Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cleaning Makeup Brushes the MIchelle Phan Way

Trace writes: Let's start with the video that inspired this post!

Squeaky Clean Brushes! by Michelle Phan
She uses the technique she learned from her oil painting class - oil and detergent do mix after all! Interesting, right? It sounds scary though - what if the brush hairs become too oily and fall off?!

But what the heck, I've decided to take the risk and clean ALL my brushes - even the recently washed ones. Methinks Michelle's reputation is too good to give out an awful suggestion. So let's get started with a...

Background: I own a lot of brushes for one person (Dawn has two sets too) and this is because I alternate between tools every week so that I don't need to wash them too often - only twice a month for each brush. 

 My brushes! 
I have a Suesh 28-piece brush set and an assorted loot of ELF, Shu Uemura, Prescriptives, Guerlain, Bare Naturals, Marionnaud (great find!). I clean them using generic shampoo, shampooing and rinsing three times per session. I think this technique is affordable and convenient by itself. I still get the same performance from my brushes and most are still oh-so-soft. But sometimes, I don't get all the pigment out especially on light-haired ends.

So let's see if this new experiment will work out for the best...

Olive Oil (mixed with of Ilog Maria's Chamomile Massage Oil so that it smells heavenly!)
Joy Ultra Liquid Cleanser
Pail cover instead of a plate (since I'm cleaning ALL my brushes)

Equal amount of Olive oil + Joy on the pail cover. I had to replenish the mix four times the amount used by Michelle on the video since I have to clean a lot. The technique's pretty icky and I did not like the feeling of swirling dirty brushes on the palm of my hand. 

After 20-30 minutes, I'm done swirling!

I don't have pictures of me rinsing the brushes. But I did use shampoo again just to ensure everything's extra clean, since I am afraid there's a possibility for the olive oil not to get washed off. I rinsed all my brushes twice.

I don't own brush guards (so donate me two sets!!) and being stubborn, I don't want to get four or five glasses to keep my brushes standing upside down. So I just laid them flat on an old towel, and waited 3-4 hours for them to dry.


All the pigment on my ELF Studio Flat Top Powder brush, which I use on my face to stipple REVLON COLORSTAY Foundation, is gone! The hairs are as black as night!

My Shu Uemura 20 Pony blush brush regained its lost shine and softness (it was beginning to get scratchy out of daily use).

The Guerlain mini-meteorites pink brush looks cute and smells good, too!

But my Marionnaud Foundation brush, unfortunately, didn't like this technique, nu-ah. It retained some of the olive oil and I had to re-wash it again. I guess for silky synthetic foundation and concealer brushes, this method is not good. For animal hair and fluffy vegan brushes, Michelle Phan's brush cleaning technique is fantastic!

Will I do this again? SURE, once a month or every two months at most for deep cleaning. I'll still stick with my former method, because Olive Oil + Liquid Detergent is actually expensive compared to one measely bottle of shampoo.

I hope this helps with your brush cleaning woes!



  1. Oh Trace, this is a good one. Does the Michelle's technique cleaned elf brushes well? I want to try on my elf brushes. Thanks~~~

  2. Marionnaud brushes are really a pain to rinse out! I spend about half an hour just rinsing them. My boyfriend even helped me out because he can't stand it anymore!

  3. Fish Fish - I am not sure if she owns these brushes. But my ELF brushes (i have 5) are totally perfect after this! :)

    Lady E - I agree! I hate all the black that oozes out of the water :( Pero natanggal naman siya kanina.

  4. thanks for sharing! gamit ko kasi Joy dishwashing liquid lang, tapos sa foundie brushes di completely natatanggal yung foundation. =P

  5. Trace, thanks for sharing! Will try this out one of these days :)

  6. Sure thing, Zaya! :) At least we know this technique won't kill our MU brushes ahaha

  7. Khymm- Kailangan siguro ng oil to strip the foundation's kapit on the brush :) Galing ng technique, actually!

  8. If you can remember my post about the Ellana brush cleaner, you can skip the olive oil. Daily usage makes my brushes soft, even the cheap HerBench one. I think the tea tree oil helps a lot. Olive oil is so expensive no! I'd rather eat it than put it on my brush. = )

  9. hi, ganda naman po ng pinost mong blog...tnx for sharing

  10. Lady E - Hmm. I re-read your review, will prolly purchase that if I get enticed to try out Ellana again.

    Bean Bag Chair - Thank you!!! :)

  11. Thanks Trace. I meant the technique on your elf brushes. :P Hehe... now I wonder if Michelle used elf brushes.

  12. Oh okay, sorry for that Fish FIsh :) My ELF brushes are super clean :)

  13. I use the spray brush cleaner from Ellana minerals! You might want to try it because it makes your brushes super soft and it dries really quickly. :D (Plus it's only 150 and it lasts a long time)...

  14. Wow, another thumbs up for ellana :) Thank you Lizz, will check it out!!

  15. I cleaned my brushes based on Michelle Phan's video too. I put too much oil though so it became kinda greasy. haha

  16. Yikes Bea! :) I guess we better make it 3/4 detergent and 1/4 oil to be safe!

  17. Hi Trace,

    Cool blog you've got. Thanks for dropping by my blog and the comment.

    And that's a lot of makeup brushes you have. But I think I'll save my olive oil for cooking and other beauty procedures. LOL....

  18. Thanks VonVon for visiting :) I was shocked by the amount of Olive Oil I needed to use to clean the brushes, like 3/4 of a coffee cup. Yikes!