A version of this story originally appeared on the Strategist US.
“There is no way your hands could move this effectively” is how one dermatologist summed up the power of a really good facial cleansing brush, which, whether made from nylon bristles or silicone, typically operates on a battery charge and uses sonic frequency to deliver tiny vibrations that deep-clean your skin. Adds certified physician assistant Ami Dalal of Schweiger Dermatology Group, “You get that extra exfoliation and cleansing that you are unable to get with your bare hands or a washcloth.” She cautions, however, that “you do need to be very careful about over-cleansing and over-exfoliating when using a brush device,” and recommends limiting the use of most brushes to one to two times a week for those with sensitive skin. Many of our experts also mentioned that it’s important to clean the brushes regularly (and in the case of bristled brushes, to replace brush heads every three months). And some models, of course, are better than others — which is why we consulted eight skin-care and makeup professionals to find out their favorites, including those that are gentle enough for every day (twice daily) use, those that have guided timers for the different zones of your face, and those that stay charged for a full 650 washes.
Best overall facial cleansing brush
While a cleansing brush made of nylon bristles — like the classic Clarisonic — may be what first comes to mind when you think of these electronic devices, the latest iterations of the genre are now being made of silicone, and the Foreo Luna is at the forefront of this new breed. It was recommended by five of our experts, including Dr. Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, founder of Mudgil Dermatology, who prefers silicone brushes, “as they’re easier to clean,” he says. “It’s all about the silicone, rather than bristles, which is much more hygienic.” (Foreo even claims that its brushes are 35 times more hygienic than nylon bristles.) The others agree, all noting that silicone is resistant to bacteria and non-abrasive, making it ideal for all skin types. And while it may seem surprising that the top pick on our list is also the most expensive, here’s one of the first things you need to know about silicone cleansing brushes: You never have to change out the heads as you do with bristle-based models, which require replacing every couple of months at about £25 a pop. In the long run, you’re actually saving money. And the silicone is gentle enough on your skin that you can use it twice a day, every day.
The Luna device, which comes in multiple models and sizes, works by way of T-sonic pulsations (the “T” stands for “transdermal”) that pulse 8,000 times per minute through silicone touchpoints (Foreo’s equivalent of bristles) to gently but effectively “reach into your pores,” according to the brand, to remove dirt, oil, sweat, makeup residue, and dead skin cells. Dr. Sheel Desai Solomon, a board certified dermatologist, likes the Luna because it’s “very user friendly and non-abrasive to the skin.” Makeup artist Sofiia Strykova at Honey Artists agrees, saying that it’s “very gentle for all skin types,” and notes that, for the best results, you should use the brush twice daily with your favorite cleanser. Dalal also emphasizes that, as the most effective cleansing brushes do, “it allows skin-care products to absorb better into your skin after use.” For makeup artist Kornelija Slunjski, who likes to use it with a gel cleanser, says, “When I first started using it, I noticed a major difference in my skin’s texture.” It’s also convenient, not only because of its compact size but also the fact that it can stay charged for up to 650 uses: “For those who like low-maintenance product, it lasts for months after a full charge,” says Solomon. Another perk of the Luna 3? The back side features ridges that offer timed firming massage routines via the app that target the eyes, neck and décolletage area, cheeks, jawbones, and jawline. It’s worth noting, too, that all of these devices, whether silicone or not, are fully waterproof and can be taken into the shower.
Best (less-expensive) silicone facial cleansing brush
While Mudgil agrees that Clarisonic and Foreo brushes are the most popular models, he also likes this silicone device from PMD. Harnessing the power of SonicGlow technology, the brush operates with 7,000 vibrations per minute that gently break down dirt, oil, and other impurities from the skin. The PMD brush is odour-resistant, antibacterial, hypoallergenic, and (again) waterproof, thanks to the silicone, and (again) the brush head never needs to be replaced (unlike regular bristled brush heads). As far as frequency of use, Mudgil says that “once a week is really all folks need,” saying that “overuse is the main issue, which can irritate the skin, which in turn can stimulate acne and eczema.” He also says that it’s important to be mindful of what else is being used in your skin-care regimen. For example, “The use of retinoids or other exfoliants will make one more sensitive to the effects of facial brushing.” He suggests using a mild facial cleanser like Cetaphil or CeraVe instead.
Best facial cleansing brush with bristles
Even though they don’t have the novelty of silicone, Clarisonic’s facial cleansing brushes with their old-school bristle design also came highly recommended, which wasn’t surprising considering the fact that the company put sonic brushes on the map. Five of our experts approve, including Alexandra Gold, a certified physician assistant at Schweiger Dermatology Group, and Solomon, who says, “Even though the brush is soft and gentle, it is powerful when it comes to removing makeup and dirt.” That’s because it “boasts an oscillation technology that distributes 300 micro-massage movements every minute,” according to Solomon. “There are clinical studies to confirm that the Clarisonic brush removes harmful pollutants build-up better than manual cleansing, and also that the brush helps active skin care penetrate better.” (Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, also points to the fact that there is hard data to support the effectiveness of brushes like the Clarisonic.) And according to Solomon, using the brush consistently “enhances cell turnover and and makes skin smoother.”
Still, she warns against overuse, which “may impair the skin’s barrier function, ultimately drying it out and leading to possible irritation and inflammation,” adding that it’s a good idea to alternate with a manual brush or sponge (more on that below). Shara Strand, a makeup artist, agrees that Clarisonic brushes can be too rough for daily use. “I think the Clarisonic Mia is the best once in a while for taking off heavy makeup or masks,” she says, “but most people end up really using a lot of pressure when using the Clarisonic, pressing too hard into the skin.” (For this reason, Dalal also cautions against using any AHA acids in combination with it.) While the basic model has one mode and one speed, the smart version has multiple modes and a guided timer for each zone of your face. Our experts note that the brush should be cleaned regularly and replaced every couple of months for maximum efficacy.
Best facial cleansing brush for travel
The Luna Mini 2 may be smaller than the Luna 3 by about an inch in height (and rounder, as opposed to shaped like an oval), the silicone model that tops our list, but it still packs a lot of features into its compact size. The Mini, which delivers the same number of pulsations per minute as the full-size model, allows you to choose from eight intensities (the Luna Mini 3 will have 12 intensities when it is released), and has a dual-sided brush head offering three different zones with thicker and thinner touchpoints that accommodate all skin types, including normal, sensitive, and oily. It also stays charged for up to 300 uses on a single charge, making it ideal for travel. Worth noting: The Luna is additionally available in even smaller (and less expensive) sizes, including the Luna Go, Luna Play and Play Plus, and Fofo.
Best manual facial cleansing brush
Although Mudgil says that electrical brushes are “easier to use in a more precise manner,” he says that this manual brush from Sephora is “a good, inexpensive option.” It’s a flexible silicone pad with two sizes of tiny bristles that gently massage the face while providing a deeper clean than just using your hands. Like the sonic brushes, it helps exfoliate and soften the skin, but without the price tag. And because it’s small and more lightweight than your electronic versions, it can easily be taken with you to the gym or when you travel. [Editor’s note: Sephora don’t ship to the UK, but this Tarte exfoliator is very similar.]
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