Why do my synthetic face brushes turn oily?

If you like using synthetic brushes, you most probably like it because they feel soft on your skin. I love them too and in fact, have stopped using brushes made with animal hair because they’re rough to the touch. However, the problem with synthetic brushes for me is that after a couple of washes, they feel oily and the brushes don’t retain their original shape anymore. Do you have a similar problem? I wash my brushes with a baby shampoo and body wash and initially I thought it was because I didn’t wash them clean but after washing like two or three times repeatedly, the problem still remains.

Is it due to the moisturizing ingredients from the shampoo & wash?
The wash I use on my brushes contain moisturizing ingredients and I wonder if that’s coating the hair bristles and making them too soft?  Maybe I should use something stronger to wash my face brushes…like a dish washing detergent?  But honestly, I don’t think I can bring myself to use the brush on my face if I ever use a dish washing detergent.

Is it due to the seepage of glue from the ferrule?
Someone suggested it could be the glue seeping into the bristles from the ferrule. It seems a little bizzare to me but it might be a possibility since glue is used to seal the ferrule and when washing, water does wick back into the ferrule and cause the bristles to loosen after awhile. I’ve had one of my kabuki brushes come apart because of this issue.

Is it due to the absorption of oil into the bristles?
However, I wonder if it’s because the bristles are absorbing the oil and grease overtime? I know that hair is often used to mop up oil spills but apparently, it seems that synthetic fibres can absorb up to 10 times more oil than actual hair (source). So perhaps that’s causing my synthetic brushes to become greasier by the day even after washing?

Is it due to too frequent washing?
What do you think could be the reason?  I do love synthetic face brushes as they are great for applying foundation because their soft bristles makes blending easy.  But this oily problem is getting a little on my nerve.  Maybe I should not wash my brushes every other week.  Or maybe, it’s just time to get more new brushes again.

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  1. stiffedneck says

    Hmm, mine doesn’t have that problem. I wash them with the cleanser specifically for brushes. I forgot which brand (and too lazy to get out of bed), but I bought mine from Sephora. Though their shapes do change like yours.

    • sesame says

      I was thinking I may have to purchase a special cleanser. I’ll have a look at Sephora here and see if I can find anything similar.

  2. pf1123 says

    I use my synthetic kabuki brush from Coastal Scents almost every day. I wash it almost every week. I also have a smaller brush which I use for highlighting and used occasionally. I don’t have such problem.

    I use Himalaya Anti Acne Neem foaming face wash. Perhaps that helps in oil control??? Hahaha…I don’t know…

    Is it just 1 brand of synthetic brushes? Or different brands?

    • sesame says

      Different brands – it happened to my Lumiere one and now, the Everyday Minerals and also Momo Minerals. It was the same even though I used cleansers with SLS to wash.

  3. Hanns says

    It doesn’t happen with my foundie synthetic brush.might as well try using a different cleanser.does it happen to all of your synthetic brushes?

    • sesame says

      Yes…it started with my Lumiere one. It started getting oilier after every wash and the shape was out. I spoke to a lady who sells cosmetics and she told me it’s quite common with synthetic brushes. But going by the current comments, it seems it’s not a common thing.

  4. stella says

    i use a basic baby shampoo on all my brushes, natural or synthetic, nothing like that has ever happened to me

  5. Agate says

    My synthetic brushes also seem to get oilier with each wash. I was so disappointed when my soft and fluffy Makeup Forever HD kabuki never managed to get back to that state, no matter how I washed it, I ever tried the dish soap, but it was still oily!

    In the end, I went back to natural bristles.

    • sesame says

      I really like the synthetic kabuki cos it’s so soft. I can’t do the natural bristles…they feel so tough on my skin now.

  6. says

    hi Sesame, i’ve the same problem too! I thought the oiliness came from my brush cleaner!!! Now i know the cleaner is not at fault :p

    • sesame says

      You do too? So it’s not just me! I wonder if it’s due to skin type or the products we use? I use oil to moisturize my face and my sunscreen has oil too.

  7. flym says

    really strange cos I never have that problem with either my synthetic or natural ones. Oiliness like how? Like a coating on the hair even after it has dried? I wash my brushes weekly and have been using mine (rotating among different ones) for at least a couple of years now. So far they’re all fine.

    • sesame says

      They’re not oily oily but after drying, the brush flop to a side and it’s no longer fluffy. Something like a coating yes…

      You have used yours for years? The longest I can use is about 9 months maybe. What do you use to wash?

      • pf1123 says

        I have used my synthetic kabuki for powder foundation for at least a year. And I got another one as back up. Both are almost as they were when I first bought them.

        • pf1123 says

          Oops…forgot to add. Both are in good shape still. So, can’t understand why yours last only 9 mths.

          • sesame says

            Geez…I didn’t know brushes can last so long. I keep thinking I have to change new ones every few months! Now I know better.

  8. says

    interesting.. i never notice mine to be oily but i can see all the loosepowder & blush are on the brush.. the last time i washed mine i washed w/dish detergent which have anti-bateria in it.. i used it to even wash my hand with it so i figure it’s safe to use it on my brush… i read it awhile ago either from ur site or someone else site that put alittle olive oil w/the dish detergent to wash the brush.. i did that & somehow it felt more cleaner… u should changed ur brush every 6 months or so no matter how u wash it.. it’ll get dirty…

    * one thing i notice here is that i can’t seem to go to something i already typed to fix the spelling..i have to use “backspace” to erase everything i typed*

    • sesame says

      I believe it might be Michelle Phan’s article you read cos she recommended using olive oil and dish washing detergent.

      You have problems erasing on the comment box? I tried with a test comment and it’s okay. Could it by your browser or something that is locked on your keyboard?

      • yay says

        Could be her…

        what i meant for comment box was let say while i’m typing i made a typo the only way i could fix it is using backspace…i can’t bring my mouse to that error & changed it.. the only way i could changed it is if i erase everything i typed…=(

        • sesame says

          Hmm…very strange. I use Google Chrome and it’s okay even with a mouse. I’m so sorry that it’s so inconvenient for you.

        • sesame says

          Hi Yay: I think it’s a script I’ve put in my template. Just removed it now. Do you think you can try to type a comment and see if the said problem still exist? Thanks!

  9. Berry says

    I use Pigeon Bottle Nipple and Vegetable Cleanser from the baby products shelves of supermarkets. It has gentle detergents (safe to use on vegetables) and is biodegradable (therefore eco-friendly). Yet it can cut through oil and rinses off cleanly. Alternatively the Daiso make up puff cleansing fluid is also quite good.

    • sesame says

      Oh okay! I used that one to clean bottles in the past! I wouldn’t mind using brushes washed with that. But it’s quite a big bottle and now I don’t have milk bottles to wash. LOL. I haven’t look at Daiso. Will try to check it out next time.

      • Berry says

        There is a small bottle for the Pigeon liquid cleanser. Costs only a few dollars. Your shampoo may contain some biological or essential oils as it’s a natural product.

  10. Mint says

    Hi Sesame, I don’t have the problem of oily brushes yet.. but i do have the problem of out-of-shape bristle.. i blew dry it with the hairdryer on low heat and it became fluffy and soft again.. hopefully this will help.. =)

  11. says

    Could it be the silicones in the shampoo? After all they are all fillers coated to make the hair feel soft and silky. Maybe that’s what’s happening to the brush.

    For out of shape bristles, I’ve experienced it with EDM brushes. The drying process matters a lot. If you dry them fast, they’ll turn out fluffy. If you dry them slow, they clump together and inside is still damp.

    • sesame says

      The shampoo I use don’t contain silicones but definitely has got moisturizing ingredients…so maybe it’s that. I haven’t given a thought to the drying process. It might be that cos now that I try to recall, if I dry it on sunny days, the brushes seem fluffier. Okay, I’ll try to wash it during very hot days!

      • pf1123 says

        Maybe you shld try the Himalaya Anti Acne Neem Foaming Facial wash. Hahahhaa….definately anti-bacterial and definately won’t be so moisturising. Might be oil controlling as well. Hehehee.. 😀

  12. Rennie says

    Hmmm…I never had that problem. I use Michelle Phan’s method but instead of using olive oil I use baby oil and mix with anti-bacterial liquid soap. Nothing seems to be wrong so far. Could it be the makeup products you’ve been using instead of the brushes?

    • sesame says

      I thought it might be my products cos I use a facial oil plus my sunscreen has oil so when I apply my foundation using the brushes, inevitably, the oil will get trapped in the brush. At one stage, I used moisturizer and seems to notice less of that problem.

      • pf1123 says

        Ooohhh….good point. Maybe its really the oil. Have you thought of going through the double cleansing with your brushes? Maybe go through once with an oil cleanser like the Muji one. Subsequently, use your baby shampoo or a facial cleanser. Could work.

  13. Jen says

    I use a facial oil as well. I seldom use makeup but I haven’t had that problem with my Ecotools brushes. I use Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap to wash (definitely no moisturising ingredients in this :) )

    btw I have the same problem with the comment box as yay does. I use Firefox if that helps.

    • sesame says

      Hi Jen: I just removed the script. Do you think you can try to type a comment and see if the said problem still exist? Thanks!

  14. Lina says

    Hi Sesame,

    So far i never had that problem for both my natural and synthetic brushes..i just use normal johnson’s baby shampoo..maybe cause by your sunscreen and moisturizing products?maybe your brushes pick up the oils after you apply the products?
    As for the out of shape bristles, try the brush guard..It might work..

    • sesame says

      I use brushguard but the bristles are all bunched up and slanted to one side when they dry.

  15. says

    I have that problems too! When I using baby shampoo or just normal shampoo.

    Then one day… my baby shampoo ran out.. and I saw a tube of Biore cleanser(think it belong to my mum) and it wash off the oil from the brush and foundation really well! Now it doesn’t feel oily anymore.

    • sesame says

      I think it’s the choice of cleanser. Going by the comments, I’m going to change and see what happens…

  16. pf1123 says

    Actually, nowadays I double cleansing my brushes. Using a cheap brush cleanser I bought in Bangkok. That gets ride of the foundation and eye colour very well. Then I’ll use a facial cleanser.

  17. Audris says

    Same as the other users, my EDM Synthetic brushes are 2+ years old and still going on strong! In fact, I sold a couple of new backup brushes I had because there wasn’t any need for them. PLUS, I wash my brushes after EACH usage.

    Dr Bronner’s wash does the trick for my brushes :) No oily feel.

  18. ann says

    I use a brush cleaner from Bobbi Brown. My natural brush is still good after multiple washing. As for the synthetic one, only washed it for 1-2 times but has been okay so far. Not much diff. But I must state first that I’m not a heavy user of the brushes.

    • sesame says

      I had no problems with the natural brushes but strangely, issues with the synthetic ones. But I love my synthetic brushes more.

  19. Amy says

    I have not experience any oiliness to my synthetic brushes but have noticed after 2 years, that my EDM flat top kabuki does not retain its nice round shape after drying anymore.
    It doesn’t affect application and is just asthetical.

    I wash my brushes with combination of oil cleanser (I use the B&C one) and Clairols Herbal Essence shampoo as I find that it cleans much better than baby shampoo and doesn’t leave residue on the brush.

  20. Amy says

    I had the same problem with my synthetic Sephora brand powder foundation brush after I used some dry oil on my face a couple times and then put my makeup on. Couldn’t figure out why my brush was so oily. I tried hand soap, regular shampoo, clarifying shampoo etc. etc. everything I could think of. Finally tried dish soap and it made a big difference. I assume its the dishs oap but it could have been how many times I washed it… I did learn my lesson and will never use heavy oils or cremes before putting on makeup with my brushes.

  21. minnie says

    I have the same problem and I use MAC brush cleanser. I’ve also tried baby shampoo (organic) but it didn’t help with the oil issue.

  22. minnie says

    I had somehow managed to skip that Pigeon Cleanser tip, thank you so much! I even found it online :)


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