This post is about how to store, take care and extend the lifespan of our beautiful Fude (handmade make-up brushes). Maybe you are a brush lover and collector or maybe you are new to Fude, I hope that whatever your background and experience with Fude is, that this will be informative.
I am not writing this as “Sonia G” as I will talk about Fude in general, however, I admit that working with Japanese manufacturers helped me to better understand the reasons why some issues may happen to our brushes, whatever the brand.
I started collecting Fude more than 10 years ago, I don’t remember when exactly but 10 years ago I bought a very specific and very expensive brush for my birthday and my collection at the time was already extensive. I still own the very first brushes that I got, well, 99% of them, and I still use them. I’ll explain what happened to the 1% missing… This post is based on my own experience and I will also quote the manufacturers guidelines or advice that I received from them, I will do my best to cover as much as I can think of.
By the way, I take good care of my brushes, but I don’t have the storage space I wish I had, I think that there are many things I would love to improve if I could ! Considering the means and the time that I have today, what I do is working for me, and for the Fude 😊 Maybe one day I will change this office to a different room and if I do, I will probably change how the brushes are organized.
Some of these pictures were taken a while ago, since then my collection grew even more and had to get more drawers and storage but it shows you what I do, maybe it gives you ideas. As I mentioned, I wish I had more space!
“The more expensive the brush the longer it should last”
Make-up brushes have a lifespan. The manufacturers will tell you that Fude are meant to be changed after some time. The lifespan of a brush will vary depending on how we use it, how we clean it, how we store it, how it was built, etc. They can last many years but sometimes they don’t. So… What’s good for them and what’s not? We love to make them last as much as we can!
When we talk about brushes and their cost vs durability, we need to understand the potential reasons why the cost is what it is. It’s relevant to take into account the whole craftsmanship, the components, the logistics, and so much more. It’s tricky to compare machine made vs handmade because the production cost is a world apart.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE TIPS
Washing and cleaning
A make-up brush needs to be washed; the first wash should ideally happen before we use it. Of course bristles are treated and washed in the manufacture but it’s still important to wash them once they arrive. By the way, the brushes are also sanitized (in general UV) before the final packing. The technique and machines differ as I have seen in the manufactures but it’s good to know that they arrive clean. Anyway, it’s still important to wash them. Here are some other reasons why:
- Sometimes the bristles arrive a bit squeezed or warped (by accident or due to transport), they will only revert into place once the brush is washed thoroughly with lukewarm water and soap, this will remove the stress on the misshapen bristles
- Sometimes the artisans cover the bristles with a product (usually seaweed glue) to prevent the bristles to flare during transport and get damaged, this glue will be removed after a nice wash
- The washing process with water and soap will cause the brush to bloom therefore reaching the shape it was initially designed to be.
The washing process is quite simple, please check here if you would like to read about the process in detail. In a nutshell:
Wet the head of the brush with lukewarm water, give gentle strokes on a solid soap, work soap into the brush with fingertips, if desired swirl onto a silicone pad with the best technique for the shape of the brush, rinse very well under running water, squeeze water out, wipe the excess water with a paper towel and lay down the brush to dry.
I have used many different types of soaps or products to wash Fude, I never had an issue that I couldn’t fix upon the next wash. These are my recommendations and most important points to remember:
- Be gentle (prefer silicone washing pads vs hard plastic pads)
- Use lukewarm water
- Use a soap appropriate for brushes
- Rinse the brush really REALLY well, leaving soap residue is very bad and not only will the brush not function properly, but it can potentially damage the glue and the bristles
- Gently remove the excess water before laying the brush flat (or upside down) to dry
- Do not leave them to dry under direct sunlight or standing up in a cup
- Do not use a hair dryer either
- Do not store them when they are “almost” dry, always dry them fully before you store them. Please refer to the “Humidity” section below.
- Do not leave the brush soaking in product: I have seen people and professionals who leave the brushes soaking in the cleansing products, this damages the glue and the bristles. If you work with special effects for example, it’s better to use brushes that aren’t delicate and that can resist strong solvents.
I have been told that when brushes are handmade, they don’t use the same type of glues, or paints for logos, that are used when brushes are made by machines, so it’s possible that products handled by machines are stronger as they don’t need to be safe for the person who is handling or sniffing them.
Whether you should (or prefer to) use machine or handmade brushes, it’s a whole new topic and this is not addressed here.
- In between washes, wipe the brushes onto a microfiber towel as this will remove the excess oils and product that is left on the brush.
- In order to spot-sanitize a brush, spray the sanitizer on the towel, then gently rub the brush onto the wet towel. Don’t spray on the handle if you can avoid it. I am not a huge fan of how the brushes perform and how they look after a spot clean. I do it of course when I need to, but I love and prefer the results after a water-soap wash. I have noticed that when doing spot cleaning with sprays, depending on the products previously used with the brush, the bristles remain a bit stained and the shape is not reaching its full fluffiness as if you had washed it with water and soap.
If the brush doesn’t perform as it used to, make sure to wash it again and make sure to rinse all the soap residue. Some of you asked me if it’s useful to use conditioner (like hair conditioner), I have never had the need to use it. I find that if the brush has too much softness at the tips it won’t pick up and blend properly. If you feel like the brush is becoming too rough, or undisciplined and you can’t get it back into good shape, why not give it a try.
I have never used care oils or aloe vera on the bristles. I believe some may do this but I prefer not using anything on the bristles, whether they are natural or synthetic. When I had issues with the shape or condition of the bristles, a second wash or a change of soap did the trick for me.
How often should you wash your brushes?
It really depends on how you use them- If it’s only on yourself, then wipe them after use on a towel and this will help a lot to preserve their functionality in between water-soap washes.
If you need to sanitize them, spray the towel with your product and wipe the brush.
Some brushes need frequent washes to be able to perform their best- sometimes the bristles become heavy or sticky and they don’t blend effectively. Others can work for a longer period of time consistently without needing a water-soap wash every day or week.
I wash my brushes every week. In reality it’s every month but I rotate them every week (sometimes every day because I have extremely sensitive eyes). Once they are dirty, I place them in a dedicated brush holder and then when it’s full I go to the sink…. Eye brushes rotate more than face brushes in my case. Also, since I am always playing with make-up and changing the products I use, I love to adapt the brushes consequently. This means sometimes I have a lot of brushes to wash at once- I enjoy the process, specially when my husband helps! 😀
I have three type of storage needs:
- Brushes I use daily (Daily use) – These are stored in acrylic or wooden holders on my vanity
- Brushes I am working on (Daily or Weekly use)- I have an Ikea bathroom cabinet on the wall in my office where I store the brushes I am currently using for testing and prototyping. The cabinet has a door, it’s tall but thin so the brush holders can fit without too much bulkiness sticking out of the wall. There are hundreds of brushes stored here usually, they are protected from dust, from direct sunlight, and since they are in brush holders, their shape remains unaltered. Here I organize the brushes by project so I can grab the brush holder that contains that project and move it to my vanity while I am working on it, then put it back at the end of the day
- Brushes I store (Brushes not being used, awaiting rotation)
As I said before, I don’t have the space I wish I had to store all the brushes the exact way I want, either I stop buying brushes or I have to get my hands on a Tardis (which Dr. Who fans will know is much bigger on the inside than the outside).
These brushes are mainly stored in drawers, laying flat. Some of them have a wooden stick or a sponge under the ferrule to lift the heads so that the bristles are not squeezed by their own weight. Since there are so many of them, I need to be able to open a drawer and see the condition of the brushes easily, check if they are ok, which means no humidity, no bugs, no mold.
The brushes are mostly organized by Brand or theme and I know exactly where each one of my brushes is stored.
ISSUES LINKED TO STORAGE
If you own very expensive brushes a little more attention and care is needed to keep them in the best condition for longer. It really is like a nice handbag or a nice luxurious car, you wouldn’t rub them against rough items.
One example is those little balls that you keep in jars or cups that help you store your brushes nice and separately. Not all but some of these little balls are quite rough and will definitely scratch the handles. I placed an order on ebay for an acrylic storage solution and it came with those tiny balls to store the brushes in, I was just curious to use them, I tried but I had to get rid of them- too scratchy. I think some are safe and soft but the ones I received were not appropriate for storing anything delicate. It’s ok for normal handles but I would avoid them for special lacquers or woods better since they could potentially cause damage.
I recommend to keep the brushes you don’t use somewhere where they won’t gather dust. Inside a drawer or a cabinet.
By the way, I actually use a device that changed a lot the amount of dust and particles in the air of my office. It’s a HEPA air filter / cleaner. What it does is that it cleans the air and I noticed much less dust on the brushes that stay on my vanity. Huge difference.
We live in a very old house that needed quite a lot of renovation works to make it healthy, we did it little by little so it took time and we haven’t even finished yet. The bathroom shares the same wall as my office where I store all my brushes. Unfortunately, we had issues with the bathroom and the water was infiltrating behind the bath and soaking the walls. It got exponentially worse when we started to use the bath to bathe our little girl. One day, I opened the drawers of this cabinet and found mold inside the drawers and also on some brushes… This happened quite suddenly because I am regularly opening the drawers and keeping an eye on them. This is probably what saved them. I had been able to keep the situation under control until then because I always kept a large space between the back of the drawers and the impacted humid wall, I was using dehumidifier bags and sufficient ventilation, but one day it was too much. The wall was soaked so thoroughly there wasn’t much we could do. Obviously, the renovation works for the bathroom started urgently and since the bathroom is also touching the kitchen wall, we had to do both the bathroom and the kitchen at once- Huge works that luckily finished the week before the lock-down started.
We were considering destroying the wall of my office completely and rebuilding it but we washed it with special products, treated it, dried it thoroughly with professional machines and it’s 100% healthy now. I was able to rescue almost all the brushes, which was a miracle considering the disaster. I had to get rid of only a few brushes and when I think of the ones that I couldn’t rescue, these were brushes that had an aluminium ferrule. None of the brushes with brass ferrules were affected. When I did more research with my husband we confirmed that brass, which is an alloy of copper, is also indeed known for its antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties and we think that potentially this helped. I think it makes sense to think that using brass ferrules for brushes is going to preserve their condition for longer. I always want to use brass for my brushes because of its quality and what happened reinforces my thoughts.
Anyway, this is an extreme story and it’s unlikely to happen to you but I thought I would share in case it helps someone. Today all the brushes in that drawer are in perfect condition, no issues at all and they all still look like new.
Bottom line – humidity is dangerous, especially when water is silently cascading down or in between the walls…. Just keep an eye on your brushes. My story is a good example and although it was really critical, the issue took a while to escalate. I really don’t think anyone would have those issues at home… Which takes me to the big question: Can you keep your brushes in your bathroom?? Well, it depends. Is there enough ventilation? Do you experience condensation? My two cents is that if you have always been keeping them in your bathroom, and you have never had issues with mold on make-up, it should be safe for the brushes. Some bathrooms have such good ventilation that you can put a nice antique sofa in them!
Other bathrooms are more dangerous. When I visited my aunt’s house, I went to use the bathroom and I noticed all the make-up stored on a shelf under the sink was ruined. I know it was not old since I had gifted those palettes to her recently, so humidity hadn’t taken long to damage them.
As a rule of thumb, mold growth will be highly likely if Relative humidity in a room is frequently above 70%, but possible above 55%.
Maybe a good compromise would be to keep your daily brushes in your bathroom if you really wish to, and keep the brushes that you store away, safely in a different (drier) location. Just always keep an eye on your things and catch any issues before it is too late.
There is another issue that is caused by humidity which affects the wood, therefore the handles. I think that you may have already noticed that wood expands and contracts depending on humidity (expands in high humidity and contracts in low humidity). Metal on the ferrules in turn is affected by the temperature (expands when hot and shrinks when cold) but not the humidity.
I bought a restored beautiful old officer’s chest (the chest was old, I don’t know about the officer…) in Geneva, together with another huge wooden chest. These were stored always outside in a sort of market. Once I brought them inside my warm flat in Geneva, every night, there were such huge cracks in the wood and the banging noises were waking me up. In the morning I would go see the cracks which were quite impressive… It was a long time ago and I did not know that this would happen. I still have this officer’s chest and in this case, the cracks are not impacting its functionality as it is used as a table 🙂
It is quite easy to imagine that if a brush is stored in a cold, humid warehouse (wood expanded and ferrule contracted) and then are shipped to an overheated and dry flat like most of the flats are in Switzerland (wood contracted and metal expanded), this may have an impact on the handle and specifically the fit of the ferrule. Worst case is that the wood contracts so much that it detaches from the ferrule. More gentle changes should protect the brush, but extremes for any extended time are never good.
Wooden instruments suffer in more extreme ways, and various manufacturers have developed ways to store them at the perfect humidity (for example the D’Addario Two Way Humidity control system). If you wish to store brushes long term safely, it might be a good idea to store them in a Tupperware style box, accompanied by such a control system. I haven’t tried this myself, but there is no reason it shouldn’t work. If you are very worried, you could also invest in a mobile weather station with a remote temperature and humidity sensor. Leaving the remote sensor in your storage cabinet /box would allow you to make sure you have a reasonably stable humidity without opening the box all the time.
RECOMMENDATIONS LINKED TO STORAGE
- Try to rotate your brushes, this will allow you to check on them and also rediscover them. If one brush doesn’t work for you in summer, it may work in winter or with different products 🙂
- Make sure to store your brushes only when they have entirely dried!
- If you are afraid of bugs getting into your brushes and destroying them, the manufacturers told me to treat our brushes like we would treat our cashmere sweaters… and they recommend me to use odorless mothballs, or cedar wood pieces for example.
- To mitigate humidity issues, I use the Pingi 150g in the drawers and the 250g in the cupboards. You can reactivate them once they changed color to pink/beige but please be careful and follow the vendor’s instructions. I think they have a life span of 2 years before you need to get new ones.
RECOMMENDATIONS LINKED TO USAGE
We know that humidity or extreme changes in temperature can cause issues. Another potential issue which can cause a handle to detach from the ferrule (although it is unlikely), is to kick it against a hard surface in order to remove the excess product. Please don’t do that! It matters less on a cheap brush because the ferrule is crimped onto the handle, but it’s still not good for the brushes.
Too much pressure on the bristles can cause breakage and shedding. If you notice that a brush is not picking up enough product or not strongly buffing, try a denser brush or a brush with more firmness. We tend to use a lot of pressure when we use the wrong make-up brushes for a given application.
Also, a paddle brush is meant to be used as a paddle brush, and not in circular motions. You can get away with this if you do it gently and the ferrule is closer to a round shape. If the bristles need to move in a direction that doesn’t match their shape, it can put stress on the bristles. I am not completely strict with this because I am very gentle but I know that the manufacturers like to remind us to use the brush with the movement it was designed for.
Are brush guards safe? It depends. It can be a good idea to use them if you want the shape of the brush to stay tight and more directional. Have a look at the bristles when they are inside the brush guard. Do you notice that the bristles peek through the net? Do you see obvious damage? If there isn’t any, you can just continue to use them safely.
Some thicker bristles are safer inside a brush guard because they won’t flex as much as delicate finer bristles. In these cases, even if the brush guard moves, they won’t be overly affected.
I don’t want my brushes to remain tight and directional, I don’t even use brush guards for travelling unless I know that a brush is going to touch something else in the bag. In these cases I can just use a plastic sleeve (sometimes brushes come with a nice thick plastic protection that I keep). If I am drying the brush and want to reshape the bristles, I will cut some kitchen paper, roll it around the bristles and use tape to secure it.
How much is a brush supposed to shed?
There is a finishing process done by hand with a razor (kamisori) on each brush where the artisan removes all weak and unattached bristles from the brush. Just to reassure you, the razor is not sharp and does not cut the bristles – it’s just used to press the finger against to pull the weak bristles out. This is actually one of three different processes but they vary depending on the artisans.
Sometimes the brushes are so dense that this finishing process is a bit more complex to achieve and the brush may still need some time and usage to release the weaker bristles which are supposed to come out.
I have asked how much a brush can shed before it’s considered faulty but I have never had a clear, measurable answer.
I would not consider it normal that if you apply your make-up and each time there are bristles sticking to your face, but we do need to allow a new brush some time to shed. Sometimes it can be normal. If you wash your brush several times and this still happens, there could be a manufacturing issue, or something might have happened with the glue, or maybe something environmental is causing the brush to not stay stable.
This is all for today, I hope this was informative and that you enjoyed reading about Fude. If you have any storage tips or ideas you would love to share, I am always very happy to learn about them so please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment below.