8892 says:

    Based off of a suggestion I used a DIY combination of equal parts olive oil and dish soap followed by a really good rinsing. My brushes turned out brilliantly clean and soft! I definitely need to clean my brushes more often.

    Liked by 1 person

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