Are Antibacterial & Antimicrobial Makeup Brushes Really Worth It?

A simple Google search on the “best makeup brushes” will return a 163,000,000 results in under a second —
Natural? Synthetic? Antibacterial or Antimicrobial? It’s hard to figure out where to even begin!

A makeup brush with antibacterial or antimicrobial properties will certainly help your brush repel unwanted bacteria, germs, and even viruses. Keep in mind that  Antibacterial / Antimicrobial makeup brushes STILL have to be cleaned on a regular basis and no marketing jargon should tell you different — Don’t you want to take comfort in the fact that you are putting a clean makeup brush against your skin? 

The concept of antibacterial or antimicrobial makeup brushes have been around for over years but it seems they are starting to make a comeback. What’s the difference between antibacterial and antimicrobial anyhow? Antimicrobial products will kill or slow the spread of microorganisms; microorganisms include bacteria, viruses, protozoans, and fungi such as mold and mildew. Antibacterial products will prevent the growth or spread of bacteria. 
 
A common misconception is that a makeup brush having antibacterial or antimicrobial properties will never need to be cleaned because it repels bacteria or microbes, or even lasting indefinitely. Before you fall victim to savvy marketing schemes that trick you into thinking brushes last for months on end without cleaning is probably too good to be true. Yes, cleaning makeup brushes is probably not on your top ten list of favorite things to do and ranks right up there with cleaning all the dishes after Thanksgiving dinner. Nevertheless, we wouldn’t put dirty dishes back in the cupboard and want to eat off a dirty plate any more than we want to put a filthy makeup brush all over our face. If you own makeup, it should be muscle memory to keep your kit of tools sanitary and hygienic! Wouldn’t you agree? 

Before we dive into explaining how these brushes work, it’s important to understand the difference between Natural and Synthetic Makeup Brushes – Do you know the difference?

According to Makeup.com by L’Oreal: “Natural makeup brushes are made of animal hair, often sable, squirrel or goat. Natural brushes tend to be more expensive than synthetic brushes because they’re made from real animal hair. The natural hair offers a super soft feel and makes it easy for blending makeup on the face. That’s because, just like the hair on our head, the natural hair on the makeup brushes contains cuticles, which have great pick-up and blending properties. Cuticles help lift and absorb powdery pigment along with your skin’s oils and blend them seamlessly across the face, creating a natural, non-blotchy look. Natural makeup brushes are best used for applying powder-based makeup products such as eyeshadow, finishing and setting powder and powder-based blushes and bronzers.”

Synthetic makeup brushes are typically made of man-made materials like nylon, taklon or polyester fibers. While they’re not as soft as natural makeup brushes, synthetic brushes are typically more affordable because they use easily accessible materials. They’re also unique in that the bristles naturally gravitate toward each other, allowing for a more precise, smooth and streak-free application. Faux-hair brushes are also great for liquid products like foundations, cream blush or gel eyeliner. The synthetic hairs are not as porous as natural hairs, so they don’t soak up too much makeup or get clumpy and gunky.

Advances in material science and manufacturing methods have essentially allowed the beauty industry to create brushes with specially coated bristles and even handles that repel bacteria and microbes. Typically speaking, most of these brushes have a specialized coating over the brush fibers that are responsible for repelling the bacteria and microbes. Without getting too technical, some of the more popular methods of manufacturing are bristles that are coated or produced with activated charcoal properties and even silver ions that are actually part of the brush fiber.

We know that charcoal by nature absorbs impurities and silver by nature is a well-documented antimicrobial that has been shown to kill bacteria, fungi and certain viruses. Furthermore, silver ions will block the bacterial respiratory system and thereby destroy the energy production of the cell. In the end, the bacterial cell membrane will burst, and the bacteria will be destroyed. Sounds cool right? Definitely! But that doesn’t mean we should avoid washing our makeup brushes all together. 

Wear and tear through repeat usage causes the coating to break down over time thus losing its ability to repel bacteria and you’re right back where you started. Depending on the method of manufacturing, each brand will have a lifespan that is usually in the manufacture data on the packaging — Always try to read and follow the recommendations. The Sephora Collection Deluxe Antibacterial Brush Set, for example, has a coating that lasts up to 60 days before its effectiveness is essentially lost. 

Refer to one of our previous blog posts — 5 Best Ways to Sanitize and Disinfect Your Makeup
Since the pandemic began, makeup artists are researching the best practices for properly sanitizing their cosmetics. While it may seem that researching the best products is a step in the right direction, that is not enough to ensure proper sanitizing. We recommend sanitizing your brushes during an application and disinfecting all your tools and brushes between each client.

If you have natural hair brushes, you want to clean them delicately, without the use of alcohol – which will damage the bristles. For synthetic brushes, you are going to want a more robust product like our brush cleaner and brush shampoo.

In closing, we are all for new technologies that help us and the products we use stay sanitary and hygienic! We just recommend sanitizing, disinfecting your makeup brushes and tools between each client.

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