1) Assemble supplies at a leisurely pace. Pause to contemplate whether you really need three different but functionally identical precision eyeliner brushes.
2) Wash brushes, meditatively. Or while catching up on your favourite beauty influencers, as you and various platforms’ algorithms prefer.
3) Dry brushes, exultantly and overnight.
1) Assemble supplies.
I’ve gone through various setups over the years since the then-COO of Revlon set me on a path of consistent makeup wearing. (Yes, this is a true story.)
These days, my routine involves:
If you’re one of those folks with luxuriously spacious bathroom countertops, congratulations. Otherwise this setup works just fine on whatever flat surface (devoid of electronics and anything else you don’t want to get damp) you have access to.
2) Wash brushes.
If you’re doing the bowl method, fill two of the bowls with clean, lukewarm water. Expect to need to change this water out over the course of the process; how often will depend on the state of your brushes / whether you’re into aggressively pigmented eye shadow.
Squirt about two tablespoons of the shampoo / castille soap / dish soap into the third bowl. Do not add water to this bowl.
Taking one brush at a time, swirl the bristles around the bowl that contains the shampoo / soap, making sure you coat the bristles well. If the brush is particularly stained and/or you can’t remember when last you washed it, use your fingers to gently work the shampoo / soap into the bristles.
If you have a silicone brush mat / cleaner, lightly run the bristles up and down and side to side across the surface. Rinse off the makeup deposited on the mat / cleaner in one of the bowls / under the tap and repeat until you notice less and less makeup coming off the brush.
If you don’t have a silicone mat / cleaner and are using the bowl method, briefly dip the bristles in the water of one of the bowls, taking care to avoid submerging the “neck” of the brush where the bristles join the handle. Then, gently but firmly drag the bristles across the rough washcloth (ideally something not prone to pilling or fuzz). Dip the bristles in the water again and repeat. You’ll know based on how much makeup continues to rub off on the washcloth how often to repeat (and when you need to change your water and your washcloths and to refresh your soap / shampoo). When no more makeup is transferring to the wash cloth, swirl the bristles in the clean bowl of water. The water should stay clear if the brush is clean.
If you’re washing your brushes in the sink, then wet your hands and squirt some of the soap / shampoo into your palm, then drag the brush around and across your palm and the ridges of your fingers to work the the lather into the bristles.
When you start to see the original colour of the bristles again, rinse the bristles under the tap, once again avoiding the “neck” of the brush. The water should stay pretty clear at this point; if not, repeat the cleansing process.
3) Dry brushes.
When you’re ready to dry, use one of the clean microfiber cloths or paper towels to lightly (lightly!) squeeze the bristles to remove excess water. Do not wring.
Then, lay the brush flat on a clean and dry microfiber cloth or a double layer of paper towels, ideally in a sunny but relatively dust free place (so, not by an open window). You can hang the brushes to try if DIYing things is your jam.
Don’t store wet brushes with the bristles pointing at the sky; that allows water to get into the glue and fraying will ensue.
If you use sponges, you should be washing these at least every time you use them because if you’re using them correctly (i.e. while damp) then they’re otherwise pretty disgusting.
In the event you’re a person who audibly scoffed at that last sentence, and you have easy access to a washing machine and dryer: once a week, in a mesh wash bag or a clean sock knotted at the top, throw your sponges in with whatever laundry you’re doing on a gentle cycle.
If you’re up for a “wash every time you use them” routine, grab whatever face wash you have handy and work it into the sponge for 30 seconds to a minute. Then squeeze the sponge in a towel until it feels mostly dry to the touch, and set aside to air out.
If you’re worried about your sponges not drying in time for your next makeup application, stockpile the brand that costs cost $5.99 at Target or Ulta rather than the one that retails for $20 in Sephora. The beauty influencers swear they work just as well.
They wield a contour brush and my cheekbone pops.
The magic settles uneasy; it turns out fairy dust was always
fake. And the lipstick’s made from beetles, shells crushed vermillion.
My color is Fleshpot, they say, it’s Folie or Fixation. It’s Wilderness;
it’s Artificial Earth. They can’t quite make themselves care.
We’ll waste it, they know, whatever we’ve been given.
—from The Wicked One Goes to the Makeup Counter by Janet McNally