Brush Care - 2018

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

It's been four years (!) since I wrote a post about brush cleaning. Since then, more products have entered the market specifically for brush care, so I thought I'd update the blog.  

Since writing my last post on brushes, I've become more convinced that brush conditioning is not optional. It started when I purchased ShouShouLang W Series brushes last summer, these are brushes that are black goat paired with sleek, thick ebony handles. Their bristles are unbelievably smooth and soft, downright glossy and sleek. Over the course of a year, with each wash the bristles faded a little in shine. They were still soft, but my treatment of them (just washing, rinsing with a few drops of humectant in the water) wasn't able to maintain the gleam. After purchasing another W Series brush four months later, I treated this new brush much differently. After each cleanse, I deep conditioned it with a hair conditioner I had laying around and I'm much happier with how this new brush has kept its high gloss shine after half a year.

Cleansers & Conditioners:

I have two brush cleansers and a conditioner from two Asian companies that make brushes; Uyeda Bisyodo and Shou Shou Lang.

I was hoping that the SSL conditioner would be what kept their black goat bristles so immaculate, but both the conditioner and the cleanser are much lighter than what I had hoped for. These are a bit watery in feel and provide a super gentle cleanse. I thought they were perfect for my squirrel bristled brushes which can feel stripped by my other cleansers, but I need something with more cleaning power for my white bristled goat brushes ( I typically use very pigmented shadows that have great potential for staining).

The Bisyodo Fude Bijin is also watery in feel, but is an effective cleanser for all types of brushes, from white goat stained with dark shadows to synthetic bristles caked in dried gel liner. It's 1300 yen, ~$11.50 for 120ml and I purchased it from CDJapan. It was eligible as a part of their free makeup brush shipping offer (12000 yen spending minimum).   

On the left we have SSL's glycerin brush soap. It's more effective than the liquid SSL brush cleanser, but still very mild and suitable for delicate brushes. On the right is a cold-processed bar of soap with honey, the kind you'd find at a farmer's market. It's pretty good at cleaning but not stripping moisture down completely.

Some of the best brush products have been repurposed skincare items. The tube of Soo'Ae* Cleansing Foam is very concentrated and fantastic for washing almost any stain out of a brush. Probably the most economical, as I've been using it for about a year and maybe finished 1/4 of the tube. That's washing ~100 or so brushes pretty regularly. I like using the Naturie (OPERA in mainland China) Job's Tears Skin Conditioner as a part of my rinse, a couple drops added to the water keeps hairs sleek but not greasy. The Missha conditioner wasn't a hit as haircare (spouse HATED the scent) but works fantastically as a deep conditioning treatment for animal sourced bristled brushes. I coat the bristles and let it briefly sit saturated in product (meanwhile working conditioner into other brushes) and then rinse the batch of 5 or so when they are all coated.

Conditioning my brushes with a conditioner has really brought back many of my brushes to peak softness and sleekness. My Hakuhodo B103BkSL was starting to get a little scratchy feeling and a healthy helping of silicone rich conditioner returned the hairs to acceptable softness again. Sephora had a brush conditioner that sold like hot cakes last year. I purchased it, but sadly they were unable to fulfill it and ended up canceling my order. I'm telling you, brush conditioning is a thing. And you should definitely do it to keep your natural bristled brushes soft.

Brush Scrubbers:

Remember when I reviewed The Brush Bar? Unexpectedly, the company also sent me their Brush Board* in that same package. I've used it for the last year and I pretty much use this face of it exclusively, the side with little nubs that are perpendicular to the surface.

When I'm washing brushes and using the board to lather and scrub, I like using this section (each section has slightly different shaped nubs and for the most part they're pretty much the same, other than the solid lines on the back of the board). I move the brush in the same direction so as to not rough up the bristles and flip the brush to do each side.

These Brush Boards are $28 each, and I only really use 1/6 of the board. Well that's not true, sometimes because it's next to my sink so I'll lay mask brushes and other little doodads to dry on top of it. You can expect similar scrubbing capabilities from most other scrubbers that have little points that stick out, at both lower and higher price points.

Often times I'll use this old silicone face scrubber that was like $4. It suctions to the bottom of a bowl or to the sink so it's incredibly handy.

Also silicone, this brush scrubber is called the Brush Egg and it's just a few bucks on Amazon. The straight grooves are useful when rinsing away suds.

Brush Drying Trees / Racks

I wrote a separate post on brush trees here.

Brush Guards:

It's up to you if you like the additional shaping that brush guards give. I like it for certain brushes that have a looser bundling, or poof too much when dry. There's no pattern, sometimes brushes can be from the same brand (like the two above, both from Energy) and one I like compressed and one I like au naturale.  I don't recommend leaving your brushes to dry in the guards completely, especially if you live somewhere humid where trapped moisture can lead to that damp mildew smell. If I'm using this netting on a brush, I'll let it dry to 70-90% and then put on the brush guard for just the remainder. 


SSL wide tooth steel brush comb, purchased last summer. I use it to gently comb a brush when I receive it to remove any stragglers that may still be loose in the brush. If a brush is going to shed, I'd rather it not be on my face during application!

Things to Avoid:

screen grab from

I twitch a bit when I see this style of brush cleaner, the kind that invites you to rub your brushes in a circular motion against a sponge. While it is a short term solution to quickly remove pigment from your bristles, there is probably no better way to roughen up the bristles. If I used exclusively synthetic bristles, I'd probably give it a go, no lie. A soft, long fiber towel (not terry loops) will remove color almost completely from squirrel and sable brushes, remove a good amount of pigment from goat but move in a single direction (ferrule to brush tip) when wiping.

Also not a fan of this style of product, that spins your brushes and splays the bristles as a part of the cleansing/drying process. Look at the tips of that duo fiber brush after it's been cleansed with this gadget! It's still dirty AF, I would absolutely not considered that clean enough to use again. These are their own product photos.

What kind of brush cleaning supplies have you been using on your brushes lately?

*indicates a product that was sent for review. Post contains affiliate links. For additional information, please refer to my Disclosure Policy. 

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