The Basics: Makeup Brush Cleaning 101

Disclosure: Hey folks, instead of doing sponsored posts, Makeup to Go is a member of Skimlinks and Amazon Affiliates. So if you purchase something via any of our links, we get a lil sumthin sumthin to help us keep running. Thanks much!

If you follow Makeup to Go on Instagram

– and you should @makeuptogoblog – you may have noticed that things have been quite active over there. I’m finally investing time into the Makeup to Go Blog Instagram feed and it’s starting to come into form and look nice and spiffy πŸ™‚ AND I love that Instagram offers me immediate feedback into what people want to see and learn. So one of the things I’ve come to realize unequivocally is that people want more tutorials and videos, no matter how basic the presentation may be.

With that in mind, here is an Instagram Story video where I go through step-by-step on how I wash my brushes. Now; I’m not saying this is the ONLY way to wash brushes, but this is a more typically professional method than some of the methods you may see online. And I also explain why I do some of the things that I do. This method has keep my brushes in good usable condition for years and years and years and also I have yet to ever cause anyone a skin irritation/reaction using this method (knock on wood!).


I should say, this Insta Story became seriously popular. Like WOW. I guess I’m a q-dork, but I had no idea it would be so popular. It is saved on the @Makeuptogoblog Instagram as a “Highlight” but I also thought what the heck, let’s go ahead and post it on the blog where it can live for all posterity. I am working on the capacity to be able to do more videos and I want them to look more professional, etc. but in the meantime I will be taking advantage of Insta Stories and Instagram Live as both teaching tools and ways to connect with my audience. So if there is anything in particular you want to see, lay it on me in Comments! I’m all ears πŸ™‚

You might also like my previous articles on makeup brushes and keeping your makeup clean.

ALSO! Major thanks to Illyne Michel for helping me film this tutorial. You can check out her makeup fabulosity at @mua_illynemichel

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#MakeupMonday – Awards Tour Arsenal

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My clients Bethany Gaeber (writer) and Janelle Gaeber (producer) at the Academy Awards. (not sure who the fab gentleman is…)


This past weekend – specifically the Academy Awards – marked the conclusion of what is known as Awards Season.

There will be other shows that come up here and there throughout the year, but the back-to-back nonstop crazy is done for 2015. Over the years – while I am not a celebrity artist per se – I have become increasingly involved with the Awards Show scene. There are lots of women (and men) who have to attend these events besides just the celebrities. Most of my clients are producers, writers, etc. many of whom have been nominees and a few of whom have been winners. So while they may not be household names to the home awards show viewer they are known in their profession, they attend all of the events, and they get their photos taken. Hence they, too, need to look their absolute best!

My primary concern when doing makeup for events such as these is not only do they need to look beautiful, but their makeup needs to go the distance. I’ve previously written on event makeup techniques and what products I use but times change and so do I. Here were my MVPs (Most Valuable Products, of course πŸ˜‰ ) in my 2015 Awards Tour arsenal.

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Embryolisse – Lait Creme ConcentrΓ© / Skindinavia – Makeup Finishing Spray / Face Atelier – Ultra Matte

I am grouping these three together because they are such absolute kit essentials and I have mentioned them many times before. Embryolisse (or an equivalent, solid moisturizer) is VITAL for a successful makeup application and – even though this may go against conventional wisdom – VITAL when I want makeup to last a long time. Why? Dry skin eats makeup. Before applying any makeup the skin must be hydrated, and hydrated well.

The Skindinavia Finishing Spray and Face Atelier Ultra Matte sprays are applied at the end of the makeup to add another layer of defense to help the makeup application last for as long as possible. While they each work differently to address different issues (hence I have and use both), both leave the skin with a natural finish (not too matte and not tight/hairspray-ish) and keep the makeup looking even and flawless. I tend to use the Ultra Matte more on men than on women, but it works well on anyone with oiler skin (I use it on myself).


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Hourglass Cosmetics – Veil Mineral Primer

This awards season, I had to replace the fabulous NARS Pro-Prime Smoothing Face Prep primer which I used to love but which NARS discontinued. πŸ™ Most primers on the market are concerned with keeping the skin matte and lengthening the wear of your makeup application. In addition to that a really good primer creates an overall smooth skin surface on which to apply makeup, hence it should also be able to also deal with fine lines and minor discolorations. I am also partial to hydrating primers that mattify without drying the skin, as most of my clients for these affairs are not 19-year old models. Everything you’ve heard about the Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer is true and then some. It creates a beautiful finish, lengthens the life of any makeup application, has a light SPF (but it’s never caused a TD reaction for me thus far), and it even repels water (no perspiration ruined makeup!). It is pricey, but this is a superlative product.


makeup to go blog anastasia beverly hills lash genius waterproof top coat awards tour arsenal
Anastasia Beverly Hills Lash Genius Waterproof Top Coat

I am pretty sure I’ve mentioned this product before, but I’m mentioning it again. Events such as these – much like Bridal – can be emotional for the attendees. No woman wants the camera to catch them with raccoon eyes from tearing up – much less on a national (and International) broadcast – however, I do not generally care for waterproof mascaras. They tend to be gloopy but then dry weird and flake and just cause me problems I’d rather not deal with, particularly in a circumstance where I am not present to do touch ups. Therefore I LOVE this Lash Genius Waterproof Top Coat which I apply over any mascara I like to create a waterproof shield.


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Dedra Beauty Creme Foundation Stick

Dedra Beauty’s Creme Foundation Stick is fast becoming my favorite cream foundation, there I said it. It is so versatile, has a fabulous range of colors (the most recent formula update brought back the colors for deeper complexions – YAY!), gives such good coverage and has such a wonderful finish that I find myself reaching for it time and time again. What’s more is I love having a pro-quality foundation that I can recommend to clients for their own use. Most pro brands are too complicated to explain and too difficult for the non-pro to purchase and use. With Dedra Beauty I can just tell my client what color I used and send them to the website. Perfection!


makeup to go blog givenchy mister light instant light corrective pen awards tour arsenal
Givenchy Mister Light Instant Light Corrector Pen

After I use whatever regular corrective concealer I’m using in the under-eye area, I always like to go over with a bit of an illuminating concealer for a bit of pop. I know many love YSL’s Touche Eclat, but I’ve always been partial to Givenchy’s Mister Light. I find it gives a bit more actual coverage while still providing that perfect touch of luminosity.


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Glam Kitti

This is a brand-new entry into my Award Tour arsenal, and boy did I LOVE having it. One of the chores for both makeup artists and clients alike is figuring out how the client going to touch up her makeup once she’s at the event. Over the years makeup artists have utilized various clumsy methods (little jars, miniature products, etc.) but now at last we can make our clients a little chic compact of exactly what we used. Glam Kitty has space for up to 6 cream products, a little area for powder with powder puff, and blotting tissues. All in a chic little mirrored compact. When your client is done with it, it’s disposable (and actually I think it would be recyclable). This made the lives of myself and my clients so much easier I can’t even say. I plan to order a bunch more for the various private clients I do throughout the year. And needless to say I will stock up for Awards Tour 2016!

#MakeupMonday – The Original Beauty Blender™ vs the Makeup Blending Sponge

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left Original Beauty Blender™, right Graftobian GlamourGrip™ makeup blending sponge


    NOTE: This may sound like it, but this is NOT a placed post. Beauty Blender™ does not know I am writing this, this is my own independent comparison out of my own curiosity. I was given a Graftobian sponge, but I purchased everything else including my Beauty Blender™ sponges. This review is based on my actual usage in the field on my jobs and is just my subjective opinion. πŸ™‚

    CORRECTION: As I said above, my post below is based on *my*experiences with the Beauty Blender™. However, I’ve received feedback from other fellow pro artists that actually the Pink Beauty Blender™ sponges can in fact have dye run. Also artists who purchased the first run of Beauty Blender™ experienced some ripping/tearing. The ripping/tearing has not been an issue with later versions of the Pink, and no one reported any problems at all (dye run, ripping, etc.) with the Black sponges. No word on the White sponge or the Micro.mini..

When the Beauty Blender™ sponge first entered the marketplace to say that it took the makeup artist community by storm would be an understatement. The excitement went from zero to sixty in seemingly minutes and next thing I knew every makeup artist I knew owned and LOVED a Beauty Blender™. I was That Makeup Artist who actually was not immediately WOW-d. I thought it was fine, but it was a tool like any other and it certainly was not a “must have” in any way. Why was my reaction so lukewarm when so many of my artists friends raved? Probably because the first makeup blending sponge I tried was a knockoff, not a real Beauty Blender™. Truth be told – now that I own and use several real Beauty Blenders™ – I still kind of feel that way; it is not a must-have, use on every job item for me. Now that I am working with the real deal, however, I can appreciate what an excellent tool is really is.

So this got me thinking: How do the numerous makeup blending sponge knockoffs stack up to the original Beauty Blender™?

The first knockoff makeup blending sponge I used was so bad it was comical. It came from an overseas company who claimed to be the manufactures for the real Beauty Blender™ sponge. The claim was dubious at best as I already knew Beauty Blender™ is an American based company, and the sample sponge they sent was the wrong shade of pink, and not quite the right size and shape (they attempted to explain this away in their literature by calling what they sent a “prototype” 😐 ). It worked OK, but honestly no differently from a run-of-the-mill wedge sponge. But then the truth came out – literally – the first time I washed it. Upon washing this fakey blender sponge, an odd blue dye emerged from the core of the sponge to the surface. And no matter what I used to wash it, how often I washed it, etc., the weird blue dye would not go away. NOPE. Not using that on people’s faces. Owners of true Beauty Blender™ sponges know that when washed there is no dye run, no change in shape, no crumbling (until they get very old at which point you probably should have long replaced it), etc. I do not know what that thing was, but it was not a Beauty Blender™.

This was about 4 or so years ago. Nowadays the Beauty Blender™ is well established for both makeup pros and makeup fans alike. As such there are even more knockoff sponges, or shall I say, Beauty Blender™ “inspired” sponges ;-). Generally speaking the quality of these dupes has improved significantly from my overseas friend. Since my testing on this began about 6 months ago, none of the makeup blending sponges I tried have changed shape, lost color, or started falling apart on me. But when it comes down to it, do any of them compare to the actual Beauty Blender™? Here are my thoughts on a few of the Beauty Blender™ inspired sponges I have tried.

makeup to go makeup to go blog makeup blending sponge Graftobian GlamourGrip sponge
1 ) Graftobian HD GlamourGrip™ Sponge

If you know Makeup to Go/Tania Russell, you know I am a large fan of Graftobian’s HD Creme foundation and I also use their Wet Dry Dual Finish Powder Foundation. A couple of trade shows ago, I brought so many of my friends & students to the Graftobian booth to buy the HD Creme that the gentleman at the booth gave me a GlamourGrip™ to try. I like it.

Grip: The shape is supposed to make it easier to grip, but I find I prefer the egg shape of the Beauty Blender™. Also the GlamourGrip does not have enough of a “tip” at the top end to get into crevices like around the nose and the inner eye corners.

Texture: Texture is where everyone fell short of the goal line although I would say that the Graftobian sponge came the closest. It has a similar velvety exterior to really give that buffed, polished skin finish for which the Beauty Blender™ is known. Also the GlamourGrip™ is softer and more squishy like the Beauty Blender™, making it easier to hold and control.

Maneuverability: I found it a bit clunky feeling in-hand. I would not call it “bad” because of the grip-ability due to the softer texture, but the shape could be more streamlined.

Finish: The GlamourGrip™ left a very nice finish on the skin. It took a bit more work to get all the lines and demarcations out of my finished applications than the Beauty Blender™, but ultimately the finish was very nice. Worked well with both cream and liquid foundations and with Graftobian’s own Dual Finish Powder Foundation.

OVERALL: Not a bad dupe.

makeup to go makeup to go blog makeup blending sponge real techniques miracle complexion sponge
2 ) Real Technique Miracle Complexion Sponge

Grip: The Real Technique sponge pays homage to the original egg shape of the Beauty Blender™ but then adds their own spin of having one side blunted. This blunt side is for buffing/smoothing/blending out edges/etc. I like the shape. The problem, however…

Texture:…is in the texture. The Miracle Complexion Sponge is too dense and not at all springy like the Beauty Blender™. Also it has larger, more visible pores which in my opinion affected the final outcome of the finish.

Maneuverability: Good. In addition to the blunt edge for buffing, it has the “traditional” tip end for reaching into the crevices.

Finish: Okay. The finish was – again, in my opinion – no different than a wedge sponge. NOW artists have used wedge sponges since forever and you can get a good finish off of a wedge sponge. I was able to get a good finish off of the Real Technique sponge, but I would not call the final outcome a ‘miraculous complexion’ by any stretch.

OVERALL: Nice, basic sponge. No less, but no more.

makeup to go makeup to go blog makeup blending sponge ulta super blender sponge
3 ) Ulta Super Blender Sponge

Grip: Again, I do not care for these contoured shaped sponges. I like the egg better. The Ulta sponge does have more of a definitive point than the Graftobian, however, so it is better at getting into the crevices.

Texture: Hard. Not dense, not firm, straight out hard. Not comfortable on the model’s skin and also didn’t move/manipulate product well.

Maneuverability: Clunky shape plus hard texture = not comfortable in hand.

Finish: Has visible “pores”. Gave a foundation finish like that of an ordinary wedge sponge.

OVERALL: Of all of the sponges tested, this was definitely the weakest. I still use all of the other sponges mentioned in some capacity, but as of this writing I do not know where my Ulta sponge is.

makeup to go makeup to go blog makeup blending sponges sonia kashuk blending sponge

4 ) Sonia Kashuk Blending Sponge (NOTE: this version of the product has been discontinued)

Grip: The Sonia Kashuk (SK) sponge has a more streamlined version of the sculpted shape like the Ulta and Graftobian sponges. It’s less “fat” and has a nice tip at the end. It is a bit dense, comparable to the Real Techniques sponge. It is not hard like Ulta, but it is not as soft as Graftobian or certainly the original Beauty Blender™.

Texture: Small pore size and slightly “velvety” exterior texture. Feels nice to the touch.

Maneuverability: I still prefer the egg, but the SK sponge came in a solid second place in terms of hand-feel and maneuverability. Due to the shape, I had to pick it up and put it back down on the face multiple times which makes it more cumbersome to use. However I was able to stipple, blend, buff and reach all of the crevices just as I would with an original Beauty Blender™.

Finish: Very nice. Again, I wouldn’t say Beauty Blender™, but it gave me a nicely even and smooth finish with both cream and liquid foundations.

OVERALL: Nice sponge. Sonia Kashuk makes quality products overall and this is another in her excellent collection. As good as a Beauty Blender™? Nope.

What it is exactly about the Beauty Blender™? Well in my opinion it is a few things. Firstly, it is my understanding that the exact composition of the materials used in the original Beauty Blender™ are proprietary. Therefore other companies may approximate and get close, but they will never look or feel exactly the same as a Beauty Blender™, and you really can see and feel the difference. Secondly, the shape of the Beauty Blender™ is really key. That egg shape allows for a perfect “press and roll” motion with the surface area of the sponge making contact with the face at all times. That coupled with the smaller pore size is what makes for the super smooth, “airbrush” finish that the Beauty Blender™ is famous and beloved for. Used properly, there are NO lines, streaks, or demarcation of any kind with the Beauty Blender™. With almost all of the other sponges, the odd shape not only has a gap where the sponge is not making contact with the skin but it also makes it more difficult to do a continuous press and roll motion. I had to keep picking those sponges up and putting them back down on the face, making it more difficult to get rid of all demarcations. The Real Technique sponge would have been great shape-wise, but the overly dense texture and larger pores prevented it from giving me that flawless finish. It is also worth noting that my two contenders were also the more expensive dupes of the ones I tried. The Graftobian sells for about $14.99 and the Sonia Kashuk retails for $10.49. Bear in mind I chose to compare the better of the knockoffs that exist. I have seen some real, real doozey Cheapy McCheapersons out there. My favorite being this bag of assorted shaped/sized/colored blending sponges which one of my former students had. They felt terrible, and worked about as well. Some manufacturers have lost track of the concept of function over form. LOL!

If you’ve used one of the knockoffs and been disappointed I would encourage you to try the real deal. Until you have used an authentic Beauty Blender™, you have not actually used a Beauty Blender™ sponge. That said, not everyone needs to spend $20 on a single sponge, and I get that. Therefore, if you would like a lower cost alternative that will give you a very nice finish to your makeup applications, I found the Graftobian and the Sonia Kashuk to be quality substitutes.

EDITOR’S NOTE 2/11/18 – In the spirit of disclosure: This post was written back in 2014 and at that time all of my Original Beauty Blender™ sponges were purchased by me. Since that time I have been graciously invited to several Original Beauty Blender™ PR events wherein I have been gifted many Beauty Blender™ sponges and other products by the brand. In the 4 years since I originally wrote this article my opinion remains unchanged; I still prefer the Original over the dupes, but there are some dupes in the marketplace that are pretty good. Look for a #REMIX update article soon!

#MakeupMonday – #TarteCosmetics Rainforest After Dark

Tarte Cosmetics Rainforest After Dark Fall 2014 Collection makeup to go blog tarte cosmetics fall 2014 collection

Tarte Cosmetics Rainforest After Dark Fall 2014 Collection



I had the good fortune to be invited to a launch event for Tarte Cosmetics fall 2014 collection: Rainforest After Dark. The new collection features Tarte’s ever popular Amazonian Clay-based cosmetics in new products, formulas and color schemes.

What really caught my eye in the new collection was the limited edition cheek and Eye- color palette, which I guess you could say is Tarte’s take on the popular “naked” style palette. The colors are wearable for a wide variety of skin tones, the texture is creamy and velvety, and it’s less shimmery and more wearable than a lot of other neutral palettes.

The other belles of the ball were the Colored Clay tinted Brow Gels. They look like mascara tubes but they feature a tiny precision size wand to pick up every single brow hair and coat it with a sheer wash of color.

Tarte Cosmetics Colored Clay Tinted Brow Gel makeup to go blog tarte cosmetics fall 2014 collection

Tarte Colored Clay Tinted Brow Gel


In addition to the new collection, Tarte had all of the old favorites on display. I refrained from taking yet another cheek stain which I do not need and instead focused on the Amazonian Clay blushes which I hadn’t played with before.

Tarte Amazonian Clay Blush Tarte cheek stains makeup to go blog tarte cosmetics fall 2014 collection

Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hr Blush & Tarte cheek stains


Thanks so much to Tarte for sponsoring this event and for having me in attendance. I am certain I will be using these products for the various events happening this coming weekend.



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smolderEYES(tm) Amazonian Clay Waterproof Liner



tarte cosmetics self tan towelettes Amazonian bronzer makeup to go blog tarte cosmetics fall 2014 collection

Tarte Brazilliance(tm) skin rejuvenating maracuja face and body self tanning towelettes and Amazonian Clay waterproof bronzer



LipSurgence lip colors tarte cosmetics makeup to go blog tarte cosmetics fall 2014 collection

Tarte Cosmetics – my beloved LipSurgence(tm) lip colors




Click here to check out the full new collection…

#MakeupMonday – Short Makeup Notes July 2014

LORAC pro eyeshadow palette 2 makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco tania d russell makeup monday short makeup notes July 2014

LORAC Pro Palette 2


Howdy folks. I’m currently away on business/working hence bloggage has slowed down a tad but I wanted to go back to talking makeup at least a little bit and not promote something for a change*

1 ) LORAC Pro Eyeshadow Palette 2
While I’ve not had a chance to do anything with it yet, I did finally get my hands on this new, coveted palette. I took a look at it at a nearby Ulta and then ordered it from Naimie’s so it should be waiting for me when I get home (pros can get their pricing through Naimie’s).

I have been asked if by folks if they should get Pro 1 or Pro 2. Now that I have seen both live and in person my truthful answer is; it’s up to you. LOL! The Pro 2 palette continues the successful formula of combining a row of matte colors with a row of sheen, shimmer colors. I guess the main difference in my opinion is that the Pro 2 colors are softer overall, which may be more usable to more everyday women. Where the original LORAC Pro eyeshadow palette is a collection of true neutrals ranging from pale all the way to a matte Black and a shimmery deep Charcoal, Pro 2 stays more in the mid-range and includes some pretty pops of color including a pretty plum, a shimmery mossy green and a GORG looking matte Navy that I cannot wait to play around with. While I would still call the Pro 2 a neutral palette, the fact that it stays in the mid tones and adds some “neutral colors” makes this a great palette for personal use, use on brides and “real people” clients, etc. I’m looking forward to getting home and playing around with it!

2) Sonia Kashuk
As anyone who reads my blog regularly knows (or if you’ve studied with me, had a private lesson, etc.) I LOVE the Sonia Kashuk line. I think it is far and away the best of all the mass market brands. Back in the day I wrote this story about the line. Considering about half those products are no longer in the line, I should probably write an updated post. Until such time as I do that, next time you’re in a Target check out the new lip palette and new pro brush collection, both created in celebration of 15 years of the Sonia Kashuk cosmetics line. The Limited Edition Powerful Pout fall lip palette is a range of classic reds, which can of course either be worn alone or mixed to your perfect shade. If you are red-a-phobic this is a good way to stand up to the fear and learn to wear reds. There is a shade of red for everyone! The Limited Edition 15-pc Pro Brush set is a versatile collection includes natural hair (goat and pony) and synthetic bristle brushes and has every brush-type needed for the full face, in a stylish purple color scheme. Personally I am not on board with the colored makeup bristles trend. However I would still recommend these because SK brushes have been an artists secret since their inception. Sonia Kashuk offers very good quality brushes at a very affordable price. In this case it is about $40 for the set. $40! One pro brush can easily cost $40. That’s a great deal.

3 ) Beauty Blender Micro.Minis
I have not yet gotten my hands on the little Beauty Blender Micro.Minis, but I look forward to doing so when I get back from this biz trip. The tiny little Blenders are intended for detail work (undereye, around the nose & mouth, etc). I could also see this helping some folks with blending highlight and contour since the highlight and contour trend doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. 😐

You can read a great review of the Beauty Blender Micro.Minis on NYC makeup artist Victor Amos’s blog: Pro Beauty Blog And I’ll do my own review after I’ve been able to use them a bit.

4 ) The Business of Makeup
OK I lied. I am doing a little promoting. My upcoming Business of Makeup class is upcoming and I am getting excited. The San Francisco class is happening on Sunday, August 17 and that class is All Systems Go. The Los Angeles class was scheduled for 8/24/14, but due to my work schedule it is being moved back a month to mid-September.

NEW WORKSHOP / LESSONS INFORMATION COMING SOON!

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