Some people like using sponges, airbrushes, or their fingers, but when it comes to super precise makeup application, you can’t turn to the aid of any other tool than the makeup brush. Though they may seem like reasonably modern-day cosmetic devices, the makeup brush was actually “invented” sometime between 500-600 AD!
Whether you only have a couple of brushes or you have dozens in your makeup arsenal, it’s important to know what the lifespans of your brushes are. This knowledge can keep your skin healthy, your makeup looking fresh, and your wallet spending money on brushes that fall short.
So, how long do makeup brushes last? On average, makeup brushes can last 1-3 years. However, this time frame can change drastically depending on how you care for your brushes, as well as how impressive they are in quality.
Here, we’ll break down when you should give your brushes a toss, what kind of brushes last the longest (and which ones to avoid), and other tips to ensure you get the longest makeup brush lifespan possible. Let’s dive in!
The Makeup Brush Lifespan
How long your makeup brush lasts depends mostly on one thing: its quality.
Though, yes, it is deeply important for you to take good care of your makeup tools, especially ones that you regularly use on your face, no amount of deep cleaning or proper storage can make a makeup brush last longer if it’s already in poor shape to begin with.
Cheap Makeup Brushes
Unbranded makeup brushes or packs of makeup brushes sold at low price points are definitely not going to last as long as ones sold by trusted brands or trustworthy retailers.
We’ll break down how to tell if you’re buying a bad brush later on in the article, but you, unfortunately, can’t expect poor-quality products to last you very long!
Depending on the frequency of use and the state of the makeup brush beforehand, a cheaply made brush can last you as little as one month, and, if you can tolerate its performance, can last you up to a year.
Higher Quality Makeup Brushes
Good quality makeup brushes don’t necessarily need to be an investment! You can expect a great performance from this set of brushes (from the brand e.l.f.) that won’t put a dent in your wallet. Or, you can splurge on something a bit pricier, like this collection from Sonia Kashuk for brushes that will really last.
Higher quality brushes come from trusted makeup brands with a notable history of care in their products.
Though there are a number of hidden gems you can find online (like this set from BS-MALL), you wouldn’t be in the wrong to expect reputable cosmetic brands to have makeup brushes that perform better and last longer. That’s why they’re so reputable in the first place!
With that being said, you can expect your makeup brushes, regardless of where you got them, to last you between o1-3 years. Once that time is up, you should always throw them away and replace them to avoid running into any issues.
Signs Of Poor Brush Quality
Regardless of where you’re getting your brushes, or how much they cost upon purchase, there are telltale signs that you should keep an eye out for when it comes to the quality of your brushes.
These can easily be spotted in store, which is why it’s better (and safer) for you to purchase your tools in person rather than online, especially if you’re getting brushes from a new brand.
Here are some makeup brush red flags you shouldn’t ignore:
- Poor Glue – You should never be able to pop the handle of the makeup brush off from the actual bristles, even if you’re using a lot of force and pressure. Though you can technically reattach the handle using superglue or another adhesive, this mistake alone is enough to tell you everything about the quality of the brush overall.
- Bristles Falling – If you pull at the bristles of your brush and notice a concerning amount of them falling out, the brush you’re holding surely isn’t one worth purchasing. Though a little bristle fall is normal, especially if you’ve had the brush for a while, you shouldn’t have clumps of them falling out with every single touch or use.
- Stiff Feel – It’s normal for your brush to fill stiff if it has product on it, but your bristles being stiff or sticking together in-store is a sign of a poorly manufactured brush.
- Uneven Bristle Length – Another sign of poor quality control is if the bristles of your brush are unevenly cut.
- Poor Pigment Distribution – If everything seems alright in store, but you notice that when you get to test your brush at home it lacks in color pick-up or gives a shoddy distribution, that’s telling of its quality as well.
Signs To Throw Your Makeup Brush Away
If you’re thinking of doing a purge of the makeup brushes that you already have in your collection, you may be wondering what the signs of an un-savable brush are.
A lot of makeup brush issues can be taken care of with a simple clean, but a handful of issues may show that your tool is past the point of no return.
- Change In Shape – Though a change in the shape of your bristles can be caused by improper storage or lack of washing, it can also be a sign of internal damage to the glue or bristles. This can’t be fixed, and will directly impact the performance of your brush.
- Physically Worn – If your brush simply looks like it’s on its last leg of life, it’s safe to say that you should put it to rest.
- Strange Odor – A foul smell or lingering scent on your bristles is a clear sign of bacteria. If it can’t be remedied by washing, tossing your brush is the safest option.
- Makes You Breakout – If you notice that your skin gets red and irritated when you use your brushes, or if you notice your acne worsening once you remove your makeup, see if ceasing the use of the brush stops the irritation. If it does, throw the brush away.
- Can’t Wash It Clean – Staining is to be expected when you use your makeup brushes, especially if they’re light-colored. However, this can be washed clean. If the pigment lingers, even with a deep clean, you should throw your brush away.
How To Improve The Longevity Of Your Brushes
Once you’re happy with the quality of your makeup brushes, and once you’ve purged your existing collection of any tools that are falling short, it’s important to start utilizing a proper care routine.
If there’s any single way to extend the life of your makeup brushes, it’s by taking the initiative to keep them clean and stored well.
Though it may seem like a lot of work at first, washing and storing your brushes the way they are meant to can save your face from irritation, save you money by eliminating having to deal with damaged brushes, and save you headaches overall.
Washing Your Brushes
All of your makeup brushes should be washed once a week. This means that Sunday is the optimal time for you to get them prepped for the next seven days!
This is the best schedule if you use makeup every single day, but it could increase to twice a week if you use bright, bold colors on a regular basis.
A gentle shampoo or dish soap are great options for cleaning your brushes and are far more affordable than luxury “brush cleaners” that essentially do the same job.
Simply pump some of the cleanser in your hand, dampen the bristles of your brush, and work them into your palm. Repeat until the water runs clear and the suds are gone.
When it comes to drying your brushes, we love this tutorial by Beauty Bit on Youtube:
On top of proper washing and drying, there are other tips and tricks you can pay attention to that will improve the lifespan of your makeup brushes! Here are just a couple:
Using The Right Brush For Your Product
Though we would never tell you how to do your makeup, you could unknowingly be doing damage to your makeup brush if you’re using it for the wrong job. For example, using a powder brush to apply your foundation could damage the delicate bristles of the product.
If a brush is built to do a certain job, then it likely won’t handle doing another one very well. Unless a brush is anointed as a multi-tool, you shouldn’t use it for anything other than its purpose.
Makeup application should be a therapeutic process! Use a light hand. Not only will your makeup be more precise and blended, but it can keep your brushes from being worn out too quickly.
Synthetic Isn’t Bad
The temptation with going for a makeup brush sourced from natural resources is very real, so you may be surprised to find out that synthetic brushes are actually a better choice if you’re looking for something longer-lasting!
Natural bristles have an expiration date and can harbor bacteria and germs far easier than synthetic brushes, which are quite literally made to last you as long as possible.
You don’t necessarily need individual brush sleeves to keep your makeup brushes looking fresh! Simply store them away from your makeup to avoid accidental stains, and make sure they’re dry when they’re put away, and you should be in the clear.
The best areas to store them are in a makeup brush roll or in an entirely separate bag or container.
When you wash your brushes, never leave them upright until they’re completely dry. If you do, the water can loosen the glue on the bristles and prematurely age your tool.
If you want to get 3 years of use out of a single makeup brush, make sure it’s high-quality upon purchase, and take extra care to extend its lifespan.
Improper cleaning and storage can affect your brushes’ lasting ability, even if you’re using luxurious products, so while you can splurge on the best makeup tools, they count on your care to see how long you get to enjoy them!