If you’ve ever thought Help! My makeup brushes are shedding!, you’re not alone. Don’t panic! It’s perfectly normal for a makeup brush to shed a few hairs every now and then. I’ve got the skinny on how much bristle loss is normal, when you should refund/replace a shedding makeup brush, and how to prevent your brushes from balding in the first place.
With the right care a good quality natural hair makeup brush will always stay fluffy and fresh, and last well over ten years even with daily use.
A quick refresher on some brush basics before we start. All makeup brushes consist of three parts: the handle, the ferrule (the metallic ‘choker’), and the bristles. Making a brush is as simple as knotting and gluing bristles to the handle, and holding them in place by slipping a tight metal ferrule over the bond between bristle and handle.
Different brush styles are made by different ferrule shapes placed at different heights on the handle. A narrow rectangle ferrule placed high over the bristles makes a dense paddle brush with little flexibility, like a typical eyeshadow brush. A round wide ferrule placed low over bristles makes a soft, fluffy brush with lots of flexibility, like a blending brush or a powder brush.
The trade off for having a big soft brush with lots of movement is, of course, shedding and bristle breakage. A wide fluffy brush has less dense hair with a wider contact area between the bristles and glue, meaning that there’s more opportunity for hairs to work loose and ‘shed’ when you’re using it. A big fluffy brush also has more kinetic movement in the bristles compared to a densely packed short bristle brush – a typical blush brush experiences more back and forth movement at greater speeds than an eyeshadow brush, and this fast movement can cause natural bristle brushes to break along the hair shaft.
Now you know why a brush sheds, so let’s talk about the hows and whys of why your precious makeup brushes can shed fluff.
Is your brush brand new?
- Most brand new brushes will shed hair when you first get them. They’ve been bundled up in plastic since they left the factory and haven’t had a chance to bend, flex and shed any loose hairs. Think of it as being the equivalent of when you’ve had your hair tied up for a long period of time – when you finally let your locks flow freely, all the hair that would normally have fallen away naturally without you noticing appears all at once. You’re not going bald, and neither is your brand new brush!
- When you get a brand new brush, the bristles may be set with a light fixative glue. Gently break this glue by sweeping your brush back and forth alongside your wrist, then spritz with brush cleanser and do a spot clean to remove any glue. If a brush sheds anywhere up to thirty to fifty bristles at this point, that’s fine! That sounds like a lot, but that’s a normal amount of hairs to shed. Remember: that’s just bristles that weren’t fixed in place properly at the factory, and it’s better for them to come loose on your wrist rather than on your makeup.
- If your brand new brush sheds bristles in big clumps or the ferrule feels loose to the touch, then you have a faulty brush. Return that sucker and swap it for something better.
Is your brush shedding bristles when you wash it?
- How many hairs? A few bristles coming free here and there is normal. Cleaning brushes involves stripping away all the oil and powder and gunk that’s been gluing the bristles together, so a few hairs coming loose here and there is more indicative that your brushes are getting sparkly clean rather than a gross sticky germy fiesta.
- How are you washing your brushes? Bad cleaning habits will, over time, turn your brushes bald. When cleaning your brushes never fully submerse them under water, or saturate the bristles all the way up to the ferrule. When water gets under the ferrule it can weaken the glue and soften the knotting holding the brush bristles in place, leading to bristles coming loose when you least expect it.
- Always use a gentle baby shampoo, never use hair conditioner (the silicon or oils in hair conditioner can weaken or destroy the glue inside your brush), rinse the bristles clean with cold water, and lay your brushes flat to gently dry overnight.
Is your brush old?
- Sometimes time will just get the better of your old favourite brushes. The glue and knotting can become dry and brittle with age, wooden brush handles can warp, and natural hair bristles can wear away. This can happen even if you’ve been careful with your brushes, so don’t stress too much if this happens. Just look at it as an opportunity to invest in some brand new brushes!
If you’re seriously concerned about the longevity of your makeup brushes and want something that doesn’t require care and gentle treatment, or you’re interested in a vegetarian/vegan alternative, then I recommend looking at Royal & Langnickle [R]evolution brush series. These synthetic brushes have bristles that closely mimic natural hair fibres, and have a solid fused base to prevent any issues with glue breakage or loose bristles. They’re not a 100% identical replacement for natural hair brushes, but they’re pretty dang good.
Some of my makeup brushes – some of them pictured above! – are over a decade old and still functioning as good as new. They might look a bit faded and well used, but they’re still soft, fluffy and full of bristles. With the right care a good quality natural hair makeup brush will always stay fluffy and fresh, and last well over ten years even with daily use. Look after your brushes and they’ll look after you, and you’ll never have to say Help! My makeup brush is shedding! ever again.