If there’s one thing I hate about my job as a makeup artist, it’s cleaning (not that I much enjoy it in my more pedestrian life, either). Seriously, we’re always cleaning something. From wiping up spilled powder to disinfecting shared products to scraping off the top layer of pressed powders. And brushes are some of the worst, too, because they have to be cleaned between every client, every color, and every product.
It’s not just a matter of preventing contamination, either, but also of making sure the forest green I just used doesn’t mix with the snowy white I’m about to use. That’s why I’m constantly searching for brush cleansers able to remove all traces of color and pigment — ideally, ones that are kind to the clock (don’t take forever to dry), kind to my wallet, kind to my nose in that they don’t smell like pure isopropyl alcohol, and kind to my brushes.
Now, before I continue, let me just clarify that there are two types of professional brush cleaners.
Type 1: Fast change brush cleaners
These you literally dip brushes into, swirl them around a few times, wipe across a paper towel, and you’re good to go. They leave brushes completely dry, and devoid of color and bacteria. Most makeup artists use this variety of brush cleanser on jobs so that they’re able to transition brushes quickly between clients on the fly, without wasting an extra minute.
Type 2: Deep cleansing brush cleaners
These are designed to more thoroughly deep clean brushes, but usually require at least a few hours to dry. They’re typically easier on brush fibers than the swirl-and-go variety and occasionally contain ingredients to condition brush bristles as well.
What is Parian Spirit?
A while ago, I stumbled upon a brand called Parian Spirit. Their only widely available product is a brush cleaner of the same name, marketed as being environmentally safe and professional grade. Although it never explicitly stated whether it was a fast change or a deep cleaner, I assumed it was the latter due to it having a base of citrus spirits (which is a solvent) rather than alcohol (which is what most quick change cleaners contain, as the alcohol evaporates extremely quickly, allowing the brush to be ready for use in minutes). It was cheap (only $12 for 8 fl. oz.), so I decided to give it a whirl.
I wash the brushes I use on myself on a daily basis about once every five days. Mostly, I work with translucent powders and brow powders with these, so I figured that these rather weak products would be a good initial test of the cleaner’s ability.
How does it work?
For the most part, the directions sound pretty familiar. They say to pour enough of the liquid into a glass jar to cover the bristles of a brush to be cleaned. Then, dip the brush in and agitate it in the glass for about 15 seconds before removing it, drying with a paper towel or terry cloth, and then letting the brush air dry the rest of the way.
Interestingly, the directions also say that you can leave brushes immersed in the solution for up to a minute to completely disinfect. That’s a claim I don’t see many deep cleaners make.
The cleaning appeared to go well. The clear solution sucked a good deal of pigment out of my brushes, and the most pleasant surprise was the smell — a completely non-synthetic citrus scent that reminds me of tangerines, without even a hint of alcohol or bitterness.
After squeezing the now dirty solution out of the bristles and drying them as thoroughly as I could by hand, I left them all out to dry overnight.
In the morning, upon checking them for usability, I was rather disappointed. While the fluffier and smaller brushes were perfectly dry, the really dense brushes were still quite damp at the center (when I splayed the bristles), which left them completely unusable with any sort of powder product.
Beyond that, each and every brush had some kind of slick film on the bristles. Although this quickly went away once I began using them, it left me worried that I now had the cleanser deposited on my face or mixed in with the products, which could potentially alter their structure or wear time.
I wasn’t ready to give up yet, though, due to the minor success the cleanser had with my smaller, less dense tools, so I put Parian Spirit aside until my next professional job, which involved the use of numerous eyeshadow brushes with both synthetic and natural hairs, using creams and waterproof liners.
I pulled the cleaner out again and gave it another go… It seemed to do fine with the brushes I’d used to apply powder and cream products with both natural and synthetic fibers, but when it came time to clean the brushes I used with waterproof and long-lasting products, it failed. Miserably. It couldn’t get anywhere near all of the black or white waterproof liners I’d used from the brushes I used them with (and believe me, I swirled and agitated and aggravated like mad!).
Even dry, there was still enough product left in those brushes to make the bristles stiff and unusable without another wash, and every brush had that same odd film. Horrible.
For some reason, I never took it upon myself to throw this stuff away. Flash forward two weeks. I was travelling, and had packed in a hurry. My first morning away, I pulled out my airbrush compressor, sandblasted my face, and went to clean it out, only to find that I’d left my airbrush cleanser at home.
Uh, oh. That morning, for some reason, I’d decided to use my Temptu silicone-based foundation. I was in a jam. Silicone cannot be mixed with water (when the two meet, the silicone curdles and can completely gunk up an airbrush), so, desperate, I tore through all my materials and finally pulled out the Parian Spirit. Out of options, I squirted a bit into the color cup and ran it through…
It worked fantastically! In one minute my gun was completely clean. This stuff worked even better than the dedicated airbrush cleanser I was using at home. What?
My journey with Parian Spirit into the Land of Eco-Friendly Brush Cleaners was nearly a disaster. I’d never let this product near my expensive brushes again, but it’s gained a permanent place in my collection as a cheap, effective, professional-caliber airbrush cleanser.
Wonderful what you find out sometimes when you’re stuck with no other options.
What about your brush cleaning experiences? Are you happy with the products you’re currently using?