Clarisonics, Cleansers, and You

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Ahh, the Clarisonic. Used by no less than 15 of our Top Shelf subjects (not to mention the majority of the Gloffice), and touted as “amazing,” “game-changing,” and “fool-proof” by our interviewees, the $120 (and up) gadget claims to employ “sonic frequency of more than 300 movements per second to gently, yet thoroughly remove makeup six times better than cleansing with your hands alone.” Whaaat?! No wonder. For those unfamiliar with the electric-toothbrush of skincare, a Clarisonic (gently) exfoliates the skin, smoothing away dead skin, clearing and tightening pores, and prepping your face for better absorption of all of the serums and moisturizers to follow.

But once you’ve shelled out two-weeks-worth of cold-pressed juice money for a vibrating face brush… what do you do with it? Will it change your life? Will you change its life? Will you ever learn to charge it before it's totally dead and you've got cleanser dripping down your face? We looked to some of our favorite faces and a dermatologist, Dr. Jeannette Graf of  Mount Sinai Medical Center in NYC, to answer some of our pressing questions...Well, mainly how often one should Clarisonic themselves (yes, it’s a verb now, stay with us), and what products to pair with it.

Regarding frequency of use, Dr. Graf advises: "Face brushes can be quite helpful in cleansing and exfoliating. But, generally, if you have very sensitive skin you should probably not use one. All other skin types can use it two to three times a week; the rule of thumb here is not to overdo it. You should use a brush with soft bristles and apply gentle pressure—applying gentle pressure to ultrasonic brushes such as a Clarisonic permits the vibrations to dislodge dirt and impurities. In terms of products, I recommend using liquid facial cleansers without beads or scrubs. Be careful of glycolic acid, too, as it is already exfoliating—it is possible to over exfoliate with a face brush. Using one too frequently, using bristles that are too hard, or applying too much pressure can all injure the skin and cause redness and irritation. Abrasive scrubs are not suitable."

Got that? With that soothing advice in our back pockets, allow us to present a few ideal face brush/cleanser marriages:

Clarisonic +

Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser: Lily Aldridge keeps it simple with the low-foaming wash, and Who What Wear’s Hillary Kerr relies on the combination after on-camera appearances and events to help get the makeup (or, as Aldridge calls it, "gunk") off. Somme Institute's no-frills Nourishing Cleanser is in the same nice-'n-no-foam category.

Clarisonic’s own Gentle Hydro Cleanser: PR exec and restaurateur Kerry Diamond applies the company’s own cleanser to her sensitive skin daily with her hands, and a few times a month with her Clarisonic.

Dr. Brandt Lineless Foaming Cleanser: L’Wren Scott turns to the silver-and-pink bottle to remove all of the makeup from her self-described “oily and dry skin,” though Dr. Brandt recommends the cleanser for all skin types.

Environ Cleansing Lotion: Fashion editor Isabelle Kountoure likes the South African brand’s foaming cleanser, which is designed to stabilize the skin's pH balance.

Eve Lom Cleanser: Christina Huffington matches her brush with this cult classic balm, a mix of soothing chamomile, clove, and eucalyptus oil, and cocoa butter. Interesting.

Jurlique Purely Bright Cleanser: Rumi Neeley opts for the creamy wash packed with natural exfoliators like willow bark extract and pumice. The fashion blogger admits, "I’m obsessed with exfoliating.”

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermo-Cleanser: Julia Sloan, VP of Communications at Nars and self-proclaimed “big skincare person,” marries this "face cleanser milk" with her leopard-print Clarisonic twice a week.

Tracie Martyn Amla Purifying Cleanser: Liv Tyler , Christina Huffington, ITG's Alessandra and Emily pair Martyn’s gentle enzyme-exfoliating cleanser with their machines to, as Tyler explains, “get your blood flowing. Your skin is flushed, awake, and alive.” The cleanser feels gentle and smells subtly .

Weleda Soothing Cleansing Lotion: Kate Young was turned onto this "pure" wash by makeup artist Rose-Marie Swift and likes to think of it as part of her "95% holistic and 5% big guns" beauty regimen. Young employs the duo once a day to “rattle out” clogged pores.

Zelens Luminous Facial Cleanser: One of the three cleansers Alessandra likes to apply to the brush a few times a week for its creamy texture, and skin brightening and hydrating properties.

In sum: adding a Clarisonic (or other brand of face brush) to your routine requires little more than doing just that. Just plug in your cleanser of choice (while remaining cautious of over-exfoliating), remember to charge it, change the brush head every three months, and you're good to go.

Photo by Emily Weiss.

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Sinéad Elkoun

    Is there anything more heartbreaking that the drippy cleanser-face when your Clarisonic is dead? Sigh. Have been waiting for this post for AAAGES. Thanks! Also, I fear I may be overdoing it - I'm Clarisonicing AM & PM, as per instructions, but I don't feel like I'm overdoing it? Although I do think I'm addicted...

  • Shara

    I've had my Mia for over a year, and to be honest it's kind of underwhelming. I don't really see a difference in my skin and everyone raves about it being life-changing! I use it once a day (at night) because every time I try using it in the morning as well my skin hurts a bit, which is quite surprising since I've always thought my skin is quite tough / definitely not sensitive.

    How is everyone's Clarisonic experience?

    • Abby Farson Pratt

      Shara, I have had the same experience: no more breakouts than usual, but I can't tell a difference. I use it once a day too, sometimes less. And nothing. My pores might be a little bit smaller in appearance, but my breakouts still happen just as frequently.

      • Amanda Raponi

        I was told that Clarisonics are actually not good for acne-prone skin/skin with acne because it opens the pimples and spreads the bacteria around. I have stopped using mine for a little while and my skin is already better.

      • Shara

        Yeah, I guess my expectations were too high :( I was hoping it would help me unclog my pores since that's my biggest problem, and people always say that what helps with that is, well, exfoliation. I'm still using it, and I don't hate it or regret buying it, just a bit disappointed.

  • http://thenakedcoed.blogspot.com/ Dana

    Okay, I want to know from others--cleanser on your face or the brush? I generally like to massage the cleanser in for 20 seconds and then go ahead with my Clarisonic, but I wonder if anyone has a better method? Silly question, but if we're going to go there...

    • katynotperry

      I had this dilemma, too! I like using it on the brush these days - I have no rhyme or reason haha

    • Alison

      Dana, I do what you do: massage the cleanser in for a few seconds and then use my Clarisonic. But like katynotperry, I have no rhyme or reason for that either haha

    • irisflower

      definitely on face not brush! i smooth/dab cleanser in each spot the clarisonic goes (forehead, nose, chin, cheeks) then buzz away. i feel if i put cleanser on the brush it wont last as long & will get into the brush head/back bristles not on my face! & by the time i get to my cheeks theres no more cleanser?

  • Emma

    I can enthusiastically second Clarisonic + La Roche Posay Toleraine! I'm also a self-processed "big skincare person" and therefore have tried everything and then some, and love the Toleraine. So soothing, gentle, and effective.

  • http://www.farandwildjewelry.com/ abigail lind

    team clarisonic for life. i use coconut oil on that bad boy, sometimes raw honey when i want a little scrub. it might sound crazy but nothing goes on my skin that wouldn't go in my mouth.

    abigail
    http://www.farandwildjewelry.com

    • Caroline

      You use raw honey on yours? I only use natural stuff too, so I have been using some natural soap based cleansers but I really want to get away from that.

      • http://www.farandwildjewelry.com/ abigail lind

        organic raw honey is amazing for skin because honey promotes cell rejuvenation. I like to start off with a honey facial and leave the raw honey on like a mask for about half an hour (or however long whatever i'm watching on netflix is) and then use the clarisonic to buff it off. then finish with some coconut or olive oil and enjoy your newfound glow!

        • Cecily

          what do you use to make your honey facial?

          • http://www.farandwildjewelry.com/ abigail lind

            organic raw honey by itself. just put it on your face as you would a mask and leave it on for at least half an hour. splash it off with some cold water and then moisturize your face with some coconut oil or olive oil and everyone will be asking you where you went to get that glow. it's your little secret that it was just a jar of honey and some lounging!

  • Rachel LC

    Clarisonic + Somme Institute Nourishing Cleanser (well, the entire Somme Institute line, really) = the best skin I've had in ages.

  • Cay

    I was so reluctant and skeptical of the Clarisonic when I got my Mia, but seriously. It. Is. AMAZING. I didn't not realize how amazing until I went on vacation for a week and forgot it. By the end, my skin was so clogged and dull, despite the fact that I was doing everything else that I always did in my skincare regimen. It's expensive, yes, but it lasts forever and is SO easy to use. My skin feels so soft and is all glowy and pretty. I've tried some of the knock-offs from Olay and Neutrogena, and they are just don't come close. I use this with Mario Badescu's enzyme cleanser.

    Also, if you are just using on your face, you really only need the Mia, which is the cheaper version.

  • Juan Jaar

    I use it every night, not mornings.... will my face fall off?

  • NeenaJ

    I only used my Clarisonic a few times when I gave up - no longer wanting the irritation that even the Sensitive brush imparted. Recently, I was at my dentist's office, telling the hygienist about the Spin Brush I had bought for my 3 year old. She replied that sinc elittle ones don't hav ehte dexterity to properly brush, that electric toothbrushes were the best because all the kid has to do is move it from tooth to tooth and the brush does all the work.
    LIGHTBULB! I have been scrubbing my face with the Clarisonic - pusing it across my skin at too great a speed and with too much force. I was tearing up my skin!

    I use it now a few times a week with Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser and just touch the brush to my skin for a few seconds before lifting it and placing it on the next adjacent section, working my way around my face. Perhaps staying a little longer on the drier patches but never pushing or rubbing it in. I'm letting the brush do the work and the results have been excellent.

    Can anyone comment on the difference between the Sensitive and Delicate brush heads? I'm curious. Thanks!

    • irisflower

      check the MakeUpAlley reviews for the brush heads -- I'm doing the same as I need to purchase new ones but am unsure which to get, deep pore/sensitive/delicate --- makeupalley has reviews & tons of helpful info (spoiler alert: delicate seems to be the way to go!) :)

  • Michelle

    I feel so left out...my Mia sits unused as it broke me out so so bad I'm afraid to use it again...

    • mfergie889

      SAME thing happened to me. It took two months for those little bumps to finally dissipate. I realized I was using it too often, and with the wrong type of cleanser.
      Try it again with a really creamy/foamy cleanser and make sure there is always product on the brush. I pause it and reapply product halfway through the cycle and make sure I never push too hard.

    • Cate

      Same with me! I had the worst acne of my life after a few weeks with the Clarisonic. I had never experienced such deep cysts all over my cheeks before and it took over a year to get rid of the scars. I used it with a gentle, fragrance free foaming cleanser a few times a week and tried both the Sensitive and Delicate brush heads. I am too scared to try it ever again.

      • Steph

        Exactly the same. I almost started using it again recently but I just couldn't risk it, my skin was so bad, like, crying and never getting out of bed bad. So I'm just going to stick to what I know.

  • esme

    If Clarisonic exfoliates while you are cleansing and you use it around three times a week do you still need to do exfoliating treatments? Or would that just be too much exfoliation for the skin? Thank you!

    • irisflower

      from what i have read - extra physical exfolation is not needed (eg other brushes, grainy scrubs etc) however suggested to still chemically exfoliate (glycolic acid, salicylic acid, fruit acids etc) :)

  • http://nomadic-d.blogspot.com/ Nomadic D.

    I love my clarisonic to death, but I probably use it 2-3 times a week, in the shower, with no cleanser. Yeah, you heard me right. I just use the brush with water. I always use bioderma morning and night

    http://bit.ly/ZZUFqu

    and when I added the clarisonic to my routine I didn't see the need to change that or add another (possibly irritating) product to the mix. I'm really happy with this routine, and definitely notice if I go a week or two without clarisonicking (doesn't really make a good verb, does it?)

    http://www.nomadicd.com

  • AltE

    I'm always shocked that this is recommended for people with sensitive skin. This tore my face apart and sits unused in the back of my cabinet. If you're considering it, purchase from somewhere with a GENEROUS return policy.

    • Elle

      I have sensitive skin as well and the clarisonic gave me the worst, most resistant acne I have ever experienced. It took months to get my skin back to a calm state. I had good skin too, just wanted to try it. Def not for everyone!

  • http://www.reeftraveler.com/ Meredith

    I like to use the Mia a few times a week with Philosophy's Purity Made Simple. It's non drying and really removes makeup well.

    Does anyone know if the Toleraine removes makeup?

    • Ellen Findley

      Purity Made Simple is the stuff. I use my Mia morning and night, which may be too often, but I follow up with rich moisturizers. My skin is quite dry and sensitive, and I have keratosis pilaris, but my Mia has vastly improved my skin. I don't think my skin has ever looked better.

  • Michelle

    My derm said she didn't like Clarisonics because of the germ factor (and I have break-out prone skin). I used to douse it in alcohol once a week, but I still obediently - albeit reluctantly- retired mine. I haven't noticed much of a difference, to be honest... breakout situation remains pretty much the same-- no fewer, no more.

  • Tyler Eustice

    I use Chantecaille's Rice and Geranium Foaming Cleanser on the Clarisonic MIA with the delicate brush head a few times a month. I definitely think that using it twice a day, or even every day is extreme.
    After every use, I wash it with soap, then immerse it in equal parts water/barbicide for 15-20 minutes to kill all bacteria.
    It comes out sparkling clean.

  • Alexandra

    I use my Clarisonic almost daily (I miss it if I don't!) and put a dime size amount of Dr. Alkaitis Organic Holistic Facial Cleanser...I feel like my skin is totally rejuvenated and well fed :) unlike other commenters it does not make me break out but instead reduces my pores and hydrates my skin. I finish with Dr. Alkaitis' Toner and Day Creme or Nourishing Treatment Oil...I let the Clarisonic do the cleansing and Dr. Alkaitis do the feeding of necessary nutrients to the skin. I think if you are experiencing bad results you are either using the brush too agressively or need to switch to healthier products!

    http://www.alkaitis.com/Organic_Purifying_Facial_Cleanser_p/ro-pfc.htm

  • Parisian To Be

    Thanks for the post, Into the Gloss! You always churn out the best in beauty!

    Xx Lillian parisiantobe.com

  • Guest

    Clarisonic now and forever. I cannot believe how it has changed the appearance of my skin.

    I use the acne brush because it is the softest. Since I discovered that, I am able to use the Clarisonic 2x/day with absolutely no adverse effects. I have dry, sensitive skin.

    Remember to clean your brush after each use and to discard it after three months. I discard my toothbrush and my Clarisonic brush at the same time. Helps me to remember.

  • Kimberley

    I love using it once a day, in the morning. I use it with La Mer Cleansing Gel with amazing results. I have oily/normal skin and felt using it twice a day was too much. At night I use the Normal Rice Powder by Tatcha followed by my normal skincare. Definitely noticed more radiance and fresh looking skin after several months of doing exactly this. Just like weight loss, you must be patient with results when it comes to skincare, especially if you are introducing a new beauty tool like the Clarisonic. :)

  • cfh

    So you just boil water and drop them in? I want to do what YOU do!

    • irisflower

      i'd imagine it's that simple --- for sanitising dishes, baby bottles, etc, you must immerse them in 70degree celcius water for at least one minute (according to australian law for food prep) SOOOO all youd gotta do in this case is (what i do) boil the kettle (which gets it to 100degrees celcius) drop the brush head in a mug, fill with water & leave for a minute or two! :)

  • Caitlin

    The Clarisonic is another marketing tool that adds more work and doesn't necessarily add any benefits. Advice for acne prone/dehydrated people, stay away from foaming agents in cleansers, use oils, exfoliate manually on the rare occasion and use enzymes/acids at other times. It's like BB cream, BB cream is tinted moisturiser everyone. Please get back to old ITG, getting a bit commercial

    • EricaVee

      American BB Cream is tinted moisturizer. The real Korean ones are different.

  • http://twitter.com/affecteepar Anna Guseva

    Oh, thanks! I was waiting for it!

    http://www.affecteepar.com

  • http://www.jacquelinefonte.com/ Jacqueline Fonte

    I thought for sure I'd eventually shell out the two weeks worth of cold pressed juice money for a Clarisonic, but in the end I decided I really, really love the ritual of washing and exfoliating my own face with my own two hands.

    After reading a lot of the comments, I'm kind of glad I stuck with good ol analog cleansing. Plus, I'm obsessive about exfoliating and cutting that out of my routine felt akin to cutting off my pinkie toes to squeeze into heels better. Lol. Never happening.

    I think when it comes to beauty, I like taking the time to do things myself. It feels like a luxury to take a bath instead of a shower, and yeah, to massage my own face instead of the electric tooth brush version.

  • Marcela Napoleone

    I usually use mine with Clarisonics's own cleanser (which smells really good) or the Soy Cleanser from Fresh.
    But what's really amazing is using it with Tatcha's Rice Enzyme Powder. I'm a sucker for this exfoliator/ cleanser, and using it with the Clarisonic just takes "cleansing" to a whole other level...
    http://www.marcelanapoleone.blogspot.com

  • murt

    hmmm I have a clarisonic but I never use it - it's just sitting in a drawer. I should pull it out again and give it a try!

  • Bula’s Review

    Clarisonic & the Soy Cleanser by Fresh - excellent combo for combo skin. The mean machine basically does it all, so I like the simplicity of Fresh's face wash. Breakouts have been diminished significantly (and makeup has never looked better) since I began the duo, and use it every night or every other. x

  • Alison Bell

    I use mine every evening with Dermalogica's Special Cleansing Gel and my skin, though still temperamental, has improved about tenfold since I started doing so. I'm 22 and have 'triple threat' acne-prone/combination/sensitive skin, if this helps.

    Another wonderful feature!

  • Marianne Stranden Macedo

    Hi! I bought a Clarisonic one year ago, and it gave me the worst zit-outbreak that I have experienced in my life. I used every night for a month, and stopped as soon as I discovered little bumps on my cheeks. Two/three months later I had, like I mentioned the worst outbreak of zits on my cheek that I have ever seen. My skin has always been good, not acne-prone. Not even as a teenager I had a lots of zits, only a couple hormonal ones every month. It got so bad that even a doctor friend practically forced me to go to a dermatologist. And after three months with antibiotics I finally got rid of them. And I have been through almost 5 months with extreme outburst on my cheek. So.. most of you might not have sensible skin as mine, but I wanted to give the warning. At least not to use every night as I did.

  • nicolecontrol

    Friends, be careful with some of these suggestions. I have had to dial back my Clarisonic usage quite a bit. I really only use it once a month these days, because I was getting over-exfoliated. In particular, there was one time when I combined Tracie Martyn Amla with the Clarisonic and ended up burning my skin. I'm talking scaly patches and everything. I don't have particularly sensitive skin, but at 36 I may be a bit older than some of the folks who give advice on ITG. My use of other exfoliating agents like retinoids probably put this over the top. I have learned to be much more careful!

  • Lauren

    I'm glad you said the Clarisonic isn't for everyone. I was definitely one of those people whose skin was too sensitive. It gave me a rosacea-like rash that took several months to go away. A dermatologist said it was from the brush tearing at my skin and allowing bacteria to get in. My preferred exfoliation method is just toner and a cotton pad. If your skin can't handle scrubs, don't try a Clarisonic!

  • Restless Blonde

    I would really like to have Clarisonic but it's sooo expensive here, in Poland. But I think I will have to save some money for it :)

  • Jolanda

    I love my Clarisonic.

    I have generaly good skin, but my pores clog easily. I used to have blackheads all over my nose, and on my forehead. The Clarisonic Mia helps me to keep my pores as clean as possible. My skin is glowy, redness is reduced, and I rarely have a break out anymore. Even my husband noticed the difference!

    Also, the blackheads are GONE. I use my Clarisonic with Mario Badescu cleansing products.

    Furthermore, I only use it a couple of times a week (when I feel I need it).

  • nikki

    Love my clarisonic!! So glad you posted on this subject. I really feel it takes time and a few errors before most women develop a clarisonic routine that works for them.

    In my case, when I first bought it a year or so ago I was using it way too much(once a day). I am a darker woman of colour with sensitive skin prone to oil buildup and the results were terrible.

    Once I changed the brush I was using, found the right cleanser to use with it, changed my technique, and cut down on using it(once a week), I found it has been a wonderful addition to my beauty arsenal. My skin looks brighter, and healthier, and smoother since i started using it.

  • http://genuineglow.com/ Lilly

    I am a huge fan of Rose Marie Swift, and I trust her skincare an makeup recommendations.

    As for the Clarisonic, I decided to skip on it because my skin is very sensitive. I just make sure to massage it well with a cleanser. I recently discovered Pai Skincare, and I am very happy with it because it is perfect for sensitive skin. http://genuineglow.com/monthly-favorites-may/

  • CHB

    I religiously get facials from an aesthetican who is very good at what she does and has clients to follow. She preaches- Clarisonic 2x a day with sulfur soap- especially for clients with acne/other problems (this is a cult favorite, lasts forever at at $4 a bar you can't beat it. https://www.google.com/shopping/product/3967898289757912703?q=sulfur%20soap&hl=en&client=firefox-a&hs=4oq&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.44158598,d.b2I&biw=1280&bih=657&sa=X&ei=8WhKUcHbMoWO2gXp3ICoAg&ved=0CGIQ8wIwAQ). She also says either boil your brush heads or soak em overnight in hydrogen peroxide (just make sure to rinse before you use it on your face) and you can get a good 6 months out of a head.

  • abqkid28

    Hi, I am 50 and have had acne all my life. I started using the Clairsonic 18 mths ago and it has been life-changing for me. I even have been known to use it 2x a day. My pores are reduced and skin appears tighter. I still have the occasional break outs but I believe less frequently. I think the most dramatic result has been on my chest where I had sun damage. I use the body brush every time I take a shower and saw results by the second day! The Clairsonic is one beauty product I cannot live without!!! So glad to learn about boiling the brushes, too.

PRODUCTS MENTIONED

Somme Institute
Somme Institute Nourishing Cleanser
CLARISONIC
Clarisonic Aria
Cetaphil
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
CLARISONIC
CLARISONIC Gentle Hydro Cleanser
Dr. Brandt Skincare
Dr Brandt Skincare lineless foaming cleanser
Environ
Environ Foaming Gel Cleanser
Eve Lom
Eve Lom Cleanser
Jurlique
Jurlique Purely Bright Cleanser
La Roche-Posay
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermo-Cleanser
Tracie Martyn
Tracie Martyn Amla Purifying Cleanser
Weleda
Weleda Almond Cleansing Lotion
Zelens
Zelens Radiance Luminous Facial Cleanser
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