The 8 Best Facial Cleansing Brushes + How To Use Them Safely
Some skin care trends can be playful and enjoyable, while others are fairly problematic—your skin is an organ, so subjecting it to trends isn't always the best idea. One popular skin care niche that continues to go in and out of the spotlight is face tools.
Specifically, facial cleansing brushes have been circulating in skin care talk as of late but not necessarily in the same fashion as a few years ago. While these not-so-new tools may be having a moment, the modern age facial brush is much different from what's been popular in the past.
Could this be the new and improved version? Here, everything you need to know about facial brushes in 2022 including the best ones to shop.
What does a facial cleansing brush do?
As the name implies, these tools help to deeply cleanse the skin through manual exfoliation. This isn't ideal for all skin types but may be helpful in certain situations. As board-certified dermatologist and YouTube creator Andrea Suarez, M.D., FAAD, puts it, "For those with buildup of dry skin, this can help smooth the skin and improve skin texture."
In addition, those with blemish-prone skin may benefit from the exfoliation of skin cells, Suarez says, that otherwise could clog pores and lead to breakouts. If you have sensitive or redness-prone skin, however, cleansing brushes aren't going to be the best option as they can cause irritation and more flushing.
No matter what skin type you have, it's important to not overdo it with these tools. Try to avoid adding pressure to the brush, cleansing for too long, and using it too frequently. These tools are best for occasional use as your skin can tolerate them.
One final note: If you are going to use a cleansing brush, take that as your exfoliating for the night rather than lathering on a chemical exfoliant serum afterward. The combination of the two can lead to over-exfoliation, a damaged skin barrier, and some not-so-fun side effects as a result: Think redness, sensitivity, etc.
How we picked
We sat down with a board-certified dermatologist to learn the ins and outs of facial cleansing brushes. This way, we can provide you with important reminders for each product and point out some of the most notoriously missed pros and cons of using a facial cleansing brush.
We know not everybody wants to drop a pretty penny on these brushes, especially if you're just trying it out. We picked brushes with a wide range of prices including drugstore options and a few splurge-worthy picks for those looking to seriously invest.
Our editors tested some of these products firsthand to give you an honest review and point out some of the notable cons (and pros!) of these products. When that wasn't possible, we looked to authenticated customer testimonials.
We wanted to bring a variety of options to the table. Below you'll find all kinds of cleansing brushes including manual, electric, bristle, and silicone brushes. There's a variety of options regardless of which material and mode you prefer.
Our picks for the best facial cleansing brushes of 2022:
- Customizable modes
- Comfortable handle
If you're going to use your cleansing brush frequently (a few times a week), then you might want to invest in an A+ option like this one. The silicone head is odor-resistant, antibacterial, hypoallergenic, and waterproof—impressive right? Not only that but the ergonomic handle makes it easy to cleanse gently without having to press down on the head itself. It also offers four vibration settings, which is ideal given some days call for a bit more action than others.
Best budget: Olay Regenerist Facial Cleansing Brush
- Not antibacterial
- Not the most eco-friendly
If you're married to the idea of a bristle brush, this one is a worthy option for those on a budget. The water-resistant brush is battery-powered, which makes it particularly travel-friendly for those who don't carry a converter. Although the brush head is soft to the touch, its high-speed motor levels up your cleanse for the ultimate strip down of dirt. Just remember to replace the head at least once a month to avoid bacteria buildup.
- Customizable settings
- Soft cleansing pad
Talk about the evolution of the facial cleansing brush! You can control the massage settings of this brush from an app on your phone, making the experience oh-so-personalized (and hi-tech). This pick stands out among the rest because of the clinical trials provided: In a 28-day consumer trial of 50 participants, 100% reported more radiant-looking and better-feeling skin compared to cleansing by hand—pretty impressive results, no?
- Awkward handle
A great drugstore option for those wanting to save a few bucks before investing, this bristle brush costs less than a latte. The manual pick gives you full control over your cleansing experience, and there are no frills, like vibration settings, chargers, or batteries. Instead you get an ultra-gentle cleanse with the soft bristles gliding across the skin with ease (despite giving pores a thorough deep clean). As stated, don't forget to switch out your brush head once a month to prevent buildup, and always deeply clean the bristles post-wash to maximize the brush's life span.
- Gentle setting
- Slightly noisy
Maintain control while still getting an extra boost of motor power with this vibrating silicone brush. Because there's no designated handle, you'll have an easier time cleansing those hard-to-reach areas, like the hairline. The gentle setting will provide just enough vibration to feel great on the skin without coming off too strong. Bonus: The provided stand gives your brush a sanitary place to stay when you're not using it (leaving a brush facedown on the counter is not hygienic).
- Gentle on the skin
- Gently remove makeup
- Not the most eco-friendly
Speaking from experience, these makeup pads may make you question why you ever used a makeup wipe in the first place. The HaloTech fibers combined with water gently removes even the most stubborn makeup—mascara included. This pick is ideal for those looking to add a bit of gentle physical exfoliation to your routine without stripping the skin. After you've removed your makeup, cleanse your face using your hands as you normally would. Then, using face wash or another gentle soap, cleanse your Face Halo pad. It may not be as eco-friendly as a silicone brush, but it's certainly better than using a new makeup wipe day in and day out.
- Ultra-soft brush
- Hard to keep clean
- Takes a while to dry
While facial cleansing brushes aren't ideal for sensitive skin, this pick might be your best bet at getting a deep cleanse, sans irritation. The soft bristles are designed in a fashion that creates waves on the brush—perfect for a gentle massage. The nylon bristles are ideal for those who don't love the feel of silicone or traditional bristles. However, nylon is notoriously harder to keep clean compared to silicone options, so keep that in mind if you're acne-prone.
Best settings: Nion Beauty Opus Negative Ion Face Cleansing Device
- Doubles as a face massager
- Large head can be difficult to maneuver
If you want your cleanse to double as a facial massage, this device is a great pick. Three vibration speeds help to break up impurities in the skin. You'll know when to switch sides during your cleanse thanks to the helpful beep signals—meaning you don't have to watch the clock. The reverse side of the cleansing head provides a smooth surface for a rejuvenating massage either pre- or post-cleanse, too.
What to look for.
When you're deciding which facial cleansing brush to buy, it's important to take your skin type into account. As said above, those with sensitive skin and those prone to redness may have a harder time finding a brush that works without irritating the skin. If you have sensitive skin and must use a brush, stick to something gentle and non-aggravating.
Even if you're not acne-prone, silicone brushes are preferable for hygienic reasons. Like many derms we've talked to, Suarez isn't too fond of the bristle-head brushes. "I prefer the silicone cleansing brushes, as opposed to those with actual bristle heads," she says. "They are easier to clean and don't require costly replacement heads."
So stick to something in your budget, easy to clean, and gentle (especially if you have sensitive skin). Remember to not overdo it and switch to a gentler option for exfoliation if you feel your skin getting stressed out.
How do you use a cleansing brush?
Wet your skin and go in with a gentle cleanser (We repeat: A non-exfoliating formula). Let the brush do the work rather than adding pressure, and keep your cleanse quick. As always, stick to lukewarm to warm water rather than piping hot, as your skin will be extra sensitive during the exfoliating process.
Can you use a facial brush if you have rosacea?
While you can, you probably shouldn't be using a facial cleansing brush if you have rosacea. "They stimulate blood flow, which can aggravate facial redness," Suarez explains. Stick to cleansing with your hands, and opt for gentle chemical exfoliation rather than manual.
Can you use a facial brush daily?
You should stick to a few times a week when it comes to exfoliation of any kind, and the same applies to facial cleansing brushes. If you use it too often, you run the risk of damaging the skin barrier and experiencing irritation, dryness, and breakouts, Suarez says.
Cleansing brushes are having a moment as of late but with a new twist. For occasional use, silicone brushes can serve as a way to get rid of dead skin buildup without using an overly harsh scrub. However, these brushes are by no means the only or best form of exfoliation for everyone. If you're unsure what you should be using to keep your skin fresh, check out our guide to exfoliation 101.