Welcome to Beauty In A Tik, where each week we put TikTok's viral beauty hacks and innovative trends to the test.
Trying TikTok's viral beauty hacks every week means I've put a fair amount of questionable things on my face. I'm talking lube (apparently it makes an excellent makeup primer), rice water (said to counteract oily skin) and banana peel (TikTokers are convinced it helps minimise dark under-eye circles). What I'm trying to say is that, in the grand scheme of things, a makeup brush doesn't seem at all unusual. But it's how TikTok's skincare community is using the tool which suddenly piqued my interest.
Whether you wear foundation or prefer a dot of concealer, pack on the eyeshadow or skip it entirely, there's a brush out there for every single product and level of coverage. But TikTokers have found another use for the brushes that are taking up space in their kits: using them to cleanse their face.
@cleangirlhacks I’m definitely going to try this! #cleangirl #skincaretips #madelyncline #skincareroutine #selfcare #beautytips ♬ original sound - Clean Girl Hacks
This trick first came to my attention via the TikTok account Clean Girl Hacks. In a reposted video with 1.8 million views, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery actress Madelyn Cline enlists a fluffy makeup brush swirled into a foaming cleanser to wash her face. "It's changed my life," she told the camera. "You go in and you like kind of mix it up and make it foamy. Take your hands, like whatever is left on your hands, and just like press in your face. It makes me feel like it's actually getting my pores."
TikToker Gal Krohn's video (captioned: "Not sure what to do with my $300 cleansing brushes now") has also achieved viral status. "Honestly, it felt so soft on the skin and it really got the job done," Gal told her followers. "[The makeup brush] cleaned and made [my skin] smooth and glowy and I loved it." Though it's unclear where this hack originated from, some commenters attribute it to TikToker @morguehorde, who champions the trick for cleansing their skin gently so as not to disrupt their facial piercings. Smart.
The comments underneath these viral videos are a mixed bag. Some are sure it provides "super gentle exfoliation" as well as a deep cleanse, while others think it might be "too much" for sensitive skin. I'm more than willing to put my face on the line to get to the bottom of whether these hacks are useful or just a fad, so I picked up my trusty The Ordinary Glycoside Foaming Cleanser, £11.10, and EcoTools Full Powder Brush, £9, and got to work.
@galkrohn Not sure what to do with my $300 cleansing brushes now #skincare2023 #skincarehacks #cleansingtips #cleansingroutine #cleansingbrush #madelyncline ♬ Escapism. - Super Sped Up - RAYE
I made sure that the clean makeup brush was fully saturated in water before squeezing a little cleanser into the palm of my hand and swirling the brush around until it created a substantial lather, particularly as I was wearing sunscreen, foundation, blush, eyeshadow and mascara. I moved the brush around my face in circular motions, starting on my cheeks as I usually would when using my hands, and then moving on to my lashes, brows and lips.
Honestly, it felt like a novelty. Though cleansing is necessary for removing dirt and makeup (and ensuring any skincare you apply next works to the best of its ability), I find it to be a chore. But watching the makeup dissolve into the bristles was satisfying to say the least. I didn't need to scrub or pinch the mascara away from my lashes. The bristles removed every trace for me, and quickly, too.
The best thing about this hack is that it means I got to avoid the dreaded drip — when water runs down my arms and makes me shudder. (I know I'm not the only one. Brands like Brushworks have even created microfibre wrist wash bands to catch any stray droplets.) Considering I wear a lot of sunscreen and makeup, I should've practised a double cleanse and washed my face twice, but I didn't feel as though I really needed to. I suppose I have the actual cleanser to thank, too: I personally find that the foaming action works much better to slice through grease and makeup than something cream-based.
@refinery29 Step 1. Use a makeup brush to apply makeup. Step 2. Use a makeup brush to remove makeup. #beautyinatik #makeuptutorial #cleanser ♬ Graduate - BLVKSHP
To make sure my results weren't just a one-off, I've been cleansing my face this way for almost a week, and I haven't noticed any downsides yet. I anticipated a breakout here or there, or for the bristles to irritate my eyes, but I can't really fault it. My only grumble is that I make a point to washing the brush after each use and leaving it to dry completely before using it again for hygiene reasons. This (I hope) will get me in the habit of washing my other makeup brushes more regularly. That said, I'm lazy when it comes to my skincare. While I'm enjoying this hack currently, I have a feeling I might fall back into my old ways and just use my hands to wash my face in time.
Sure, this technique is promising, but it seems skincare experts aren't exactly sold. Caroline Brooks, skin specialist and founder of The Glass House salon and spa, has a few concerns. "Although I am all for new skincare hacks that can save time and money, I wouldn't recommend using makeup brushes to remove makeup," said Caroline. "Firstly, makeup brushes can harbour dirt, pollution and bacteria which could compromise your skin and cause rashes and acne breakouts, so you would have to wash the brushes every day." Of course, the brush I used was clean to begin with, and as I mentioned, I washed the brush thoroughly after each use. You could use a gentle brush cleanser like ISOCLEAN Makeup Brush Cleaner, £12, in between cleanses, but I prefer baby shampoo.
Makeup brushes are not designed to remove makeup, added Caroline, and so there is a risk of residue being left behind, which can exacerbate skin issues like breakouts. Instead, Caroline would consider using makeup remover on gentle cotton pads or other cleansing tools, which she says are kinder on sensitive skin, to sweep away makeup. If you want to invest in something, you might want to try Foreo LUNA 3 for Sensitive SkinSmart Facial Cleansing & Firming Massage, £209.
That said, skin experts and dermatologists have told me that using your hands can be just as convenient and effective. Caroline also suggests helping things along with a cleansing balm. I love Elemis Pro Collagen Cleansing Balm, £48, for its rich texture and scent, as well as Weleda Skin Food Nourishing Cleansing Balm, £12.95. "Moreover, make sure your hands are dry and clean before applying any product to reduce the chance of transferring bacteria," said Caroline.
All in all, the way you wash your face is down to personal preference. If you like using your hands, that's great. If you have a little more to spend on cleansing gadgets and find them enjoyable to use, go for it. Equally, if you have a spare makeup brush you're not getting much use out of and you want to give this a try, well, it looks like TikTok is certainly convinced.
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