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Are sonic facial cleansers better for your skin? Episode 52

Are those expensive “sonic” face brushes really better than just washing your face by hand? Tune in and find out.  

Show notes

Question of the week

Phillip from Germany asks…Is “sonic cleansing” the best way to clean your skin? Will these brushes harm your skin like the sharp particles in a scrub?

What is sonic cleansing?

Let’s start by explaining what “sonic cleansing” is. The term originally comes from the fact that the bristles on the head of the cleansing brush oscillate at a precision-tuned sonic frequency (which happens to be 127 Hz, if you’re keeping score at home). The first “sonic” skin care device was the Clarisonic brush which was created by the key inventor of the Soni-care toothbrush which used oscillating bristles to clean teeth.

The basic idea is that the rapid movement of the brush bristles gently deep cleans skin by removing makeup residue, clearing pores, and lightly exfoliating skin. In addition, some products claim that they increase the absorption of skin care ingredients.

You need to understand, however, that not all “sonic” cleansers are really sonic and that there’s not a lot of evidence that these expensive devices are much better than a simple wash cloth.

Oscillating nylon brushes

There are three basic types of sonic cleaners. We’ll describe each type and give a few examples.

The most common ones consist of a nylon brush that is driven by a battery operated motor. The biggest difference between these is whether the brush oscillates or rotates. There are also non-brush type cleansers. But let’s start with the oscillating brush.

This type uses a combination of moveable and stationary nylon bristles which are 10mm in length. The bristles move back and forth at a rate greater than 300 motions per second. This movement generates enough force to deep clean skin without damaging it. The true sonic cleansers are the ones that oscillate.

Clarisonic is the “mother of all sonic cleansers.” It’s the most expensive brand but they offer the widest range of products. They vary by speed and power and by which products and accessories they come with.

Their face cleansing collection starts with the Mia for $99, the Mia 2 for $149, the Plus for $225 and a Pro model that’s apparently only for sale to dermatologists and aestheticians. The main claim for the product line is that it “Cleanses 6x better than hands alone.”

They also have a special version designed to work with their skin brightening cream. It claims to provide “10x reduction of hyper pigmentation vs manual treatment.” But of course it’s sold with a product that works against hyper pigmentation so it’s not just the brush the provides the benefit.
They also offer the Pedi Sonic which is designed for your feet. It has a smoothing disk like a buffing stone which is designed to work on tough calloused skin.

Lastly there’s the Opal for $185. Instead of a simple cleanser this is a “sonic infusion” device that’s designed to improve the penetration of anti-aging ingredients.

Clinique Sonic System
Phillip mentioned the Clinique sonic system which, at $135, is slightly less expensive than the some of the Clarisonic line. It features an oscillating brush with a dual angled head and its claim to fame is its gentleness. See their website for a video showing it’s gentle enough to use on a flower.

Nutra Sonic Cleansing brush
And, finally, if you want true oscillation at a bargain then look for the Nutra Sonic brush which retails for about $100. Now let’s look at the rotating brushes.

Rotating nylon brushes

The rotating brush also uses 10mm nylon bristles but these move in a circular motion rather than back and forth. These products tend to be much cheaper and people have raised concerns whether they work as well.

Spa Sonic
As we explained the “sonic” name comes from the oscillation frequency. Of course that only applies to the oscillating brushes, not rotating brushes like this one. This is one of the pricier rotating brushes at $50 but their website claims it’s been tested and is comparable to the Clarisonic.

Proactive Deep Cleansing Brush
At $30, the Proactive Deep Cleansing brush is an affordable alternative although there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about the claims it makes.

Ulta Dual Action Cleansing system
Similarly, there’s the Ulta version for $25

Olay Pro-X Advanced Cleansing System
This one costs anywhere between $20 to $50 depending on which products you purchase with the brush.

Conair Facial Scrub Brush
Our final example of rotating brushes is the Conair Facial Scrub Brush which has the dubious distinction of allowing you to rotate the brush clockwise or counterclockwise. I don’t know WHAT difference that would make – it’s not like your skin can tell the difference. You can pick this up for only $15.

Non-brush cleansers

There are also “Non-brush” cleansers. These are less common – instead of a nylon brush they channel pulsations through soft silicone filaments or some sort of non woven pad. So even though the technology is different these are probably more similar to the oscillating brushes.

The pricey Luna, at $199, uses transdermal sonic pulsations to refresh the look and feel of your skin. Because it uses silicone touch-points it’s supposedly more hygienic than standard brush bristles. It claims to give you “Deeper, gentler cleansing for a healthy-looking glow” and to “Improve the absorption of your favorite skincare products.”

Neutrogena Wave Sonic Power Cleanser
And finally there’s the Neutrogena Wave Sonic Power Cleanser.  The motor vibrates a disposable non woven pad and it retails for less than $15.

Are sonic cleansers effective and safe?

All these products can help clean your skin and they’re kind of fun to use but there are two key questions:

1.) Are they sufficiently more effective than “regular” face washing to justify their price?

2.) Can all this oscillation and rotation actually damage your skin?

To answer those questions we looked for evidence that demonstrates the safety and efficacy of these products. Unfortunately, there’s no independent scientific review that compares all these products on all these attributes. However, we were able to find some evidence, including some peer reviewed articles, which should help guide your decision whether or not to purchase one of these devices.

Evidence for cleansing efficacy

First, there’s some evidence from the manufacturers (which always has to be looked at skeptically since the data are self-serving.) But here’s the proof that Clarisonic puts forth:

They conducted a half-face study in which they applied makeup spiked with a fluorescing agent. Half of the face was washed manually and half was washed with the device.  There are pictures on their website taken under blacklight which causes the makeup to glow and you can clearly see that almost all makeup is gone on one Clarisonic side. Apparently this is the study which support the “Cleanses 6x better than hands alone” claim.

They also conducted a study shows that use of the product reduces pore size in “hard to reach places” but it didn’t compare the Clarisonic to anything. Therefore, this study is not a compelling reason to buy the product.


P&G has done one of the most comprehensive studies on facial cleansing brushes. They measured 5 parameters comparing brush cleansing to manual cleansing and in some of those parameters they directly compared rotating and oscillating brush heads (remember, they make an inexpensive rotating brush product.)

P&G did a study comparing rotating and oscillating brush heads and found “Rotating and Oscillating implement had parity cleansing results regardless of cleanser.” The brushes with cleanser did a better job than manual cleansing alone.

4 of these measurements where related to cleansing efficacy:

Make-Up Removal
Objective: Evaluate cleansing efficacy of the cleansing implements compared to manual cleansing

Results showed rotating and oscillating brushes cleaned better than hands alone. No significant difference between the brushes.

Stratum Corneum Exfoliation
Objective: Measure stratum corneum exfoliation of the cleansing implements via DHA exfoliation over four treatments.

Results showed both brushes exfoliated better than manual cleansing. No difference between brushes.

Stratum Corneum Hydration
Objective: Evaluate effects of cleansing to skin hydration when a topical moisturizer is applied after use. This test just compared their brush to manual cleansing. Clarisonic was NOT tested. Why? Maybe they knew they couldn’t achieve parity and didn’t want to have negative data on file.

Results showed the rotating brush provided better hydration than the cleanser alone, assuming a moisturizer was applied immediately after cleansing. Again, there was no comparison to Clarisonic. The report states that “The lead hypothesis for increased hydration following use of the cleansing implement is that penetration of hydrating ingredients is enhanced via exfoliation.”

Cleansing Effects on Facial Bacteria Population
Objective: Evaluate effects of a facial cleansing implement to facial bacterial populations, tested on women with acne. Again, Clarisonic was not tested.

Results showed use of the rotating brush decreased bacterial population. Although no direct anti-acne claims are made the presumption is that if it removes more bacteria you’ll get less zits.

Other manufacturers:

Other companies don’t provide much information. Clinique shows a video to prove their brush is safe enough to use on a flower petal but there’s no hard data. And Nutra sonic makes same claims as Clarisonic but don’t present data of their own so my GUESS is that they’re assuming equivalency but didn’t do any of their own testing. Or maybe ALL these companies have their own data and have just chosen not to share it. There’s no way to tell. But the good news is that there are a few independent studies that provide additional information.

Independent scientific studies:
We found two studies by cosmetic science rock star and friend of the Brains, Dr. Zoe Daelos. In her study titled “An Efficacy Assessment of a Novel Skin-Cleansing Device in Seborrheic Dermatitis” she notes that plain old soap and washcloth may be fine for people with normal skin but people with skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis (and others) may require specialized cleansing to deal with their symptoms. That’s because regular cleansing may lead to facial scaling and because manual washing doesn’t clean as well around unusual skin structures. So this indicates there sonic cleansers DO provide a special benefit for some people.

In her second study, “Re-examining methods of facial cleansing” she compared the following: a lipid-free cleanser, a foaming syndet-based face wash, an abrasive polyethylene beaded scrub, a face cloth, and the sonic skincare brush. So this is the most direct comparison we’ve seen. Her results showed that the sonic skincare brush removed the most makeup from the skin, followed by the wash cloth, then the scrub, the syndet-based face wash, and then the lipid-free cleanser. She concluded that the bristles on the sonic skincare brush were able to “traverse the dermatolglyphics, facial pores and facial scars more adeptly than any other cleansing method.” Draelos also commented on 10 individuals who had various dermatologic conditions, including acne vulgaris, pseudofolliculitis barbae and seborrheic dermatitis, and found that the sonic skincare brush provided “excellent cleansing on the uneven skin surface caused by these conditions.”

So it looks like a sonic cleanser can be “better” than just using a washcloth but there’s still no answer to how much better and if that difference is big enough to justify spending $100 to $200.

Evidence for gentleness

Again, let’s look at the information provided by the manufacturers as well as the scientific literature.

What companies say
The P&G study was the only one to address this directly. One portion of their study evaluated “effects of a rotating brush on stratum corneum barrier function.” This could be considered a measure of mildness because the more intact the skin barrier is, the better it will seal in moisture. If the brush was creating little tears and fissures then more moisture would leak out.

Results showed moisture loss was not increased as a result of using the rotating brush vs a cleanser alone. They said they would expect that the oscillating type would have similar results but again they didn’t test against Clarisonic. They also said that “Low irritation scores from a consumer study with the rotating implement provides supporting evidence” but they did now show this data.

What the scientific literature says
There are two data points in the independent studies that we found which indicate these sonic cleansers are gentle. The first is from “Clinical-Efficacy-of-a-Novel-Sonic-Infusion-System-for-Periorbital-Rhytides” which states the device tested generates “a force powerful enough to unclog pores, but low enough to minimize strain to the skin.” Be aware, though, that this study was done on the non-brush type cleansers (like the Luna and the Opal.)

And finally, Michael Gold, another dermatologist has written that the sonic brushes “enhance cleansing of the surface while being gentle enough for at least twice daily use without compromising the skin barrier.”

So based on the little data we could find there doesn’t APPEAR to be any cause for concern about these products damaging your skin.

The Beauty Brains bottom line:

So what does all this mean? If you have “normal” skin and you wash your face diligently with a washcloth, you may not see much additional benefit from any of these devices. BUT, if you have skin conditions like those that Dr. Draelos mentioned, you may be able to more effectively and more gently clean your skin using a sonic cleanser.

Then again, you may just like the aesthetic experience of a pampering face scrub. That alone can drive greater compliance – if you like using the device the chances are that you’ll wash your face longer and more thoroughly. In fact, some of the brushes even have a built in timer that tell you how long to wash each part of your face.

If that’s the case, then do your research to make sure you get a brush that doesn’t feel too hard or too soft for your skin and that it doesn’t splash soap and water all over the place (as some of these products do.) And of course, decide how much you want to spend.

The Clarisonic is the gold standard (because they pioneered the technology and have done their own testing) but their top of the line product is very costly. Perhaps a good compromise would be to start with their $99 model and see how you like it. It’s up to you, or up to Phillip in this case, and hopefully he’ll write back to us from Germany and let us know what he decides to do!






Draelos ZD. Re-examining methods of facial cleansing. Vol 18, No 2; Cos Dermatol. 2005: 173-175.

Draelos ZD. An Efficacy Assessment of a Novel Skin-Cleansing Device in Seborrheic Dermatitis


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Quiz answers:

  1. FDA must approve cosmetics before they go to market. F
  2. Using mascara the wrong way can cause blindness. T
  3. Tattoos used to be permanent but now lasers are an easy, reliable way to erase them. F
  4. Cruelty free or not tested on animals means that no animal testing was done on the product and its ingredients. F
  5. There are non-animal tests that can replace all animal testing of cosmetics. F
  6. If a product is labeled as all natural or organic it is probably hypo allergenic. F
  7. Even if a product is labeled hypo allergenic it may contain substances that can cause allergic reactions for some people. T
  8. Choosing products with the claim dermatologist tested is a way to avoid an allergic reaction or other skin irritation. F
  9. Lots of lipsticks on the market contain dangerous amounts of lead. F
  10. About 60 to 70% of what you put on your skin is absorbed into your body. F

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Sneza October 14, 2014, 10:15 am

    Thank you for the excellent show notes!!

  • Sneza October 14, 2014, 10:16 am

    Oh, I meant to say, too, that I laughed out loud at the descriptor “friend of the Brains.” :^D

    • Randy Schueller October 14, 2014, 10:48 am

      Ha, I liked that too. I’m thinking of making it an official acronym of the show: FOB. (Friend Of the Brains.)

  • Chelsea October 14, 2014, 11:03 am

    I bought and returned a clarisonic brush. It seemed to increase the incidence of broken capillaries for me.

    • Randy Schueller October 14, 2014, 1:07 pm

      Very interesting, Chelsea! How do your normally wash your face?

      • Chelsea October 14, 2014, 1:57 pm

        Usually just with my hands and a gentle cleanser, after using a micellar water and a cotton pad to remove makeup and sunscreen. I have used konjac sponges with success as well.

    • Alejandra October 16, 2014, 1:02 am

      Same here, it increased the number of broken capillaries, the derm adviced me to stop using it and try with a wash cloth.

      • Randy Schueller October 16, 2014, 6:55 am

        Karen and Ale: Very interesting – I’m surprised none of the papers by derms didn’t mention this issue.

    • Karen October 16, 2014, 1:08 am

      I also found that using my Clarisonic visibly increased broken capillaries but my skin is also verrrry delicate. As a result, I now only use it to exfolliate in the shower.

  • Amber October 14, 2014, 1:28 pm

    I concede that this was an interesting article, but why has there been so little investment into proof-reading and typography?

    This kind of lazy writing gives an unfortunately amateurish feel to the Beauty Brains’ website, leaving me with less faith in the writer’s authority.

    • admin October 14, 2014, 4:58 pm

      Amber: I apologize for the sloppiness but here’s the reason: When we published short blog posts to go with our podcasts several people complained that they wanted more details. So, in an attempt to please them, we’re trying to transcribe over 30 minutes of conversation into a blog post. We figured it was better to capture the essence of the podcast discussion rather than worry about correcting grammar, etc. We’ll try to be more careful in the future.

      • Nema October 17, 2014, 1:59 pm

        Your expertise is chemistry, not writing or editing. Please don’t spend too much time or money on proofreading, and keep the free science info coming!

        • Randy Schueller October 17, 2014, 3:19 pm

          Nema: Thanks so much! I felt really bad after reading Amber’s complaint but your comment makes me feel better!

  • nadine October 14, 2014, 2:51 pm

    Thank you. I guest I can just go ahead will mu proactiv brush then

  • Laura October 14, 2014, 3:37 pm

    Interesting, this exactly reflects my experience with the clarisonic. I’ve used a washcloth to clean my face for a couple years now, and bought a clarion because everyone raved how great it was. I noticed no differecent at all! I figured it must be because I’d already been getting mild exfoliation from my washcloth, and everyone excited about clarisonic must have been using just their hands.

  • Michelle (Lab Muffin) October 14, 2014, 4:09 pm

    Thanks for the comprehensive analysis! My understanding is that proper sonic cleansing (e.g. dirty glassware in a sonicator bath) works by cavitation, which doesn’t sound possible (or pleasant!) on something as soft as skin. I personally own a $10 version.

    • admin October 14, 2014, 5:00 pm

      Hmm. “Cavitation Cleansing.” Sounds catchy, you may have invented an entirely new category, Michelle!

  • Tobin Dean October 14, 2014, 5:32 pm

    I have used the Olay Brush and exfoliating cleanser which sits in the shower untouched 99% of the time. I have reverted back to Neutrogena’s Gentle Cleanser mixed with a bit of baking soda. This is a perfect solution for me it exfoliates and leaves my face smooth and soft without all the fuss and expense. I get many complements on how youthful my skin looks for 54 years of usage. 😉

  • villanova October 15, 2014, 3:19 am

    Fantastic talk guys – lots of detail and thanks especially for digging up the scientific papers (such as they are). I had always wondered about a sonic brush (as I have used a Sonicare toothbrush for many years and LOVE it), but seeing as I don’t wear foundation often, I think I’ll stick with my flannel for now! Shame – you probably won’t get Clarisonic as a sponsor now, but at least you’re promoting objective science and cutting through the bull s**t claims.

  • Kathryn October 15, 2014, 7:40 am

    So I was wondering if you ever came across any kind of difference between the sonic functionality of the Mia v. Mia 2 for Clarisonic. From their website’s claims, the only difference seems to be in customizability: speed options and power options. Otherwise, the base technology is identical. Does this sound right?

    • Randy Schueller October 15, 2014, 8:37 am

      Hi Kathryn. Yes, that was our impression too. The basic technology is the same.

  • Fernanda October 15, 2014, 2:54 pm

    Hey guys! I’m very interested in formulating skin and haircare products and one of my main goals in life is to learn how to know exactly what a product is by reading only the INCI, so not cheating by looking at the packaging, marketing claims, front label and so on.

    I work in a cosmetics store and sometimes ask my colleagues to test me on this – and some systems are very easy to recognize from the active ingredients such as shampoos, deodorants, hair colors, depilatory creams, sunless tanners and nail polishes, but I’m having a hard time memorizing the connection and INCI-position of some other raw materials in the formulas, especially within the color cosmetics range.

    Obviously telling the difference between a hand and body cream is difficult, as well as a deep or normal conditioner which both basically have the exact same raw materials in the same order.

    Do you have any advice on how I can expand my formula memorizing skills, and do you know if there is any website where I can read only INCIs and try guessing what the product is?

    My friends and colleagues are quite tired of me asking them to quiz me since they don’t share the same geekiness or can’t read the small print or pronounciate the names. Thanks!

    • Randy Schueller October 16, 2014, 6:57 am

      Fernanda: This is a great question for the forum on Perry’s other website (www.chemistscorner.com). He has a LOT of cosmetic chemists on his site who might be able to help you.

  • Fernanda October 16, 2014, 2:27 pm

    Thanks Randy, I will try that!

  • Nema October 17, 2014, 1:49 pm

    I tend to get blackheads and some zits, and have dry skin and wrinkles elsewhere on my face, and sometimes get rashes and sebhoreic dermatitis from allergies. I get great results with the Clarisonic brush. It cleans around the edges of my nose and under my eyes, helps prevent zits and makes my skin look and feel smoother. Sometimes I put unscented mineral oil on my face and use the Clarisonic with just that–no soap or water. Then I wash it off with a gentle cleanser (Free & Clear liquid cleanser). That method reduces redness and dryness and makes my skin glow. Sometimes I put my BHA exfoliating liquid (Paul’s Choice) on washed skin and use the Clarisonic to make it penetrate more deeply. I even use the Clarisonic body brush on my fingernails if they get extra dry. I clean them with it, then use it to rub in lotion or cream, to get it into all the nooks and crannies. My Clarisonic was a gift–not sure if it’s worth paying so much more than the cheaper oscillating brushes. The cheapest great exfoliating tool I’ve found is those synthetic “beauty cloths” (like the Salux Beauty Skin Cloth), and scrubbing gloves (like $5.00 Exfoliating Hydro Gloves from Earth Therapeutics), which you can get at drugstores and dollar stores. I like the fun and luxury of the Clarisonic, but if it breaks, before I’d pay $100+ to replace it, I’d do a month-long trial of cheap exfoliating cloths and gloves + BHA + mineral oil cleansing, and see if my skin looked any worse or better.

  • amy October 20, 2014, 3:56 pm

    meh. I think we are way too obsessed with sanitizing everything. I believe this level of cleansing just strips your skin and can be irritating, even if you use a gentle cleanser and soft brush head.

    • Maggie Mahboubian October 24, 2014, 1:01 am

      I’m with you on this one, Amy. Never took to water based cleansers and have used plant based oils for decades. I prefer maintaining my healthy probiotic colonies.

      • PaxRomana March 2, 2015, 3:18 am

        Maggie,..what did you mean by probiotic colonies? Do you mean the brush will strip thise off? Just curious as I’m a big fan of probiotics like green vibrance.

  • Azrael Gabbana October 23, 2014, 8:49 pm

    This is a new innovation for skin care. But I agree that not all sonic treatments can really clear out the impurities in your skin. Once in a while you should take moderation with these treatments I guess.

  • jicky December 18, 2014, 7:20 pm

    Great article. As I only use a washcloth I’m happy to see that it is the second best way of cleansing. I gave up commercial cleansers this year due to my skin getting too dry. I now use an edible oil (usually evoo) at night, especially if I’m wearing make up. My skin is so much softer now.

  • PaxRomana March 2, 2015, 3:20 am

    All this talk about these brushes,..what ever happened to the great popular buff pads in the 80s?

    • Randy Schueller March 2, 2015, 6:15 am

      I believe they were recycled and turned into parachute pants.

      • Fiona March 7, 2016, 6:29 pm


    • Brigadoon June 13, 2015, 11:04 am

      Yes your correct – BUFF PUFF is the one I am ordering TODAY!! I saw a woman at the mall (ran after her to find out what she used on her perfect fabulous translucent skin) She has used the Buff Puff for YEARS – Also, Clinique bar soap, Clairifying #2, & the Buff Puff. then she said “Not bad for a 79 years young gal!! -WOW! – I did lots of research on the Buff Puff and found the 3M company made it with very very special fibers that do not harm the dermas of the skin & does lots of other things to stimulate the production of new cells etc. You have to have the drug store order the original buff puff – most of them do not carry it. (I ordered extra soft and regular and also the one for the body).

  • Brigadoon June 13, 2015, 10:55 am

    What do you think of the good old fashion Buff Puff – the science behind it states: It does NOT hurt the skin dermas and promotes collagen etc etc – I spoke to a lady at the mall the other day (actually I almost ran after her when I saw how Beautiful & fabulous her skin is – I wanted her secret) She was very kind and told me she has used Clinique bar soap, & Clinique Clairifying #2 and the Buff Puff for years & years (then she said: “Not bad for a 79 year old!!) WOW! – I did some research on the Buff Puff & found out it was created by 3M and is still owned by them – from the info I was able to find – The Buff Puff still out does all of the brushes, scrubs etc. –

    • Randy Schueller June 13, 2015, 1:27 pm

      I’m not aware of any data that proves the Buff Puff out does all other brushes. Can you send us a link so we can check it out? Thanks!

  • rubab July 2, 2015, 3:00 pm

    What about gold facial treatments ,do they really work?

    • Randy Schueller July 2, 2015, 3:47 pm

      We’ve never seen evidence that gold containing products provide any special benefit.

  • Eric August 22, 2015, 11:47 pm

    Gold is of no benefit to skin…..the only published data concerning gold in skincare treatments and products , revealed that it can actually cause contact dermatitis.

  • Natasha September 9, 2015, 10:43 am

    Great article – thanks! Any insights on ‘sonic’ brushes that don’t turn? I bought one from silk’n – and it has the same shape heads, but the unit vibrates (I’m guessing at a speed which constitutes ‘sonic’ speed). It has the typical ergonomic structure as the clarisonic – with similar brush head. Bonus is that the unit can be used for facial massage, buffing (absorbtion of topical solution?), and a weekly deep clean with a slightly ‘stronger’ bristle. I have congested acne-prone skin – hormones I’m sure of it – and find that my skin quality has improved with a 1x a day application (using the same cleanser). Placebo effect? I don’t think so – and my acne is mildly better and my hyperpigmentation is also mildly better (I have melasma) after 6 months of (almost daily) use. I was wondering if I should ‘upgrade’ now that I know my skin has excellent tolerance for this cleaning method. PS IMO the proliferation of fine milled pigments and minerals in makeup over the past 1.5 decades makes cleansing the skin effectively harder which exacerbates clogging/build-up

  • Lisa D December 4, 2015, 10:03 am

    Fabulous article! I recently discovered my sudden allergic reactions to multiple cosmetics were a direct result of over cleansing/exfoliating my face (and eye area!) daily or more with the Olay Pro x spin brush (I also usedan an exfoliator with it every 2 days).

    I finally got medical advice and was asked about my skin care routine. I have really sensitive skin, and was just told I should NEVER use the brush near my eyes, with an exfoliating cleanser or more than twice a week. Your article agrees with the medical advice I received. My skin has been a mess for 6 months, so I’m happy to finally solve the mystery and can stop spending a fortune on needless new cosmetics and skin care products.

    Anyone with sensitive skin: If you use any of these brushes (save the Luna), only do so once or twice a week with a gentle cleanser or you may over exfoliate and damage your skin (possibly making it hyper sensitive and susceptible to allergic reactions/dermatitis), and never use it around your eyes (I’m sure most already know this).

    • Randy Schueller December 4, 2015, 10:13 am

      Hi Lisa. I’m glad you found the cause of your problem. Good luck with your skin cleansing routine!

  • Sonya January 20, 2016, 3:54 pm

    While the information about sonic oscillating cleansers may be accurate, the remainder of this article is factually dubious. As a scientist myself I am appalled with the sources you use to support your article. 2 of the sources could not be found at all:
    1) http://www.cosderm.com/fileadmin/qhi_archive/ArticlePDF/CD/019110671.pdf
    2) Draelos ZD. Re-examining methods of facial cleansing. Vol 18, No 2; Cos Dermatol. 2005: 173-175.

    The remaining sources you list are directly funded by the companies which manufacture the devices in question, which is disgusting. This may fool a lay audience but in the eyes of real science, your “evidence” is unsupported and your entire analysis is grossly biased. At least include a disclaimer to this effect somewhere. Shameful. But you’re in the pocket of industry yourself, so this is hardly surprising.

    • Randy Schueller January 20, 2016, 3:58 pm

      Hi Sonya. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m sorry that the links are broken, I’ll look into that.

      Regarding your other comments: maybe you’re not that familiar with the beauty industry but a LOT of the research is sponsored by the companies in question. I agree that’s less than ideal but that’s all we’ve got in some cases. We’re not trying to fool anyone – we’re trying to open their eyes and prevent them from being fooled. For what it’s worth I did say this in the article:

      “First, there’s some evidence from the manufacturers (which always has to be looked at skeptically since the data are self-serving.)”

      And as far as your statement that we’re “in the pocket of industry” is concerned, I’d like to see your evidence for that. As far as I’m aware, the industry doesn’t pay us anything for what we write.

      If you find better research on sonic cleansers can you please share it with us? We’re always happy to update anything we write when we become aware of additional information.

      • Maggie March 16, 2018, 10:59 pm

        As another scientist, I actually noticed the writer’s caveat about who sponsored what study, and it was clearly stated to keep that in mind when assessing the data. I also find that some data is better than no data, as well, there was a frequent call for updated information etc., within the numerous responses given. No need to be a science snob. and to call him out publicly was in poor taste, especially since it reveals you did not do your homework – reading his paper thoroughly. I applaud a scientist keeping the load of crap down on the internet, particularly when taken as an opportunity to educate the non-scientist about how to detect the possibility of said crap. However, what good is served by scolding someone trying to bring an apparently secretive and misleading industry into the light of day for scrutiny. So, author, thanks for your work… keep on keeping on!

    • Perry January 20, 2016, 5:22 pm

      Thanks for your comments Sonya. As a scientist yourself, I’m sure you know that the source of funding for research does not automatically negate the findings of the study. Certainly, we need to take a more skeptical look at the conclusions, but funding source is just one of many factors when considering the validity of a source.

      Perhaps you didn’t read the bottom line conclusion but we say that for most people using a wash cloth is the best option. If you think that puts us in the pocket of the Big Washcloth industry, you are mistaken.

      You are also rude & could have made your point in a nicer way.

  • Glenda February 12, 2016, 1:09 pm

    I have been considering purchasing an oscillating or spin brush for some time now and found your information informative, particularly the comments. I heard that the rotating brushes pulled on the skin more than the sonic and this action could increase wrinkles over time. I also heard that the rotating could increase broken capillaries however I have a friend that had to discontinue using her Clarisonic due to an increase in broken capillaries.
    Given that I am prone to broken capillaries and my only other skin conditions are typical aging, enlarged pores and sebaceous hyperplasia, I think I’ll stick with micellar water ( love it), cleanser and washcloth (supporting that big washcloth industry).
    Thanks for the information!

  • Hmmm May 24, 2016, 11:40 am

    On QVC Clairisonic claims that their brush irrigates pores. Would that make it like an enema for your pores?

    At any rate I’m not sold.

    Acne made me heavy handed for a long time. I’m thinking that you wouldn’t get tears/stretching of the skin with a slippery cleanser and very light touch. I imagine the tears/stretching if they occur would still occur with an oscillating brush. It seems like if enough pressure were applied one would tear and stretch their skin in a back and forth manner.

  • Elena July 10, 2016, 1:59 pm


    So many informations… WELL DONE.
    I am thinking of bying one. Bottom line, witch one should I take, clearsonic or foreo? How big is the differente between thees T Sonic pulsation for thees two brands?

    • Randy Schueller July 11, 2016, 7:33 am

      I’m glad you enjoyed this post. All the information we have is already included so I’m sorry but we don’t know anything more about the difference between the two brands.

  • kathleen January 10, 2017, 4:25 pm

    I personally love the sonic facial cleanser by Monsia 🙂

  • DL_2612 August 2, 2017, 4:00 am

    This post is very useful for me. Some of my friends recommended me sonic cleanser and said about magical results of it 🙂 After reading post and comment, I have decided to save my money and bought new wash cloth instead.

  • Stefany August 18, 2017, 4:12 pm

    Even though this blog was published in 2014, it is still the most informative article I’ve seen about all these sonic brushes.

    I actually have used two brushes – the Oil of Olay brush, which I think I purchased for around $35 CAD about 6 or 7 years ago, and I recently (as in a month ago) purchased a Clarisonic (MIA 2) for around $130 CAD.

    I have very oily skin, am acne prone, suffer with eczema. My skin is very, very sensitive (as in even non heated wax can rip off skin on my upper lip or eyebrow area). Though I am oily, I can get very dry around the sides of my nose, my chin and in between my eyes and can experience flaking in those areas. I also wear make up regularly.

    What I can say is that my experience in moving from hand washing to using the Olay brush was amazing. I saw an instant difference in facial cleansing when I wore make-up. How? I wash my face twice a day (in the morning and before bed). When I hand washed before bed, that would be when I was removing the day’s make up and dirt. I would use a washcloth to dry my face after and I would see the make up residue on the cloth. The following morning when I would wash my face, and use a wash cloth to dry, I would often still see make-up residue on the cloth. For me being acne prone, the risk of sleeping all night with leftover make up on my face definitely meant it would be shortly followed by a break out. When I started using the Olay brush, I never saw make-up residue on my face cloth’s in the morning ever again.

    I also experienced better exfoliation that I didn’t get with my hands and face cloths, around my chin, nose and in between the eye area. I did sometimes notice that if I put too much pressure or left the brush in an area for too long that it would irritate my skin, so there was some learning in how long to wash my face and how much pressure to exert.

    Switching to the clarisonic, after a month of use I can say I do see a difference in my skin from the Olay brush. I don’t know if it’s a huge difference yet because it has only been a month. Maybe the timer on the brush helps and the brush head is softer than the Olay brush too so that may have something to do with it. The timer took some getting used too, sometimes it seems too short in a specific area that I am accustomed too in my skin care routine.

    The feeling is certainly different. With the Olay brush you could definitely feel the brush turning around, the Clarisonic is like you almost get a bit of a massage. I also noticed that I used less product from hand to Olay brush, and even less from Olay brush to Clarisonic. (So maybe you’ll save more money on product and have it for much longer because you end up using less?)

    I get these tiny pimples on the side of my chin, that I can never get rid of and I would work that area pretty hard with my Olay brush (maybe that contributed to the flaking that I experience there?) . I have noticed that they seem to be going away – so that is pretty awesome. I also changed my skincare lines (from Vichy to Lancome), so maybe that is also playing a role in the effects that I am seeing too. I clearly did a huge skin care overhaul last month, so I either I graduated in my skin care habits or I’m a sucker that can easily be manipulated to buy more expensive things!

    I’m not yet 100% certain about the Clarisonic (my Olay brush is still in my closet in case I have to haul it back out), but maybe I’ll come back in a few months and see if overtime it has actually made a significant enough difference that it warranted that exponential spend.

  • Elizabeth September 7, 2017, 5:28 am

    I am concerned with bacteria buildup on the bristles of these devices. Doesn’t bacteria get reintroduced to the skin each time your brush gets reused. Wouldn’t it be better to use a smooth surfaced scrub which gets washed away after exfoliation? I even have a problem with wash clothes building up bacteria because I can smell a faint mildew smell even on wash clothes that have been freshly cleaned in a washing machine.

    • Randy Schueller September 7, 2017, 7:14 am

      I assume that the brush heads can be cleaned well enough to control bacteria. Some brands also sell replacement brush heads so you could just put on a new one every so often.

  • Martine Pasquale September 7, 2017, 11:31 pm

    I would like to know if the Pop Sonic, face cleansing device, can be used on someone who has an implanted, neurostimulator device.
    Does it send out electronic pulses? Because if so, then it cannot be used if you have an implanted device, such as a neurostimulator or pacemaker.
    I cannot seem to find this information, & QVC has a 50% off sale today which I would like to take advantage of. It is a silicone, leaf shaped cleanser. Thank you for your help. Martine, 9/7/2017

    • Randy Schueller September 8, 2017, 8:31 am

      My understanding is that these products work by pulsating brushes no electronic pulses. However, you should contact the company if you have medical concerns.

  • Stacie December 11, 2017, 7:31 pm

    I am kinda in the boat with Nena, but my skin is a little different. I have very oily skin in the warmer months and crazy behaving combination skin in the winter. I used a Clarasonic for over 10 years. I recently bought a Pop Sonic Leaflet. I made this purchase because I am tired of purchasing brushes for the Clarasonic, and I have to think of what is best for my family. There is my husband (a sonic user as well), and we have 3 sons. Before we know it the boys will be reaching the age where they may need more than a washcloth. A four pack of brushes will go very quickly with all of us.
    I have had the new device for eight days now. So far, I am receiving the same results, and I love the fact that I will never have to purchase another part for it. My husband just got one today, and I cannot wait for him to share his opinions on our new tool.

  • dzozzi January 17, 2019, 8:20 am

    Thanks for the helpful article! I have used Foreo cleanser device and I love it so mush. My skin is thin and dry but after using this device with skincare products my face becomes soft and moisturized. I use it only morning time.