how to clean a makeup brush

People here for my usual content or for the tags may be looking at this post and wondering what the fuck is going on. Worry not, I have not turned into a Zoella wannabee overnight and am here to chat about my normally morbid issues. Just, bear with me for a moment.

I was late to the makeup party and only started using it when I was seventeen but, in the subsequent years, have come to depend on it entirely. I can no longer leave my house without it on. In these years I have slowly learned many things about makeup, the application thereof and the various instruments related. One thing I only recently properly learned about was the actual cleaning of those instruments, that’s what today’s post is based around.

When I first discovered you actually should clean your brushes regularly, it was apparently something I really should have known about and settled myself to Google what on earth I actually needed to do. The first link that came up explained the “bath and soak” method, as I call it and, uncaringly, used this method for several weeks. Essentially it comprises of dropping your brushes into a bowl or cup of warm water with some soap or shampoo and leaving them there. All that this resulted in was a pool of brownish water, a stained coffee mug and brushes that looked no better than before.

I upgraded to using the sink instead so that I could use the “swirl and tap” method: just swirling your brush through the water, using your hands to squeeze out excess water and running it under the tap before leaving it to dry. Unfortunately, I got similar results again.

At this point, in frustration, I turned to where anyone desperate enough turns to: YouTube. After a half an hour long tutorial I found out that my previous methods were better for what was called “spot” cleaning and should be done several times a week, then allowing for a deep clean a few times a month if possible. To those people who follow this schedule: get a life. (I’m kidding, I admire you all and aspire to be like you one day).

So with this knowledge, I turned back to my sink with my brushes in hand, pulled out my new baby shampoo and cleaned my makeup brushes. This was a day of revelations for me and I am proud to announce that this is now a twice a month *cough not really* activity for me. This task happened to fall earlier this week for me and I felt philosophical and found myself an analogy and rolled with it.

Watching a makeup brush being cleaned is a bit of a therapeutic experience for me. For anyone who hasn’t seen this or doesn’t wear makeup and doesn’t even understand any of what I’ve been referring to, a makeup brush starts to collect the makeup and the oil from your face after some uses. Slowly the blush or foundation or powder starts to build up on the brush and the colour of the bristles begins to change, the texture can get uncomfortable for your face and can affect your skin as you reapply the same oils it collected and the same old blush or foundation from last week. When these are cleaned, therefore, you can visibly see these substances swirling down the drain. I’m hoping some people are starting to see where I’m going with this.

In the same way that I cannot leave my house without my makeup on, I cannot leave my house without my mental illness. Every day I cover it up and ensure no one sees it and it may not debilitate me some days but it is always there, no matter what. When I walk outside I can feel it and though I may get used to the feeling, I know it’s there the whole day. I have become those makeup brushes; slowly building up a coat of depression and exhaustion and anxiety and self-hate. As I go through each day, reapplying that makeup, I reapply those difficult parts of myself that slowly cover me and leave me heavy and stained and in need of cleaning. That’s what this post is, really. It’s discussing that very process of “cleaning”.

When I wash my brushes I see that makeup run down the drain. It may begin to discolour the sink and the water runs murky and unclean and, slowly, it begins to clear until there is nothing but water pouring through the bristles. This process, though not as visible in real life, is just as necessary when applying it to cleaning yourself of that depression and heaviness from your own mental illnesses. Over the last nine years, I have tried many such “cleaning methods” and I’m sure many of you have as well.

In the same way that the “bath and soak” and “swirl and tap” methods seemed to help initially before I noticed that they weren’t making any difference in the long run, I tried many things to make myself feel lighter and ‘normal’ to be able to deal with my mind’s faults and attacks. Someone very close to me recently dealt with a feeling that he felt he couldn’t escape and, while trying to help, I asked what methods he had used before which had been successful and he didn’t have any. After hearing about the severity of this way of thinking I felt surprised at the revelation that he hadn’t yet found a way to deal with it but, after some thought, I started to wonder if knew how to make myself feel better when I had a drop or a panic attack or slipped back into old habits and I realised that quite simply: I didn’t know of any successful ones either.

As I’ve mentioned before I have several friends who deal with mental illnesses and, thinking about them, I didn’t know of any ways they dealt with it either. I have one friend who lies on the floor for her panic attacks and restricted her eating for a year but has never mentioned any of this to someone who could actually help. I have another friend who hides in his bathroom from his own thoughts and phones me at three o’clock in the morning in order to hear any voice that doesn’t sound like his own. Another friend who sliced her skin to focus on the drip instead of the numbers in her head. Yet only one of us has ever properly sought medical assistance (it wasn’t me, unfortunately).

When I first started feeling whatever it is that I deal with now (because who even knows let’s be honest) I was too young to really grasp what was really going on and basically spent most of my pre-teen years essentially just hating myself, my life and everything I could. This was my “bath and soak” method. I settled into my routine and let the hate and the unhappiness and discontent soak into me and absorbed all of those negative feelings because it seemed the easiest way to cope: ignore it basically.

In my early teenage years, I resorted to the “swirl and tap” method. I tried to do new things. I restricted eating (without really knowing what I was doing) and actively complained about pretty much everything into a journal I took great pleasure in burning last year. I also tried to kill myself at this point and this segued well into the “desperate Google search” part of my life.

In my later teenage years, I dropped to the methods I had heard of: the self-harm, purging, acceptance of this frustration and desperation. I researched all the ways that people coped with this, the “cleaning” methods and some of them worked, temporarily.

*TRIGGER – Cutting, EDs – B/P in particular*

*I felt clean when I could look under my skin and see red, when I finally felt my stomach was empty and my throat burned, when I went a whole day without a bite and felt dizzy.* I felt like a new person with these new methods I employed and finally felt I had accepted my problems and was “dealing with them”.

I would like to call bullshit on my younger self at this point and could write that person an essay on all the things she was doing wrong. Since then I have found those more positive YouTube tutorials. I now drink strawberry milk or paint my nails or blast my music into my ears loud enough to blow my eardrums or run for kilometres until I’ve run off the unclean feeling or let someone hug me until I can’t breathe or feel anything else. Though these methods are as temporary as all of those negative ones I found when I first started “dealing with this”, and may not seem as effective some days, they are my new step. Though I sometimes can’t handle the seeming ineffectiveness of these methods and may take a big step back to the old ones, I feel myself slowly leaving those older ones behind as I grow older and find new cleaning methods.

I haven’t found my deep-clean scrub yet. I haven’t felt myself pour out clear water just yet and can still feel those old oils and cakey makeup particles in my skin and under my fingernails and sometimes they clog my mouth up until I can’t breathe.


But, I feel myself easing towards that final method and I cannot wait until the day I finally find it. I cannot wait until the water runs clear and I can tap myself and lay out on a towel to dry out and finally feel clean.


[Clean songs of the week: Think About You, LÉON / Something Just Like This, The Chainsmokers ft. Coldplay / Love, Lana Del Rey / Fallen Angel, SVRCINA]


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