Is The Clarisonic Brush Harmful Or Helpful To The Skin?

Updated 1/16/18. Let me start by saying that I normally don’t do reviews of other skin care products. I generally use my blog as a place to share my expert skin tips and advice that I’ve learned from being an esthetician for 30 years, but I leave product reviews for all of the great beauty bloggers out there.

However, my reason for doing a review on Clarisonic is because I have observed changes in my client’s skin that use the brush, and some of the changes have not been beneficial. Since my goal is to offer helpful skin care tips to allow you to become a smarter skin care consumer, I feel this is important information to share with all of you who currently use it, or are considering purchasing it. (NOTE: The same rules can apply to other brands that make rotating or sonic brushes.)

What is Clarisonic?

Clarisonic is a skin care tool sold at specialty beauty stores that uses a soft, gentle brush that oscillates back and forth over the skin. It claims to “remove six times more makeup than cleansing by hand.”Yet to me, Clarisonic is really just an exfoliating tool to physically lift off dry skin cells and, in the process, remove dirt and makeup. Exfoliation is the action that the bristles create when rubbed over the skin. My problem with Clarisonic is not the brush itself because the exfoliating benefits are very important, but I have a serious concern with how often they recommend using it. They say it’s gentle enough to use twice daily, but it is my belief that this is way too much—especially when combining with other exfoliating products you are probably already using.

While it may feel gentle enough to use twice a day, you have to understand how exfoliation affects the skin. Clarisonic brush, facial scrubs, acids, enzymes, washcloths or whatever form you get yours in can cause skin damage and may lead to premature aging if used too frequently.

How is a Clarisonic affecting my skin?

Skin Fact #1: Too much exfoliation can cause dryness.

Exfoliating too aggressively and too often can cause dryness and disrupt the skin’s lipid barrier. This allows moisture to seep out of the cells more easily, causing them to get dehydrated. Many of my clients who I see monthly for facial treatments started complaining of dryness and irritation when their skin had been so perfectly hydrated and balanced with their Renée Rouleau skin care products. Come to find out, the dryness started to occur once they introduced the Clarisonic brush! I had already had my clients set up on a very thorough exfoliation routine, but once they added in the Clarisonic, their skin was getting too much exfoliation and that’s why the dryness and irritation occurred. Discontinuing use of Clarisonic, or cutting back its use to a few times a week quickly returned their skin to a healthy, balanced and hydrated state.

Skin Fact #2: Too much exfoliation can cause chronic inflammation within the skin.

Exfoliating too aggressively and too often can create inflammation (even if not visible) setting off a response to create free radicals. A major cause of aging is chronic and prolonged inflammation, associated with tissue destruction, active inflammation and attempts at healing which is why it’s essential to eat foods high in antioxidants and use skin care products with stable antioxidants. See this amazing experiment I did when I applied a vitamin C skin serum to an apple!

Skin Fact #3: Skin trauma is good…occasionally.

You do not want to exfoliate to the point of destroying healthy, living cells. When you give the skin trauma, the skin goes into repair mode and stimulates cellular regeneration. This can be very beneficial to the skin, but if you create trauma too often by over-exfoliating, then it’s continually setting up a cascade of free radical damage that triggers premature aging. This is the last thing that any skin needs that wants to stay looking youthful and fresh. However, professional chemical peels done a few times a year do cause trauma to the skin, and this is beneficial for the stimulation of collagen. Your skin likes boosts (a little wake-up call), just not all the time.

Skin Fact #4: Too much exfoliation might stimulate melanin activity resulting in increased skin discoloration.

You must use caution with physical exfoliants like Clarisonic, washcloths and facial scrubs. For skin that is extremely reactive to stimulation (deeper skin tones and for those prone to melasma), you need to treat your skin gently to avoid post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation resulting in increased skin discoloration.

Skin Fact #5: Clean skin is good…to a certain point.

Since Clarisonic markets itself as a cleansing tool to remove dirt and makeup, I’d like to make this point; you do want your skin hygienically clean, but not clean like you want your kitchen floor. There is a certain amount of good bacteria that the skin needs to keep it healthy and functioning well so you don’t want to strip it by over-using your Clarisonic brush. This is also why I suggest using non-drying, sulfate-free cleansers. Cleanser recommendations: only use sulfate-free gel cleansers. Find out which cleanser is right for you by taking our Skin Type Quiz or schedule a virtual consultation to get customized advice in person, over the phone or online via Skype or FaceTime.

What’s the right amount of exfoliation?

I discuss this in greater detail in my complete guide to exfoliation. However, I suggest using an acid serum applied to the skin several nights a week. Then, on the opposite nights, you want to give your skin a break from exfoliation (remember, you don’t want to over-exfoliate) by using a serum for your skin type to nourish and hydrate the new cells. (Recommended serum: Firm + Repair Overnight Serum is a great one if your breakout years are behind you and your main focus is to have the skin age in a healthy way.) Always use a moisturizer over the serum to seal the benefits into the skin.

I also recommend using a gentle facial scrub OR your Clarisonic brush 2-3 times a week—and that’s it. The idea here is that using an acid serum will dissolve the dry skin cells while a physical exfoliant like a scrub or Clarisonic will lift off the dry skin cells. They both work differently but both are very beneficial for the health and clarity of the skin.

A professional chemical peel should be performed every other month and an at-home professional-strength peel (recommended exfoliating peel: Triple Berry Smoothing Peel) should be used once a week.

If you’re using a prescription retinoid, you must go very easy with a cleansing brush.

Bottom Line:

Many people really like using the Clarisonic brush and I’m certainly not telling you not to use it. I simply want to inform you that using it twice daily, combined with other exfoliating products, may be harming your skin’s overall health—and this is the last thing you want when caring for your skin.

And just for the record, I actually did purchase a Clarisonic brush and have used it on my skin. For me, it was too stimulating and caused some breakout activity (common in breakout-prone, sensitive skin types) so I’ll stick with facial scrubs for my physical exfoliation. But if you love it and it works well for your skin, then by all means, use itbut in moderation.

Comments:

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  1. Avatar

    I use RR products and am a skintype #6. My skin is sensitive and I even though I have to be careful with exfoliation; I need it to keep my skin looking healthy. That being said, I just purchased the newest Clarisonic Smart device. This is the first time I have ever purchased a tool for my skin. I have used the brush twice on the delicate setting and I have to admit…I am really impressed with the results. My skin was totally clean and it really cleaned out the junk in my pores thus making them smaller. I did notice that my skin felt a little tight after use. I definitely agree that this device should be used sparingly and according to your skin’s needs…but I definitely recommend it. I do not typically buy tools for my skin b/c I like simplicity…but this one is a keeper.

    Posted By: Victoria  | 

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  2. Avatar

    hi, I recently started using the Mia clarisonic brush and now my pores are large? Will this eventually go away? Am I doing something wrong? Thank you!

    Posted By: Rene  | 

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      I don’t often hear of that happening but every skin is different. No, there has not been permanent change to your skin so if you stop using it, it will return to normal. If the brush isn’t giving you a good visible result, then don’t use it anymore.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

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    I have some questions. Do i use the clarisonic together with my normal exfoliating routine? If so, which to i use first? i wanted to try using the clarisonic but after reading this, i dont know how to use the clarisonic properly. Can you teach me how to use the clarisonic and when do i use it? Thank you 🙂

    Posted By: Shelia  | 

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      Clarisonic would be used similar to a facial scrub since the exfoliating action is nearly the same. So this would mean 2-3 times a week.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

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    Hi there. I used the clarisonic everyday for the past 5 months and I just stopped using it cause I think it caused inflammation to my skin. Did I do permanent damage? I am terrified that I have. It’s only been a week since I stopped using it. It Increased my pore size and created an uneven skin tone.

    Posted By: Jackie  | 

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    Hi Renee,
    I started using clarisonic and i began to notice broken veins on my cheeks, chin and around my nose .. is the brush causing it.
    and can stress cause broken veins as i have been a lot stressed lately ????

    Posted By: Lamis  | 

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      What you’re referring to is dilated capillaries (broken ones are technically bruises) but the brush may be dilating them and causing them to appear more noticeable. I have never heard of stress being a correlation.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

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        Thank you for your quick response 🙂 please advise if I stopped using it will they dissappear again or be less visible ???

        Posted By: Lamis  | 

  6. Avatar

    Renee ,
    I use the Mario badescu kiwi facial scrub and have combination /oily skin And thinking of getting a Clarisonic . If I do what times are best to exfoliate with my scrub and use the Clarisonic ?

    Posted By: Marisol  | 

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      For most skin types including combination/oily skin like yours, physical exfoliants, whether it’s a facial scrub or Clarisonic, should be used 3 nights a week. So you can choose with one you get better results with. If you want to learn more about Renee Rouleau skin types and finds yours, read here. https://www.reneerouleau.com/skin-types

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

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  7. Avatar

    I went from twice daily to only about 3 times a week with my Clarisonic. I’m oily, but, very fair/sensitive. I could not tolerate daily use.

    Posted By: Valerie C.  | 

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    Looks like I’m late to the party since this was first written in 2010! I’ve used the Clarisonic Mia, which has a timer, for several years. Incidentally, I started using it in late 2010. My skin was generally pretty good before using the Clarisonic, except for the occasional acne and T-zone oiliness – it was amazing afterwards! I use it every time I shower, so I’m using it about once a day for the last several years. I frequently receive compliments about how beautiful and youthful my skin looks (I’m suppose I’m young anyway, and it should look like this – 30 later this year). I never get blackheads anymore, and I have no extreme oiliness. I attribute the improvement mostly to the Clarisonic use since I still do get hormonal breakouts. I’m very pleased with my Clarisonic, but recently my mom was shocked at my daily use. She suggested I use it only a few times a week, but I’m not sold since I’ve had amazing results. I’m not sure if it’s genetics or the Clarisonic – but I’d bet on the latter since I haven’t always had such clear skin. I will, however, heed the exfoliating advice and not use exfoliator scrubs on days that I use my Clarisonic. Note that my daily skincare regiment includes serum, hydrating toner, moisturizer, SPF in the daytime and eye creams religiously, so maybe that helps as well. Thanks for the info!

    Posted By: Teresa  | 

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    Hi, Rene I did a jessner peel on Thursday and I’m starting to peel, my question is can I use my clarisonic?

    Posted By: carolina  | 

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  10. Avatar

    Renee,
    i just bought the Clarosonic because i thought it would make my skin radiant but after reading all this im scared. Im mid 40’s with pretty good, olive skin. My procedure is a fcial scrub in the morning(Clean and Clear Daily Pore), Neocutis Journee anti aging cream then Estee Lauder Day Wear Moisurizer. Evenings same pore scrub/cleanser, Neutrogen 3 in 1 daily stress exfoliant, estee lauder night repair serum and moisturizer. With Clarosonic is this too much exfoliating, and what do i get rid of? On top of this I do a silk peel once a month. I’m not sure what i should do?? What do you suggest

    Posted By: Michelle  | 

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      Hi Michelle, I suggest using Clarisonic no more than three times a week. I then suggest using a gentle acid serum (like our BHA Clarifying Serum or AHA Smoothing Serum, depending on your skin type) for three nights on, three nights off, alternating with a regular hydrating, anti-aging serum. My line is based on nine skin types and you can choose your skin type here. https://www.reneerouleau.com/Prescription.aspx
      It will then suggest a good routine from my line that will give you the right amount of exfoliation, as well as address your other specific concerns. You can always email customer service if you need more assistance. Thanks, Renee

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

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