How To Soften A Makeup Brush

As I’m sure many of you know, I have a loving relationship with my MAC 187 brush. Not quite sonnet-writing, serenading love – but I do adore it. Now I’ll admit, a $42 USD brush is not an easy leap to make. It took a bad, hormonal day to push me to buy mine! So what was I to do when, 7 months of daily use found me staring at my 187 wondering why it had suddenly lost its softness?

You Will Need:

  1. Your Makeup Brushes (only those that require softening)
  2. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  3. A Roll of Paper Towels or a Hand Towel
  4. Shampoo/Gentle White Soap/Brush Cleanser
  5. Conditioner
  6. A Towel
  7. Running Water (A sink or a bathtub if you like to play submarine with your brushes.)


1. Find a surface that you won’t mind having to wipe down a bit later. Don’t do this on a fabric or non-wipeable surface.

Paper Towels

2. Taking either a few layered paper towels or your hand towel, fold it into a surface large enough to swirl all sizes of your brush heads.

Poured Olive Oil

3. Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil onto the center of the hand towel or paper towel surface.
4. Take your brush heads and swirl them into the olive oil until they look clean. If necessary, pour more olive oil to ensure all bristles are coated thoroughly. In the case of my 187, which is duo fiber, I also made sure to coat the natural hairs along with the synthetic ones.


5. Don’t be surprised if your brush sheds a bit – my 187, which hasn’t shed a hair in months lost quite a few hairs that the oil toggled loose.

Brush Sitting in Olive Oil

6. Let the brushes sit in the olive oil for 3-5 minutes.
7. Now that your brushes are soaked in olive oil – it’s time to get them clean. Head on over to your sink with brushes and towel in hand. I assume your shampoo and conditioner are already there.


8. I wash my brushes by squeezing an appropriate amount of shampoo into my hand, moistening the hairs and swirling the brush in the shampoo. I rinse intermittently to make sure it gets thoroughly washed.

Alternately, I will wet the fibers and swirl the brush (rinsing intermittently again) into a bar of white, unscented Dove soap. I do this, gently squeezing (not tugging or pulling) the brush until it rinses clean.

As always, remember to avoid getting the ferrule of your brush wet. It can shorten the life of your brush as well as encourage bacterial growth.

9. When your brushes are washed, squeeze some conditioner into the palm of your hand and coat the brush head thoroughly. Let the brush sit in the conditioner for an additional 3-5 minutes. Then, rinse your brush thoroughly.

10. Either by rolling up your towel on one end, or placing something underneath it – create a slanted surface with your towel. Set the brushes with the heads going down the slanted surface to dry.
11. Voila! When your brushes are dry you should find they are soft-as-new!

A Newly Soft MAC 187

This method of softening/cleaning may be a bit too intense for some brushes. Oils are heavy and you may risk losing too many hairs if you do this too often. But every once in a while, a deep softening and cleaning like this can prolong the life of your brushes and save you a pretty penny!

All for now~

<3 EA

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12 Responses to How To Soften A Makeup Brush

  1. Thanks for sharing this simple but quite genious trick Ava! Speaking of oil.. I’m totally in love with oily face washes at the moment! The cleaning effect is unmatched!!! It’s a physical/chemical thing I guess ;) if one day you should decide to try a oil cleaner (if you haven’t already) I strongly suggest to try the sensai silk line by kanebo!!! It will knock you off your feet!! Origins has a good one too ;)

  2. ClosetVoyage says:

    Thank you so much for this! Now I know what to do with my stiff brushes >.<

  3. Sidrah says:

    Ive done this for one of my kabuki brushes, it was soo ruff and smelled horrible..this tip works wonders!
    Sidrah recently posted..[TUTORIAL] Majestic Makeup- Using Silk Naturals (mini-review)

  4. Stacey says:

    Thanks for these tips! I didn’t know it was so simple. I’m definitely going to try this out, especially for my foundation brushes!
    Stacey recently posted..The Fashion Edition: Sneakers

  5. Great post Eden, very helpful! A lot of my brushes could use some softening.
    Vintage Makeup recently posted..February Empties

  6. Ooh, great tip, I’ll be trying it out for sure xxx

  7. sara says:

    You’re right about brushes shedding if we use too much oil for cleaning. I have learned my lesson, lol ^_^. Great post!!
    sara recently posted..Jelly Pong Pong Teint Sublime … the complexion cheater – Review & swatches

  8. Diane says:

    I’m having a love and hate relationship with my MAC brushes, especially with my MAC 129 and MAC 109- i can feel their scratchiness.. Idk if its me but i find the sigma FACE brushes softer than MAC.But i loove MAC eye brushes-defineitely uncomparable. Thank you for the tips, i will definitely try this out.. very useful post! excited!
    Diane recently posted..Clarisonic Mia-2 Leopard

  9. this is such an awesome post!!! I love diy’s!!!
    Maryam Maquillage recently posted..Get The Hottest Oscar Hairstyles At Home!

  10. I learned something new today. Thank your for the step by step visuals.
    Patricia Streeter recently posted..Dr. Brandt Pores No More Anti-Aging Mattifying Lotion

  11. Regina says:

    I bought my brushes off of ebay. It’s a brand new untouched professional makeup brush set, but they feel kind of rough. Will this soften them, or just return them to their original state?

    • Eden-Avalon says:

      That depends on whether or not they are made of organic materials or synthetic. Synthetic rarely softens beyond the original state. Organic sometimes does. I don’t recommend any of the eBay brushes (or those from companies that get them from the same source. I won’t name names, but they’re famous for their 120 color palettes.)

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