My thoughts on makeup tools and their recommended cleaning products
In Part 2 of Affordable Alternatives, I discuss a popular makeup tool and the ingredients in widely-used makeup tool cleaners. I use this information when choosing to purchase an everyday beauty product or finding an affordable alternative.
If you'd like to know some cheaper alternatives to some beauty tools and cleaners, or learn more about how I interpret product ingredients, please keep reading!
On purchasing makeup sponges
Coming to the realisation that I'm paying top-dollar for a bit of foam
It finally hit me when I learnt that the over-priced pink foam now comes in a stylish egg-cup! "You can now hold your beautyblender with a beautiful ring. This improved version allows you to dry your sponge with ease." So innovative. Much design. Wow. You can have both for a reasonable AU$44, or two bits of foam plus the soap to clean it with for just AU$61. Such value! (Please take my money!)
Original Beauty Blenders are AU$30 each at Sephora Australia
Knock-off beauty blenders are better value products
...especially since it's just a sponge (if only I had this attitude about my phone T_T)
Before Sephora came to Queensland, I used to buy similar-shaped beauty sponges at the shopping centre, namely the AU$6-8 knock-offs from pop-up stores like My Cube (below).
From my experience, the knock-offs were fantastic! My foundation blended seamlessly, the sponge didn’t soak up all the foundation before it reached my skin and it expanded twice its size with water.
If I had a favourite: The Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge
Nothing says "holy grail" like the colour orange.
From memory the only difference between the Real Techniques sponge and the $6 knock-offs was that the Real sponge was much easier to wring the water out completely and had a slightly fluffier texture (felt lighter on the skin). I also really liked the flat surface as part of the sponge!
I bought an Original Beauty Blender because …FOMO (sigh)
Oh I admit it, I do own an Original Beauty Blender... >_<' It's amazing how marketing makes you feel left out if you don't have what they're selling (Damn, Apple gets me every year with the iPhone! T_T)
...yeah okay, Original Beauty Blender sponge felt ever-so-slightly softer on my face than the Real Techniques sponge/knock-offs from MyCube, but this small difference didn’t outweigh paying almost 4 times the price for one, IMO. I won't give in to it next time!
Honestly, when I look at my face I can’t tell the difference between the Beauty Blender, the Real Techniques Miracle Sponge or a knock-off. My foundation looks exactly the same!
If I could go back in time, I would have put that $30 towards treating myself to a Marc Jacobs lipstick (AU$43, Sephora)
On cleaning my makeup sponges
When cleaning my makeup sponge becomes as expensive as purchasing one
What’s in the Original Beauty Blender’s “Blender Cleanser” that makes it so costly?
The answer is, not much.
I asked if shampoo would be okay and the beauty adviser was quick to point out that the alcohol in shampoo would deteriorate the sponge. Well actually, the very product you use the Beauty Blender for – foundation – also contains alcohol! (Hah! ...well not all foundations, but many just the same).
She highly recommended the Beauty Blender’s Blender Cleanser. “It’s soy-based,” she said, like it was some kind of magic natural ingredient. It’s also described as soy-based on the Sephora Australia website.
Sephora's online description says, "It finely moisturizes skin through its Soy-based formula."
I checked the ingredients list on the bottle and for something that’s marketed as “soy-based” there isn’t a trace of soy (Glycine max or Glycine max extracts) or soy lecithin (which contains soy bean oil) in it. However, the Blender Cleanser does contain Glycerin (aka Glycerine or Glycerol), a viscous liquid, and soy is a source of glycerin. Glycerin can be synthetically made and derived from a number of plant oils (usually palm oil) or animal fats. Same chemical, different source. A lot of cosmetic products and cleansers contain glycerin anyway, and it’s misleading to market something as “soy-based” when it’s really just glycerin-based.
Based on the ingredients, the Blender Cleanser appears to be made of:
- glycerin (what makes up the liquid component).
- soap (in chemistry soap is salt of fatty acids)
- sea salt
- some fragrance
- and a common household multi-purpose powder.
I’ll give you a translation:
- Potassium Palm Kernelate is potassium salt of the fatty acids derived from palm kernel oil
- Potassium Oleate is potassium salt of the fatty acid called oleic acid (found in animal & vegetable fats and oils)
- Potassium Cocoate is potassium salt of the fatty acids in coconut oil
- Potassium Citrate is salt of citric acid
(All that Potassium-Something stuff? Yeah that’s just soap)
- Maris Salt is another name for Dead Sea Salt
- Lavender oil: the fragrance
- Citric acid: a common household powder used in cosmetic cleansers, bath bombs, cleaning agents, baking, fizzy drinks etc.
Here's what I use to clean my makeup sponges instead:
Is it worth spending up to the same amount as the Beauty Blender to clean it?
Nah. I chose not to purchase the Blender Cleanser based on what’s in it versus the price. Instead I use baby shampoo (usually Johnson's or whatever's on sale) plus a tiny drop of dish-washing detergent on hard to remove foundation stains. Or I'll often use the $2.80 “Detergent for Puff and Sponge” from Daiso* (below).
On cleaning my makeup brushes
Makeup brush cleaner sprays are just bottles of isopropyl alcohol with a brand name
Makeup brush cleaner sprays generally contain isopropyl alcohol (aka isopropanol, 2-propanol or rubbing alcohol) plus a bit of fragrance, and cost anywhere between AU$13-$40 for 100-250ml.
All of these instant brush cleaners (above) are basically the same, containing isopropyl alcohol and fragrance, with some minor differences in higher-end brands such as Napoleon Perdis' cleaner containing lavender oil and Mecca Cosmetica's cleaner containing Pro-Vitamin B5 & hydrolysed silk protein (which are found in Pantene conditioners lol). Wow.
We use isopropyl alcohol at my laboratory and it costs roughly AU$97 per litre (or $9.70 per 100 ml) so I use this as a baseline price when purchasing isopropyl alcohol-based makeup brush cleaners.
Isocol, a multi-purpose alternative for expensive brush cleaner sprays
Isocol Antiseptic Rubbing Alcohol from the supermarket is my recommended best value-for-money product for instantly cleaning my makeup brushes. Isocol’s rubbing alcohol contains 640ml/L (or 64%) isopropanol and it’s $2.90 per 100 ml (AU$9.99 for 345 ml at Priceline and Woolworths).
I use Isocol’s rubbing alcohol straight out of the bottle (I pour a some rubbing alcohol into a small glass and swirl my brush in it before wiping the brush with a tissue) or I pour some Isocol into an empty cosmetic spray bottle for multi-purpose use as:
- an instant makeup brush cleaner
- a lens cleaner for prescription glasses & sunglasses
- an electronics surface cleaner for phones, tablets, computers & TV screens
- hand sanitiser
- an odour remover in shoes
- a household surface cleaner (for stainless steel and removing sticky labels!)
Click here for more Isocol household & beauty uses!
I’m unsure of the concentration of isopropanol in makeup brush cleaner sprays but I suspect it's much higher than Isocol's 64%. I did a quick comparison between my Artiste by Manicare Brush Cleaner (below) and the Isocol Antiseptic Rubbing Alcohol.
Both spray products removed powder makeup equally as well, however the Artiste brush cleaner easily cleaned off all hard-to-remove liquid makeup (foundation, gel eyeliner) from my brushes, while it took a couple of attempts with the Isocol 'cos it's so diluted (Isocol is diluted for use on skin). However, Isocol poured into a glass and used to briefly soak the brushes easily cleaned off the product as effectively as the Artiste spray cleaner.
And the winner is....
For me, Isocol any day!
Things to consider:
- price & volume: Isocol is fantastic value at $2.90 per 100ml, compared to $10-$20 per 100ml for branded brush sprays.
- multi-purpose vs one-purpose use: Isocol's scent & concentration isn't as strong as most isopropanol-based products so you can comfortably do more with it.
- using the least amount of product to clean the most off: My Artiste cleaner does the job slightly better (but Isocol gives you heaps of product to use anyway!). If I were to buy makeup brush cleaner spray in the future, I'd pick the cheapest one possible. After all I'm just paying for a bit of rubbing alcohol!
I've been told that I should use proper makeup brush shampoo to keep the brush hairs conditioned & prevent the hairs from breaking
To me it sounds like all the brushes need is some conditioning baby shampoo!
I had a quick look at the ingredients on a random makeup brush cleaner product, the Real Techniques Brush Cleansing Gel (RRP AU$17.99 for 150 ml at Priceline)
From what I gather, makeup brush cleaners generally contain foaming agents, some oils, conditioners, solvents & solutes, fragrance and preservatives. Sounds a lot like conditioning shampoo** to me lol.
I’ve been using cheap conditioning baby shampoo on my makeup brushes for 3 years and they’re doing just fine. My oldest brush that I’ve had for over 10 years is still going strong. Hairs and all.
How I read the product ingredients (Real Techniques Brush Cleansing Gel)
Aqua (water), sodium laureth sulfate (what makes the shampoo foam), cocamidopropyl betaine (a conditioning agent derived from coconut oil), glycerin (a viscous solvent used in many beauty products), sodium chloride (salt), propylene glycol (a mineral oil), C12-13 alkyl lactate (for conditioning/moisturising), fragrance, PEG-150 distearate (thickening agent/emulsifier found in shampoos), sodium benzotriazolyl butylphenol sulfonate (UV light absorber used to protect personal care products from degradation caused by exposure to UV in transparent packaging. Makes sense as lots of brush cleaners are housed in clear packaging), tributyl citrate (a citric acid ester), buteth-3 (a solvent), tris (tetramethylhydroxypiperidinol) citrate (a UV absorber), tetrasodium EDTA (a chelating agent), citric acid (common household powder), BHT (aka Butylated hydroxytoluene, a preservative), methylparaben (a preservative), propylparaben (another preservative), methylchloroisothiazolinone (a preservative with antimicrobial properties), methylisothiazolinone (another preservative), benzyl benzoate (a solvent & preservative), benzyl salicylate (a fragrance ingredient; UV light absorber), citronellol (fragrance), hexyl cinnamal (fragrance), linalool (fragrance).
**Woah, although I just casually called makeup brush cleaner shampoo, I do not recommend using brush cleaners as shampoo for your scalp as it is not designed for personal use.