Beauty Trends

Sonic Facial Cleansing Brushes: Are They Worth It?

02 July 2021

What are face cleansing devices and why do we need them?


Most of us would agree that cleansing our skin is the most fundamental step in our skincare routine- Cleansing removes the dirt, sebum and makeup and pollution particles that have accumulated on our skin, which is essential for healthy clean skin. This step also allows better uptake of skincare products that are subsequently applied on to the skin.


Cleansing our skin also is a delicate balance between removing gunk from the skin without overdoing. Unwittingly, in our zest to thoroughly clean the skin with harsh cleansers or toners; physical scrubs and hot water, we may end up disrupting the skin barrier and integrity.


One safer and efficient way of getting deep cleanse of the skin while keeping the skin barrier intact is the use of facial cleansing devices. First launched more than a decade ago, face cleansing brushes were a huge hit for their deep cleansing benefits. Today, facial cleansing devices remain and have won fans among beauty obsessives and celebrities like Victoria Beckham, Kim Kardashian and Chrissy Teigen. In this blogpost, I’ll be discussing all you need to know about facial cleansing devices, why I’ve been a fan for close to decade and my review of the latest in beauty tech, FOREO LUNA 3.


What are facial cleansing devices?


Facial cleansing devices are handheld sonic cleansers that clean the skin. Sonic cleansing refers to the rapid movements of the bristles giving a deep cleanse. Hence, facial cleansing brushes that use this technology are also called sonic cleansers.


These devices contain brush heads with silicon or nylon bristles. Facial cleansing devices are often used together with facial cleansers to clean the skin.


Facial cleansing devices contain brush heads with silicon or nylon bristles. Read on for my review of FOREO LUNA 3, the latest sonic device drop from leader in beauty tech, FOREO.


How do facial cleansing devices/ sonic cleansers work?


The premise of using sonic cleansers is to clean the skin more thoroughly and efficiently than manually cleansing with fingers, without compromising the skin barrier1-3.


By using an optimal range of frequency and amplitude of oscillations, sonic cleansers loosen dirt particles and sebum that have adhered to the pores4. How does this happen? When applied to the skin, sonic facial cleansing devices create cyclic deformation and relaxation at about 100-200 times a second. This repetitive motion gradually loosens adhesions between the pores and comedones4. The loosened comedone, dead skin and debris can also be removed by the sweeping action of the bristles4.


When these optimal parameters are used, there is low strain to the skin; so the stretching and damage to the collagen fibres of the skin are minimised4. Hence, sonic facial cleansers give the skin a deep cleanse through physical exfoliation safely; and this finding has been supported in several studies5-12.


What are the benefits of using sonic facial cleansers?


Deep and efficient cleansing– although manually cleansing with fingers usually suffices, the sonic pulsation of these facial cleansing devices take cleansing a notch up with mechanical exfoliation1-4.

Massaging and mechanobiological benefits– we all love a good massage; but what if your facial massage has anti-wrinkle benefits? Although research into this is preliminary, there are studies that show that cyclic mechanical stimulation may induce protein in the skin. Another study also showed that sonic facial cleansing devices amplified the wrinkle reduction effect of an anti-aging cream that was used together13.


The deleterious effects of air pollution on the skin. An excerpt from my article in online beauty magazine, Beaubit.


Sonic facial cleansing device and anti-pollution effects


In recent years, the negative impact of air pollution on the skin is becoming better understood in recent years. Besides acne14-16, air pollution has been linked to conditions such as eczema17,18 and premature skin aging19-21. What makes air pollution more worrying is that these harmful particles are more pervasive than we think.


Air pollution is a mixture of smog and particles in the air. The sources of air pollution come from everything; from exhaust fumes of vehicles, smoking, haze to industrial gasses. Pollution particles are microscopic. These particles can be taken up in the skin directly through the epidermis or indirectly through the pores22. The pollution particles then initiate free radical damage, oxidative stress and inflammation to the skin.


Protecting the skin against air pollution requires a two pronged approach with prevention (i.e. deep cleansing and antioxidants); and strengthening the skin’s defenses (e.g. with skincare products that contain ceramides and niacinamide).


As mentioned earlier, getting a deep and thorough clean of our faces removes these pollution particles trapped in our pores. Facial cleansing devices have been shown to be more efficacious in cleansing the skin of pollution particles vis-a-vis manual methods1. Where manual cleansing with our hands falls short, sonic facial cleansers can exfoliate the skin of these microscopic particles.


Safety: What are the side effects of sonic facial cleansing brushes?


As with any cleansing brush (e.g. loofah sponges, brushes), there are valid concerns of over exfoliation and hygiene5,6. So far, sonic facial cleansing devices are generally safe and are not abrasive for the skin. The caveat here is that you have to choose a brush that is appropriate for your skin type (e.g. sensitive skin vs normal skin); and avoid exfoliation (i.e. avoid combining its use with harsh cleansers; and keeping to the manufacturer’s advice for usage). With the plethora of electronic cleansing brushes available, it boils down to making informed choices that are appropriate for your skin.


The safety and efficacy of electronic sonic facial cleansers have also been studied in patients who suffer from acne17,11,23-25, rosacea26 and seborrheic dermatitis27,28. These studies have also demonstrated these gadgets are safe for consistent use with these dermatological conditions.



My personal experience with electronic sonic facial cleansers


My journey with sonic facial cleansers goes back to about a decade ago and this remains one of my favourite beauty gadgets to date. Back then, I started with the OG of sonic facial brushes- Clarisonic. I’m now using the FOREO LUNA 3 and I’ll be sharing my review of this device in this blogpost.


Since I started using sonic facial cleansers, I’ve noticed that my skin looks and feels noticeably smoother, cleaner and healthier; without dryness or abrasions. Sonic cleansing has also helped to delay the return of comedones and prevent acne for me.


My first sonic facial cleanser was the Clarisonic Pro. As much as I loved how clean and smooth my skin felt with it, it was a device with its own imperfections. What I disliked most about it was the need to change the nylon brush heads every 2-3 months as the bristles would get worn out and bent. My switch to FOREO LUNA 3 felt like a much needed upgrade; using it felt like an effective and efficient way to cleanse my skin without the problems of my Clarisonic Pro.




FOREO is one of the world’s leading beauty tech brands. Since 2013, this Swedish beauty and wellness brand has combined function, beauty and wellness with its smart devices. FOREO is best known for its sonic face cleansers (the FOREO LUNA series) and sonic electric toothbrushes (the FOREO ISSA series)

Some of the FOREO products that I own: the FOREO LUNA 3, UFO 2, face masks and facial wash.




The FOREO LUNA 3 is the latest release in the lineup of sonic cleansers from FOREO. The sonic waves pulsate at up to 8000 times a second to remove dead skin and excess oil from the pores and skin. With the accompanying FOREO app, you can personalise your preferred cleansing settings. The FOREO LUNA 3 also doubles as a face massage device for areas like the neck and periorbital region.


The device is waterproof; so no worries about having your hands wet and washing the device after using it. The FOREO LUNA 3 brush head is made from silicone, which dries very quickly and is more resistant to bacteria and fungi collection than traditional nylon bristles.


The FOREO LUNA 3 also has different brush heads for different skin types. I’m using the pink brush head normal skin. Here’s how you can get started on cleaner and smoother skin with the FOREO LUNA 3.


Step 1

To start using the FOREO LUNA 3, sync the device to FOREO app on your smartphone.


Step 2

Wet your face and spread your facial cleanser all around.


Step 3

Choose your preferred parameters- I’m using the highest intensity of 16. And now we’re good to go!


Step 4

Gently glide the FOREO LUNA 3 on your face in circular movements using the app to guide you. To make the most out of the touchpoints on the FOREO LUNA 3, use the middle part of the device for large areas like your cheeks, chin and forehead. For corners and angled areas like the nose; I prefer to use the tip of the FOREO LUNA 3 which is angled for better contact. When you’re done, rinse off the facial cleanser. Done in 60 seconds 🙂

Using my FOREO LUNA 3. Gentle gliding motions will suffice.


My review of FOREO LUNA 3


Disclaimer: This FOREO LUNA 3 was gifted to me by FOREO in July 2020. However, my review and opinions about this product are my own.


What I Like about the FOREO LUNA 3


When I made the switch from my Clarisonic Pro to the FOREO LUNA 3; my only regret was why didn’t I make this move earlier? The FOREO LUNA 3 feels like a massive upgrade- clean and smoother skin; without all the problems that Clarisonic had. It seemed like the FOREO team that designed the FOREO LUNA 3 took the OG and made it even better, economical and convenient. Here’s why:


First up- the results. Sonic cleansing especially with the FOREO LUNA 3 has been a game changer for me. I find that my skin feels noticeably cleaner and smoother with the FOREO LUNA 3 as compared to manually cleansing with my fingers. This difference is especially significant for me on days that my skin needs a good thorough cleanse, such as work out. What I also really like about the FOREO LUNA 3 is that this deep cleanse is completed in only 60 seconds; without abrasions or exfoliation.


Secondly, the experience with the FOREO LUNA 3 also deserves a mention. I say this because having used sonic facial cleansers before switching to the FOREO LUNA 3; this is my recommendation if you’re looking for an effective, hygienic and user friendly device.


The silicone brush head is an intelligent choice of material for a sonic facial cleanser. The silicone bristles are waterproof; so they dry very quickly. This makes the FOREO LUNA 3 a lot more hygienic than most sonic facial cleansers with nylon bristles which tend to collect mould and bacteria. The FOREO LUNA 3 brush head is also very low maintenance; all you need to do is rinse it water and pat it dry. The other advantage of this brush head is that you do not have to replace it over the lifetime of the product. I appreciated these welcome changes with the FOREO LUNA 3 as my Clarisonic Pro, which had nylon bristles would take hours to dry and it would turn moldy over time. Every 3 months I had to change my Clarisonic Pro brush head as the bristles would also bend out of shape and cause abrasions on my skin.


Another plus point for the FOREO LUNA 3- the accompanying FOREO app. With this app, you can choose to personalise your preferred cleansing settings. For daily cleansing, you can use a gentler setting; but on the days that you want a deep cleanse; the intensities can be increased. The FOREO app also allows you to get a face massage with your FOREO LUNA 3 by switching to the massage settings on the app.


I clean my FOREO LUNA 3 by rinsing it with clean water and then leave it to air dry.


What I Did Not Like about the FOREO LUNA 3


I am honestly hard pressed to think of any drawbacks of the FOREO LUNA 3. I really like deep cleansing results with sonic facial cleansers, especially with the FOREO LUNA 3. My earlier Clarisonic Pro pales in comparison with the FOREO LUNA 3.

Conclusion on sonic facial cleansing brushes


Since their launch more than a decade ago, sonic facial cleansing devices have cemented their status as one of the most popular tech devices in beauty. With optimal parameters, sonic facial cleansers remove dirt, sebum and dead skin in the pores gently; without causing over exfoliation or abrasions. Studies also show that sonic facial cleansing devices are superior to manually cleansing with fingers; and are safe for users who have conditions like acne and rosacea.


I’ve used sonic facial cleansing devices for a decade now; and I like that my skin is cleaner and smoother, even on days that my skin feels especially dirty. My FOREO LUNA 3 gives a thorough deep cleanse in 60 seconds, making my daily skincare routine a lot more efficient. If you’re looking for a thorough yet gentle cleansing of your skin; sonic facial cleansers are worth a try. Be sure to choose brush heads that are appropriate for your skin type and start with gentler parameters on your device before increasing them.



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2. A “men’s dirt” model for assessing cleansing efficacy of a sonic skin care brush. Peterson et al. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2016;74(5): AB10.

3. Development of a makeup removal technique to evaluate the efficacy of various facial cleansing methods. Akridge et al. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012;66(4):AB26.

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5. Re‐examining methods of facial cleansing. Draelos and Akridge. Cosmet Dermatol. 2006;19:671‐675.

6. Clinical efficacy of a new sonic skin care brush for facial cleansing. Akridge et al. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2006;54(3):AB417. 7. Efficacy and safety of a novel sonic brush head designed for cleansing acneic skin. Henes et al. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2013;68(4):AB14.

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11. A multicenter clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of two OTC acne regimens comparing sonic to manual cleansing in individuals with mild to moderate acne vulgaris. Tadlock et al. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2016;74(5):AB1.

12. Efficacy and safety of eye serums formulated for use with a sonic applicator. Winterscheid et al. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2013;68(4):AB23

13. Effects of a skin massaging device on the ex‐vivo expression of human dermis proteins and in‐vivo facial wrinkles. Caberlotto et al. PLoS ONE. 2017; 12(3): e0172624.

14. Pollution and acne: is there a link? Krutmann et al. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol 2017; 10: 199–204.

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17. Associations between air pollution, climate factors and outpatient visits for eczema in West China Hospital, Chengdu, south‐western China: a time series analysis.Li et al. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 2018; 32: 486–494.

18. Systematic review and meta‐analysis of human skin diseases due to particulate matter. Ngoc et al. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2017; 14: 1458–1470.

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20. Airborne particle exposure and extrinsic skin aging. Vierkotter et al. J Invest Dermatol 2010; 130: 2719–2726.

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22. The impact of airborne pollution on skin. Araviiskaia et al. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2019 Aug; 33(8): 1496–1505.

23. Long‐term efficacy after use of a sonic applicator using a variety of commercially available eyeproducts. Koski et al. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2013;68(4):AB31.

24. Evaluation of a novel sonic brush head to deeply cleanse pores. Henes et al. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012;66(4):AB26.

25. Long‐term efficacy and tolerance of a sonic brush and salicylic acid cleanser for cleansing acneic skin. Ortblad et al. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2014;70(5):AB8.

26. Assessment of a sonic skin care brush used as part of a skin care regime and as an adjunct to prescription treatments for rosacea. Akridge et al. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008;58(2):AB13.

27. An efficacy assessment of a novel skin cleansing device in seborrheic dermatitis. Draelos and Akridge. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2007;56(2):AB51.

28. A novel fluorescent makeup methodology used to measure the cleansing efficacy of a sonic skin care brush. Peterson et al. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2007;56(2):AB38.




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