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Are facial brushes good for your skin?

Learn what experts really have to say about this popular skincare tool—and whether or not it’s worth incorporating in your routine.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Aug 28, 2023 • 8 min read
Medically reviewed by Donna McIntyre, NP-BC
Facial Brush
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Aug 28, 2023 • 8 min read
Medically reviewed by Donna McIntyre, NP-BC
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Facial brushes—which promise to deep-clean, exfoliate, and rejuvenate skin—have become an increasingly popular skincare tool. So, it’s only natural to wonder if a brush can wash your face better than your hands alone. 

We’re here to tell you what you need to know about this buzzy product—including whether or not they live up to the hype. We’ll delve into the benefits of facial brushes and explain how to use them properly to maximize their potential for your skin. By understanding their effects and proper usage, you can make an informed decision about whether incorporating facial brushes into your skincare routine is the right choice for you. 

What are facial brushes? 

Facial brushes are handheld devices designed to cleanse and exfoliate your skin, with the goal of helping you achieve a healthier complexion. They’re specifically created to remove dirt, oil, and makeup from the skin's surface and to exfoliate dead skin cells. Some facial brushes even have adjustable speeds and intensities to cater to different skin types and personal preferences.

It’s important to use a facial brush correctly to avoid over-exfoliation and potential skin irritation. Apply gentle, circular motions during use, avoiding sensitive areas and active breakouts. It’s also crucial to regularly clean and disinfect your brush to prevent the buildup of bacteria and other microbes.

Incorporating facial brushes into your skincare routine may be helpful, but it’s essential to understand how to use them properly to achieve the best results.

Types of facial brush heads

There are several brush head types you can use including cleansing brushes, silicone brushes, and exfoliating brushes.

  • Cleansing brush heads: These brush heads are designed for deep cleansing. They typically have bristles that help remove dirt, oil, and impurities from your skin, providing a thorough cleanse.

  • Silicone brush heads: Silicone brush heads are ideal for cleaning dry and sensitive skin. The gentle silicone bristles are less abrasive and can provide a more gentle and soothing cleansing experience.

  • Exfoliating brush heads: Exfoliating brush heads are specifically designed to remove dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. They often have textured bristles or attachments to aid in the exfoliation process.

Before incorporating a facial brush into your skincare routine, consult with a dermatology provider. They can evaluate your skin type, concerns, and any specific conditions you may have, ensuring that using a facial brush is suitable and safe for your skin. By selecting the right brush head and seeking professional advice, you can make the most of your facial brush experience and enhance your skincare routine.

The potential benefits of facial brushes 

Facial brushes can have several benefits when used properly. They have the potential to enhance the effectiveness of cleansing, improve acne, maintain skin hydration, and deep clean the skin.

Cleanse effectively

Facial brushes can help cleanse your skin properly. In a comprehensive review study, a group of experienced clinicians examined the existing literature on sonic brush cleansing and explored ways to enhance facial cleansing outcomes. Their findings indicated that using a sonic brush can be a safe and effective treatment for various skin conditions.¹

Improve acne

Using a cleansing brush may also help improve your acne. A study demonstrated that incorporating a gentle cleansing routine with a sonic brush can be effective in reducing the number of acne lesions and improving overall skin condition. No adverse events were reported during the study, indicating the safety of this approach.²

Keep skin hydrated

Using a facial brush, particularly a sonic device, for cleansing can help maintain skin hydration. A study compared the effects of cleansing with a sonic device versus manual cleansing and found that the use of a sonic device did not cause a significant reduction in skin hydration. In contrast, manual cleansing led to a greater decrease in skin hydration.³

These findings suggest that using a sonic device for cleansing helps preserve the skin’s natural moisture balance, promoting better hydration and overall skin homeostasis. By minimizing the reduction of skin hydration during the cleansing process, a facial brush can help prevent excessive drying of the skin, which is beneficial for maintaining a healthy and hydrated complexion.

Deep clean your pores

Facial brushes, specifically sonic skincare brushes, are designed to vibrate rapidly on the skin’s surface. This rapid vibration helps to deeply clean your pores by loosening and removing stubborn impurities like blackheads and whiteheads. The brush works by gently flexing the opening of the hair follicles, which are responsible for producing oils and trapping dirt. This action allows the brush to effectively dislodge and detach these impurities from your skin.⁴

It’s important to use the sonic brush according to the manufacturer’s instructions and to choose an appropriate brush head suitable for your skin type to avoid any potential irritation or damage.

How do I use my facial brush properly? 

To use your facial brush properly, follow these general guidelines:

  1. Choose a brush head suitable for your skin type and concerns. 

  2. Wet your face and the brush head with warm water to prepare for cleansing.

  3. Apply your preferred cleanser directly onto your face or onto the brush head.

  4. Turn on the brush and gently move it in circular motions across your skin. Avoid pressing too hard or using the brush for an extended period to prevent irritation or over-exfoliation.

  5. Rinse your face and the brush head with warm water to remove the cleanser. Pat your face dry with a clean towel.

  6. After each use, clean and disinfect the brush head to prevent the buildup of bacteria. 

It’s very important to keep in mind that these are just general guidelines. For the best results,always refer to the manufacturer's instructions for the appropriate usage and cleaning method. Consult your skincare professional for specific guidance for your skin.

Can facial brushes damage my skin? 

Facial brushes, when used properly and with caution, are generally considered safe for the skin. A study has shown no adverse events during the observed period for individuals using facial brushes.⁵

However, facial brushes can potentially irritate your skin if they are used improperly or excessively. If you over-exfoliate by using the brush too frequently or for prolonged periods, it can lead to skin irritation, redness, or sensitivity. Pressing too hard on your skin while using a brush can also cause discomfort and potential irritation.

Not to mention, failure to clean your brush properly after each use can result in the accumulation of bacteria or other microbes, which can potentially harm your skin. It’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and maintenance to ensure the brush stays clean and hygienic.

Simply put, to minimize the risk of skin damage, use the facial brush as directed, avoid excessive pressure, limit usage to a suitable frequency, and clean the brush regularly. If you have any concerns or experience skin irritation, it's advisable to consult with a dermatology provider for personalized guidance.

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Do dermatologists recommend facial brushes?

Dermatologists have differing opinions on the use of facial brushes. Donna McIntyre, a nurse pracitioner at Curology, advises, “While there are some studies that suggest the benefits of using facial brushes for exfoliation, it’s important to use them properly to avoid potential drawbacks. I typically recommend to limit the usage of facial brushes to 1-2 times per week to  prevent over-exfoliation, which can result in skin irritation and sensitivity.” However, using a facial brush is ultimately a personal preference. If you're not currently using one, there's no need to add one to your skincare routine. 

If you’re interested in a gentler alternative, dermatology providers often recommend using a konjac sponge 2-3 times a week with a regular cleanser. Konjac sponges provide a gentler and more affordable option for exfoliation that most people can tolerate well. Consult with a dermatology provider to receive personalized advice based on your specific skin type, concerns, and any existing skin conditions. They can assess your skin’s needs and recommend the most suitable exfoliation method for you.

Is it good to use a face brush on your face?

Using facial brushes the right way may help improve your acne, help maintain your skin hydration, and dislodge blackheads through deep cleansing. However, be careful to follow the usage and cleaning instructions provided by the manufacturer for optimal results.

What are the disadvantages of face brushes?

One disadvantage of facial brushes is the potential for skin irritation if they are used incorrectly. Improper usage, such as excessive pressure or over-exfoliation, can cause discomfort and potential damage to the skin.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Gold, M., et al. Facial cleansing with a sonic brush-A review of the literature and current recommendations. J Cosmet Dermatol. (June 2019).

  2. Gold, M.H.,et al. A Cohort Study Using a Facial Cleansing Brush With Acne Cleansing Brush Head and a Gel Cleanser in Subjects With Mild-to-Moderate Acne and Acne-Prone Skin. J Drugs Dermatol. (2019, November 1).

  3. Aiello, L.M., et al. Skin effect of facial cleansing combined with an electric sonic device. J Cosmet Dermatol. (November 2021).

  4. Akridge, R.E. and Pilcher, K.A. Development of sonic technology for the daily cleansing of the skin. J Cosmet Dermatol. (June 2006).

  5. Gold, M.H., et al. A Cohort Study Using a Facial Cleansing Brush With Acne Cleansing Brush Head and a Gel Cleanser in Subjects With Mild-to-Moderate Acne and Acne-Prone Skin. J Drugs Dermatol. Ibid.

Donna McIntyre is a board-certified nurse practitioner at Curology. She obtained her Master of Science in Nursing at MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, MA.

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• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Donna McIntyre, NP-BC

Donna McIntyre, NP-BC

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