The Expert-Approved Way to Stop Going Overboard With Your Cleansing Brush

Nykia Spradley
The Expert-Approved Way to Stop Going Overboard With Your Cleansing Brush
Photo: Getty Images. Design: Allison Kahler/STYLECASTER.

Take a quick spin around the beauty aisle and you’ll notice there is a hell of a lot of cleansing tool options available, whether it’s the more recognizable Clarisonic Brush and Foreo, or lesser-known versions of the same model. Either people are just focused on learning how to use a cleansing brush or beauty brands have some intel that we don’t about washing our faces. Either way, this first step in most skincare routines is one that can easily go left.

Add a tool to the mix and your cooperative skin quickly can go from glorious to problematic. If not done properly, not enough, or even too often, you may be setting yourself up for some major skin concerns down the line. Here’s what a dermatologist has to say about adding a cleansing tool to your regimen.

Beyond Cleansing

Most facial cleansing tools not only help break down and work away makeup and grime, but many also do some level of exfoliation. So depending on how soft or coarse the bristles, you may end up over-scrubbing your skin. “When choosing an exfoliator such as a skin tool, make sure you’re using something gentle. If the cleaning is too harsh, it can cause irritation, redness and dry skin,” says Dr. Ellen Marmur, dermatologist and founder of Marmur Metamorphosis Skincare.

The good news is that particularly during the winter when the dead, dry skin is piling up on the upper layers of your exterior, a soft cleansing tool can be used more often than say, a chemical peel, to help buff it away. Skin can’t really handle chemical exfoliators too often. “A gentle cleansing tool can be much more mild on the skin than a chemical exfoliant depending on each person’s skin sensitivity,” says Marmur.

Too Much of Anything Is Never Good

As with any beauty habit, go overboard and your skin will definitely let you know. Marmur says that some of the negative effects of using a cleansing tool are usually seen when you use it too often or too harshly. It can throw off your skin’s natural balance, which you might see in the form of more breakouts, redness, dryness and other forms of irritation. Marmur notes that those with rosacea, eczema, acne and general redness and dryness should avoid these tools with any bit of frequency. Also, if you’re on a retinol regimen, use hydrating cleansers and toners, or in the middle of any chemical exfoliating treatments, it’s best to skip the tool altogether.

If none of the above apply and you are opting for a tool, Marmur recommends only using it once a week, and don’t scrub too hard — it’s not necessary. If your skin is on the drier side, you may get the urge to use it more often to slough away any roughness, but it’s not necessary. “Your skin does not need to be over-cleansed or exfoliated and gentle methods work best,” she adds. Remember that the brush head itself needs to be cleaned or replaced regularly so that any bacteria doesn’t transfer back to your skin. “One fun beauty hack is to clean the brush with a mouthwash like Listerine,” says Marmur.

Model with Wet Hair


Stick With One Exfoliation Method

Marmur’s cleansing and exfoliating theory is that less is more. She says that the best results are seen when using a very gentle cleanser as needed. “Multiple, simultaneous cleansing methods are tempting, but not a great idea. This is exfoliation overload where the skin can become dry and patchy, which will ultimately lead to more breakouts and an irritated complexion,” says Marmur.

You should avoid combining alpha-hydroxy or beta hydroxy-acids or enzymes with cleansing tools. Your skin can only handle so much, and you may be setting yourself up for lots of redness and irritation. Everyone’s skin is different, so pay attention to any changes and dial back when needed. Marmur also suggests using a restoring, protecting and moisturizing serum after your tool, such as the Revive Serum from Marmur Metamorphosis ($85).

Choosing Can Be Tricky

When deciding on whether or not to use a tool, consider what your skin needs at the moment. Mechanical exfoliation — brushes, scrubs, microneedling, microdermabrasion, and hydrafacials–will remove dead skin cells and possibly loosen debris that can cause whiteheads and blackheads. Chemical exfoliation — chemical acids, enzyme peels, and some masks — will chemically dissolve both the dead skin at surface level and can also reduce inflammation, kill bacteria, and promote new collagen beneath the skin.

Simplicity Is Safe

If it’s makeup removal that you’re after, Marmur’s advice is to take it back to the basics by using a combo of liquid makeup remover or micellar water, your fingers, and a washcloth. Use the micellar and fingers to massage off any mascara, foundation, and other makeup. Follow it with a warm, soft washcloth to rub it all away without disrupting your skin’s balance. “I am passionately against using disposable wipes for everyday use of any type due to the harshness to the skin as well as the excess waste and negative impact on our environment,” she concludes.

Ahead, top-rated cleansing brushes for your routine.

conair true glow The Expert Approved Way to Stop Going Overboard With Your Cleansing Brush


Three types of bristling systems in one water-resistant, deep-cleansing tool.

foreo luna play plus The Expert Approved Way to Stop Going Overboard With Your Cleansing Brush


This one is the same size as a cotton pad but packs the same power of the bigger LUNA Play tool.

clarisonic mia brush The Expert Approved Way to Stop Going Overboard With Your Cleansing Brush


The most popular no-fuss, user-friendly cleansing tool, thanks to one mode and one minute of vibration.

pmd clean The Expert Approved Way to Stop Going Overboard With Your Cleansing Brush


With 7,000 vibrations per minute, you’re getting a gentle scrub with deep-cleansing benefits.

ulta sonic cleansing brush The Expert Approved Way to Stop Going Overboard With Your Cleansing Brush

Ulta Beauty.

A budget-friendly, high-frequency cleanser with three different modes depending on your skin’s needs.

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