What Researchers Think About Facial Cleansing Brushes And How To Use Them To Maximize Results

Fact-checked by Ana Vasilescu.

Cleansing is the backbone of skincare routines, and to make this step easier and more effective, you’re thinking of using a facial cleansing brush. These gadgets’ popularity took a rampage in the skincare world, and now everyone wants to have one on their beauty countertops to get their skin squeaky clean and radiant. Briefly, they work to remove debris, impurities, and gunk and prepare the skin for the rest of your skincare lineup. Read on to discover how a cleansing brush can improve your skin routine and whether you’re a good candidate for using one.

What are facial cleansing brushes?

A facial cleansing brush is a handy gadget made of silicone or bristles that uses a battery-operated motor to create repetitive motions. When gently pressed and moved onto the skin, a cleansing brush removes bacteria and dust from the surface, leaving the complexion soft and clear.

Types of cleansing brushes

  • Manual: They are a gentler alternative to electric cleansing brushes and usually have a pouf-like head, which, when moved across the face, cleanses the skin delicately, though not as profound as an electric one.
  • Electric: Electric cleansing brushes use vibrating or oscillations motions to help open the pores and dislodge the gunk that blocks them while gently exfoliating the surface.
  • Sonic: These brushes are gentle and use ultrasonic vibration, giving up to 8000 pulsations per minute, providing a deeper cleanse.
  • Other: You’ll also find cleansing brushes that feature blue led light to fight off acne bacteria, quartz to ease inflammation, or double-sided ones that massage the skin and help with product absorption.

The benefits of using cleansing brushes

Cleansing brushes are an excellent method to clear the skin of debris, pollution, and bacteria and slough off the dead cell buildup from the surface. One 2021 study actually established that using a sonic cleansing brush is more effective than using a face wash alone. During the trial period, 12 people applied a gentle cleanser to the entire face and used a sonic device only on half of the face. After 90 minutes, the side of the face that had been hand-washed experienced a moisture loss of up to 17%, while the part on which the device was used maintained proper hydration.[1] Similarly, another study found that sonic brushes are effective at cleansing skin without stripping the sebum and impairing the protective barrier.[2]

A facial cleansing brush is also a great option to remove oil and gunk from pores to unclog them. This means they reduce the risk of breakouts and pimples. A 2019 study evaluated the efficacy and safety of using a facial cleansing brush on people with acne, and 76% of subjects had significantly clearer skin and improved condition after four weeks.[3]

Here are the benefits of using a facial cleansing brush:

  • A deeper and more thorough cleanse 
  • Gentle exfoliation
  • Bacterial removal
  • Pore unclogging
  • Speeds up cell renewal
  • Improves product absorption

How to use a facial cleansing brush

Most cleansing brushes have an on/off button, and some have features like speed adjustment and a timer. First and foremost, it’s important to have a wet face when you use a cleansing brush. Apply your favorite cleanser on the brush and move it in gentle circular motions across the face. Ideally, use a gel or foam face wash without abrasive particles since they may damage the skin when used with a facial cleansing brush.

Never use your cleansing brush to remove makeup because it can push it deeper into the pores and cause pimples. So, remove makeup first, and then use your facial cleansing brush. Also, it’s important to sanitize your facial cleansing brush once in a while to prevent bacteria from building up.

How often to use facial cleansing brushes

Use your cleansing brush one or two times every week and never on the days you exfoliate, as the cleansing brush itself is an exfoliation method.

Who can use them

People with normal, combination, or oily skin can use a facial cleansing brush up to thrice a week or even daily if the bristles are gentle and the skin doesn’t react. If your complexion is dry or sensitive, dermatologists recommend using a cleansing brush with a low-speed setting at most twice a week to avoid further bothering your skin. You should avoid using a facial cleansing brush if you have eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, sun-damaged skin, or a broken barrier.

Are cleansing brushes safe?

Using a cleansing brush is safe as long as you don’t overuse it. Doing so might disrupt the skin’s pH, deplete essential moisture and lead to dehydration. Ideally, look out for a cleansing brush with multiple speeds, so you can adjust the level according to your skin’s tolerance. Also, an antibacterial one is ideal, as it’s less likely to harbor bacteria. If it’s waterproof, you hit it big because you can use it in the shower when the pores are open, so there are more chances to get a throughout cleanse.

The takeaway

Even though they’re not magical tools and not necessarily a must-have, an electronic cleansing brush can help maximize your cleansing routine when used with a gentle face wash product. Contrary to the popular belief, they don’t strip the skin of moisture nor remove the sebum or disrupt the barrier as long as you don’t use them aggressively or too often. To get you started, here’s a list of some of the best facial cleansing brushes for sensitive skin we’re willing to stake our reputation for.


Women’s Concepts uses reliable sources, including dermatologists’ insights, clinical trials, and scientific journals, to find accurate information and support all the facts shared in our articles. All statements and claims have clear and legit references. Read our editorial policy to learn more about our sources of information, our process of researching and fact-checking the content, and how our team strives to keep all articles updated, completed, and trustworthy.

  1. Aiello, L.M., Vergilio, M.M., Monteiro e Silva, S.A., Anselmo, T. and Leonardi, G.R. (2021), Skin effect of facial cleansing combined with an electric sonic device. J Cosmet Dermatol, 20: 3537-3544. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.14017
  2. Gold M, Ablon G, Andriessen A, Goldberg D, Hooper D, Mandy S. Facial cleansing with a sonic brush-A review of the literature and current recommendations. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2019 Jun;18(3):686-691. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12906. Epub 2019 Apr 15. PMID: 30985993.
  3. Gold MH, Ablon GR, Andriessen A, Bucay VW, Goldberg DJ, Green JB, Hooper D, Mandy SH, Nestor MS, Ortiz A. 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 Nov 1;18(11):1140-1145. PMID: 31741359.
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