This year for my birthday, my husband gave me a set of Sigma makeup brushes. They're gorgeous and they make me feel legit every time I use them (which is every day).
The only downside to using brushes over disposable sponges (or if you're like me, your fingers) is that they must be carefully cared-for; regular, gentle cleanings are not only necessary to keep these brushes in tip-top shape, but also to keep your skin in its healthiest condition. Using greasy, makeup-logged brushes can lead to all kinds of skin issues: clogged pores, breakouts, infections, oh my. Want to be really grossed out? Read more about the dangers of using dirty makeup applicators in this Good Housekeeping listicle. Luckily for me, my birthday gift also included two essential tools in caring for high-end makeup brushes: a cleaning mat and a drying rack.
As you can see from the photo above, these are two items that you most likely will not find on your stroll down the beauty aisle at Target. Both of these items came straight from Amazon, and BONUS: both are available through Prime for around $10 each. The cleaning mat is exactly what it sounds/looks like: it's a soft rubbery pad that suctions into your sink to allow for super-easy brush rinsing.
Each of the different patterns is intended to best clean various types of brushes. The sturdier rubber patterns (such as the heart pattern in the bottom right) are meant for cleaning liquid makeup out of larger, more densely-packed brushes. The smaller, less rigid rubber patterns (such as the spiral in the top left, or the patterns on the smaller round cleaning mat) are for rinsing powders out of smaller brushes. To use the mats, squish them down into your sink around the drain. For cleaning your brushes, you'll need a very gentle soap so as to avoid damaging the delicate bristles. I've heard people recommend baby shampoo or organic soaps; I always use my Beauty Blender cleanser because it's a trustworthy product and I always have some on hand.
Once you squirt a bit of soap onto your brush, you're ready to go. Wet each brush and then sweep it over its coordinating section of the cleaning mat. You may have to spend a couple of minutes rinsing each brush. You'll know your brush is clean once the water runs clear out of it. After you've rinsed all the soap out of your brushes, re-shape the bristles and hang them out to dry. Using a drying rack (like the collapsible one shown here), is an incredible way to save space in your bathroom.
Each soft rubber bay is designed to hold your brush upright while it dries. It can take brushes several hours (and sometimes even a couple of days) to dry completely, so I always try to rinse my brushes out on a Friday night. By the time they are dry, the brushes smell and feel like they're brand new. While cleaning your makeup brushes can feel like an exhaustive task, caring for them doesn't have to take up an entire day (or counter-top). Shop around for similar cleaning mats and drying racks here and here. And prepare to be amazed at the positive benefits that can come from regular brush care.