Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Should You Get A Sonic Cleansing Brush? December 26, 2011

About two months ago I started using a Clarisonic Mia cleansing brush in the evenings to remove my make-up.  From time to time clients have asked me what I think of these cleansing brushes, and I also knew that many estheticians use the professional version of the brush during facials.  I even heard from the nurse at a dermatology practice that I should be using one.  The reason I waited so long to try one of the brushes for myself was the cost since the cheapest version is over a $100.  (Keep in mind that Olay does make a much cheaper version of the brush)  Eventually I saved up my credit card points and got my brush.

If you read women’s fashion magazines regularly, like I do, you will inevitably come across mention of Clarisonic brushes and how great they are.  Touted as the best way to remove make-up and truly cleanse the skin these sonic cleaning brushes have a loyal following.  But do you really need to use one?

What Are The Benefits of a Sonic Cleaning Brush?

According to the Clarisonic website using one of their brushes:

  • Leaves skin feeling and looking healthier
  • Removes 6X more makeup than cleansing with hands alone
  • Helps skin care products absorb better
  • Pores appear smaller
  • Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Reduces oily areas, dry skin patches and blemishes
  • Gentle enough for use twice a day
  • Soft, non-abrasive for different skin types

Without proper cleansing, pollutants, oil and bacteria accumulate on the skin, clogging pores and causing blackheads, blemishes and dullness. This prevents serums and moisturizers from performing to their fullest potential.

Sonic cleansing better prepares your skin for skin care products. Compared to manual cleansing, using the Clarisonic Skin Cleansing System allows for up to 61% better absorption of Vitamin C. Better absorption allows creams, serums and moisturizers to work their best.

Additionally, Clarisonic says that their brush is good for all skin types and is gentle enough for people with acne and rosacea and can be used twice daily.

And how does it work exactly?  This is the same sort of technology like your electric toothbrush (and indeed the company that created the Clarisonic brush first created a sonic toothbrush).  The sonic frequencies from the brush create 300 movements per seconds, once again according to the company website, in order to remove make-up and dirt more efficiently from the skin.  These movements also whisk away dead skin cells sitting on top of your face and this, of course, makes your skin feel softer.

But Is A Sonic Cleansing Brush Really For Everyone?

So after reading the Clarisonic website or a fashion magazine article about the brush you probably want to go out and buy one immediately.  But I want to caution my readers about a few things before you spend your hard-earned money on a sonic cleansing brush.

Dr. Leslie Baumann pointed out a few interesting things about such cleansing brushes on a post on her Yahoo! blog:

… anyone with sensitive skin – and acne-prone skin is indeed sensitive – should actually avoid these vigorous scrubbing products, which can exacerbate inflammation.

Rosacea and the tendency to experience skin allergies are further indications that you should not be using an abrasive exfoliant or a vigorous cleansing brush. Similarly, anyone with very dry skin should avoid exfoliating, which may compromise an already impaired skin barrier and worsen dryness.

That is not to say, though, that facial brushes are universally bad. Resistant types in particular can benefit from more intensive exfoliation. Remember, in my skin-typing system, “resistant” is the opposite of “sensitive” – but resistant types have their own set of concerns:

Because their skin is literally thicker, they have to work a little harder to get beneficial ingredients to penetrate. And one great way to do that is by sloughing off dead skin cells before applying other products.

 So if you have skin that can tolerate facial brushes, there’s no reason not to use them. Just be aware that they offer no more benefits than a good facial scrub (I love the Alchimie Forever Excimer Plus Gentle Antioxidant Refining Scrub, for example), although they may be a little more fun! When you consider some of the brushes out there, though – like Clarisonic’s Skincare Brush, the gold standard of facial brushes that retails for almost $200 – fun might not be worth the premium.

Paula Begoun has even harsher words for these brushes.  Here are some highlights from her Beautypedia review of the Clarisonic cleansing brush:

We’re not saying that Clarisonic’s brush is not a good way to clean skin. What we are saying is that it is not the only nor is it the best way to clean skin or remove makeup. Without question, it is needlessly expensive and not something anyone should go into debt for out of concern their skin is not getting clean enough. Besides, if you want to see what all the fuss is about, you can check out the similar cleansing brush system from Olay’s Pro-X brand (this retails for around $30).The only other published piece of information about Clarisonic simply described how the sonic cleansing worked to provide consistent results and help loosen debris trapped in pores due to the oscillating brush head. Sounds promising, but the piece was written by Pacific Bioscience Laboratories, the company that, you guessed it, sells Clarisonic (Source: Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, June 2006, pages 181-183).This brush will certainly help clean skin (and for that reason it deserves a Good rating), but it won’t reduce wrinkles, pore size, or blemishes–at least not to a degree where you’ll be glad you splurged on the system. The basic system includes two brush heads (for normal and sensitive skin); a Delicate brush head is available for separate purchase (all brush heads cost $25 apiece). The Delicate brush is recommended for very sensitive skin; however, regardless of brush head chosen, I’d use caution if you’re attempting to use Clarisonic and have rosacea or sensitive skin.NOTE: If you decide to use this or any other cleansing brush on your skin, please be gentle. Overzealous usage can lead to inflammation that can hurt your skin’s healing process. Pay attention to how your skin responds and discontinue (or reduce frequency of) use if you see signs of irritation.

 So Should You Buy A Sonic Brush?

I think that if you wear a lot of make-up daily or have very thick and/or oily skin then investing in a sonic cleansing brush is a good idea.  If you have rosacea and/or papules and pustules from acne (or from severe rosacea) then I don’t think a sonic cleansing brush is for you.

My experience with my Clarisonic Mia has been interesting.  The first time I used it I was shocked by how soft my skin felt immediately after using it.  But when I went to use my brush the following morning my skin turned red and felt irritated.  Now I use my brush every evening, and only in the evening, with my gentle cleanser to remove my make-up and then I cleanse with my GloTherapeutics salicylic acid cleanser.  I’ve wondered for a long time if I am really removing all my make-up completely at the end of the day before bedtime.  There are so many make-up products, especially foundations, that are close to impossible to remove.  Since I strongly believe in making sure your face is properly cleansed at the end of the day, I felt like a Clarisonic brush would be the perfect way to make sure that was accomplished.  I am glad that I invested in a Clarisonic because now I feel that I am truly removing all my make-up in the evening, but having said that I am making sure that I don’t over do it with the brush as well.  Even though I have oily, resistant skin I am only using my brush once a day, and I use the sensitive skin brush head for the brush.

If you own a Clarisonic brush, or one of the similar brushes, please share your experience below.

Further Reading:

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19 Responses to “Should You Get A Sonic Cleansing Brush?”

  1. Denise Says:

    I completely agree with just about everything mentioned here…without ever having used the device but having an education about skin and skincare I felt twice daily use would be too much. I’ve never recommended a scrub to be used that often, certainly this doesn’t seem any different. Well, I finally got my own Mia…I am 46 and really felt like I needed a boost in exfoliation for my aging skin that’s slowing down a bit. The first night, smooth and soft, as your experience but even then my skin felt irritated. I decided then that just 1-2 times a week, as I’ve been recommending to clients was on target…however, I couldn’t resist seeing what the result would be if I used it a second night in a row. Ouch. Tight and a little sore. Today it looks a little angry with me.

    I do have oily-sensitive skin, I feel there is a benefit but think it should definitely be used in the way you would prescribe an exfoliant…I will likely use once or twice a week and a manual scrub once a week depending on the season going forward.

    Please if you read this, do not use this device twice a day…your skin should never feel or look raw or tight. Otherwise, enjoy!

    Happy New Year!

  2. kay Says:

    I have sensitive combination skin and have been using clarisonic for 13 months. I started with using it twice daily and saw an improvement in reducing scarring caused by acne. Overtime, my scars faded and the problem I had was huge pores. So I reduced to once a day just to remove the sunscreen at night and my pores aren’t as big as before. I’m still using once daily to remove sunscreen and I don’t use exfoliators anymore, and switched my skincare focus to hydrating to replenish moisture and reduce oiliness.

  3. I have sensitive acne prone skin. I started off using the sensitive brush head which did caused irritation. I switched to the delicate brush head and am now able to use it morning and evening everyday. I rarely break out now and my skin looks and feels amazing. I feel the light exfoliation my skin regularly receives from the Clarisonic helps my skin care products absorb and penetrate better making them more effective.

    • acne girl Says:

      is it true? I m have ance prone skin as well. I just bought the machine and have used it for a few day.. I dont see anything improve yet.. But hope it will

  4. Ruth E. Says:

    My question is,are the $100 + brush systems better than the $25- $30 brushes?

    • I’ve never used the cheaper ones like the one Olay makes, but I have heard that they aren’t as good from clients.

      • Ddd Says:

        I have both, the Olay twirls around and exfoliates but it felt like long turm it would stretch the skin unnecessarily. You really shouldnt use the olay more than once a day as its fairly an aggressive cleasing method. I use the clairsonic now with the acne brush head and acne cleaners it is great and the head doesn’t twirl so the skin doesn’t feel stretched.
        I have skin like leather, I’m 35 and don’t have any wrinkles so i can’t say if it helps wrinkles but the combination im using now, helps acne. I did use the original brush head and that caused more acne for me.
        I hope this helps.

  5. M Says:


    I used to use the manual face brushes with wooden handles (Hydrea London facial brush) and before that I used to use loofah pads everyday to wash my face with. I was happy as I think my skin got used to this manual face brush. I recently started using retin a. I am still washing my face with manual face brush and it gives my very good feeling. It gets rid of itchiness sometimes.

    Anyway, I bought Mia clarisonic couple of days ago.I started using it. It just doesn’t give me any feeling at all !!!! Instead one minute, I ran it for 3 minutes all over my face. It really didn’t give me the feeling I used to get from my manual face brush.

    Why is that so ? Everyone is talking about its goodness. But no one has ever compared the feeling with the manual face brush.

    May I have your thoughts ? Thanks,

    • Hi – thanks for your comments and questions. If I understand correctly your manual face brush is probably a lot rougher than the Mia Clarisonic and that is why you are experiencing different sensations when using the different brushes. The Clarisonic has many different types of brushes that you can purchase – from rough to gentle. You also can press harder or more gently against your face with the Clarisonic when you are using it. You did write that you are now using Retin-A. Please keep in mind that Retin-A makes your skin more sensitive to the sun and to other skincare products. Also remember that over exfoliation is bad for your skin. Now that you are using Retin-A you might want to use your manual facial brush or Clarisonic less so that you don’t over exfoliate your skin.

      • M Says:

        Hi,Thanks for the reply. Yes I don’t feel like the Mia is really doing anything better than my old manual brush ! Maybe it does a better job than washing face with hands, but honestly I even feel 1 minute wash is not even enough ! Sorry to ask, but do you think it is really cleaning the face better than this manual face brushes ? Most evidence I see all over the internet is not really comparing this product with the manual face brush. I am so confused to either keep the Mia or just pass it to a family member who can buy brush heads for it regularly. I wash my face with the brush and gentle cleanser (once a day) as I am just trying to get rid of the dried peeled skin as a result of retin A. The dosage is really low. I try to use it as an anti aging alternative.

      • It sounds to me as if you’ve answered your own question :). Since you love your manual brush and it isn’t too rough for your skin why don’t you just use that? The Clarisonic will clean your face better than just using your hands; it is great for people who wear a lot of make-up. But if you already have a brush that you love then go ahead and give away your Clarisonic as you suggested above. There doesn’t seem to be a point for you to keep using it if you don’t really like it.

  6. Jessamyn Says:

    Really helpful article. I have the cheapo Neutrogena version of the product and it’s so-so; I had been wondering about upgrading to the real thing. After reading this I will stick to what I’ve got (or upgrade to the Olay version) and keep using it only a few times a week in the evening per your suggestion. Thanks for saving me a bundle and putting all the research in one place!

  7. Mf Says:

    Hey y’all,

    I got my Mia 2 for Christmas and loved it at first! I always felt fresh and clean and for the first two weeks I had a baby soft face and super small pores! Before I knew it my face turned super red and hot and I broke out with actual acne, like the kind on proactive commercials and I’m terrified to leave the house. Before I used my Mia I had a few pimples here and there and sensitive skin and this week has been HELL ! I hate my Mia right now and hope this time will pass. My face is burning and looks soo bad I’ve never seen so bad acne. I really hope this didnt just make me acne prone); if you have sensitive skin DONT use a Mia .

  8. barb ciesko Says:

    I have rosacea and bought the olay cleansing brush. It really helped cleaning the pores on my chin. After using it once a day though, my skin became very itchy. Not worth putting up with the irritation for cleaner pores. I have very fair, dry skin and rosacea has been miserable, when I was young I had porcelain skin, but years of Sun exposure have taken a toll. My advice, Stay out of the Sun!!

  9. Anita Says:

    Amusing….. Clarisonic is designed with a slight oscillation at a clinically proven movement. You are supposed to glide the brush gently over the face without any pressure. If you press you negate the purpose of a sonic frequency. The bristles are rounded to be gentle and there are brushes for all skin types. You are NOT supposed to scrub, use exfoliants or use on open sores…..
    People have some common sense…..READ THE INSTRUCTIONS!!!!!

  10. I Love Mine! I Use It Twice A Day, My Skin Feels So Clean And Smooth, So Glad I Bought It!

  11. […] though, are cautious. Dr Leslie Baumann, for instance, believes that, while people with thicker skin can safely use the Clarisonic, […]

  12. gala daley Says:

    I’m dying for one. I’m 58 and have lots of completions for chemo. Research abd this is amazing prodict. I ve recommended to daughter and several friends whom purchased and love. You’ll probably have a new model by time I can afford.
    Fantastic little machine.

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