Facial Exfoliating Brushes: Are They Worth The Hype?

For years, the supposed holy grail of facial exfoliation consisted of coarse scrubs and textured mitts that would do little more than leave your face feeling red and raw. Varying in strength, grain, and harshness, the never-ending list of options made it undeniably tricky for everyday skincare enthusiasts to differentiate between a high-quality alternative and one that would leave your skin irritated, distressed, and worse off. 

Fast forward several years, and it's hard to deny the leaps and bounds the beauty industry has made in the exfoliating world. From improved formulas to cutting-edge devices, we're now more spoilt for choice than ever when it comes to safely and deeply shedding that unwanted layer of dead skin that's dimming your radiance. 

Yet, one method is shaking up the beauty industry yet again, and it's not even a new concept: facial exfoliating brushes — the gentle devices that seamlessly fit into your daily routine to help buff away the day. If you're yet to try one and wondering if they're worth the hype, keep reading for our full low-down on exfoliating brushes. 

What is a facial exfoliating brush, and how do they work?

A facial exfoliating brush is a handheld tool used alongside your go-to liquid cleanser to physically cleanse and exfoliate the face, buff away dead skin cells, remove built-up product residue, and effectively eliminate oil and dirt clogging your pores. 

There are many different types of exfoliating brushes — ranging from kabuki bristle brushes, multi-speed devices, silicone brushes, and more. Similarly to a high-quality, gentle facial scrub, a facial exfoliating brush removes unwanted dead skin cells and products from your face through physical motion. 

Yet, the quality, efficacy, and process will vary from product to product. While some devices will use a circular or back-and-forth motion, others will offer a multi-speed motor function to exfoliate the skin through gentle vibration. 

For example, let's look at the Dr Tanya NuSonic Facial Exfoliator:

  • Process: This incredible pocket-sized device uses ultrasonic vibrations to gently massage the skin, stimulate collagen production, and reduce fine lines and wrinkles for a brighter, healthier, and more youthful complexion. 
  • Harshness: Due to its gentle vibrations, the NuSonic Facial Exfoliator can be used safely as little as three times a week, unlike many other harsher exfoliators on the market. 
  • Benefits: Stimulates collagen production, buffs away dead skin, removes sunscreen and built-up product, improves skin texture and tone, and is gentler than other forms of exfoliation. 
  • Ritual: Remove the device's protective cap, moisten your skin with warm water, and apply your cream cleanser. Use comfortable pressure at a 90-degree angle and slowly glide the NuSonic across the skin in outward motions. Rinse and pat the skin dry before applying additional skincare steps. 

Myth debunking: the untruths about facial exfoliation brushes 

Before we get to our top four reasons to add an exfoliating brush to your routine, let's debunk a few widely accepted beliefs about these incredibly powerful tools:

Myth #1: They'll cause breakouts

There's a common misconception that a facial exfoliating brush will cause harsh irritations to your skin, resulting in breakouts. While a poor-quality device certainly has the power to cause skin damage, much like a subpar exfoliating scrub, when you invest in the right device, you'll find they're much gentler and more effective than you think. 

The reality is, usually, a wipe, make-up remover, or cleanser won't wholly remove make-up and product on its own, which makes your skin more susceptible to breakouts due to clogged pores. Using a high-quality facial exfoliating device will ensure all products and built-up dead skin cells are adequately and deeply buffed away, improving the efficacy of your other skincare products for better overall results. 

However, there is one exception to the rule. It isn't uncommon to experience a mild breakout the first couple of times you try a facial exfoliating brush, and there's a good explanation for this. When you first use a device that allows you to exfoliate and clean the skin more thoroughly, you'll be shedding dead skin cells much faster than simply using a cleanser or scrub, as the bacteria is surfacing. This is often referred to as "skin purging" and is a normal part of the process when trying a new skincare product or ritual. If your skin feels red and irritated, we recommend waiting for it to return to normal before continuing the process. Always slowly introduce any new product to assess your skin's tolerance. If the irritation persists, book an appointment with your skincare professional to ensure you receive a bespoke treatment plan. 

Myth #2: They're not suitable for sensitive skin types

Again, this all comes down to the quality of the device you're using. If you invest in a high-quality option, like Dr Tanya's NuSonic Facial Exfoliating device, you'll find they're gentle enough to use on your skin without causing irritation or distress. With sensitive skin types, the key is to consider your facial exfoliator a treatment rather than a daily procedure. 

As with adding any new product or step to your skincare ritual, we recommend always starting slowly to assess how your skin reacts. What works for one person's skin may not necessarily work for the next person. Start small by using the brush 1-2 times per week and adjusting the frequency based on how your skin's taking to the new ritual. Secondly, ensure you're following the instructions carefully and not adding too much pressure or exfoliating for excessive time. 

The goal of facial exfoliation isn't to aggressively peel back a layer of skin or achieve a red, raw complexion. The best quality options contain gentle, soft bristles (such as silicone) that add more depth to your cleansing process than your cream cleanser alone can offer. 

Note: Like any exfoliating routine or product, an exfoliating brush, irrespective of how gentle it is, should not be used if you have psoriasis or an eczema flare-up. Likewise, they should not be used on sunburned or broken skin until healed. 

Myth #3: You can apply any cleanser with your device

Contrary to popular belief, the product you use to accompany your exfoliating brush is as important as the process itself. We recommend always opting for a gentle cream or gel cleanser best suited to your skin type and condition. This allows your skin to enjoy a thorough cleanse while the device works hard to buff away bacteria and products for deeper penetration and skin renewal. 

Note: A chemical or physical exfoliating product should not be used with the exfoliating brush, as the harshness is likely to damage your skin and counteract the benefits. This can cause micro-skin tears, making your skin more susceptible to unwanted bacteria and breakouts. 

Dr Tanya's top 4 reasons to add a facial exfoliating brush to your skincare ritual

From offering deeper exfoliation and skin product penetration to improving circulation and blemish-prone skin, it's safe to say that high-quality facial exfoliating brushes genuinely do live up to their much-justified hype. Let's take a closer look at how an exfoliating device, like Dr Tanya's gentle NuSonic Facial Exfoliator, can turn your dull, textured, and uneven complexion into pure radiance:

  1. They increase collagen synthesis 

Our skin has a natural life cycle where the cells regularly die, shed, and renew. Introducing a facial exfoliating brush to your skincare ritual speeds up this cycle by quickly removing built-up dead skin cells on the skin's surface. In turn, this encourages new cell production and, thus, an increase in collagen synthesis. An exfoliating facial brush essentially mimics an already natural process that occurs to your skin at a much faster rate. 

Our skin regenerates roughly every 28 days. However, as we age, this process slows down as our natural collagen production declines. As collagen is a structural protein that gives our skin firmness, elasticity, and suppleness (aka youthfulness), here are the common metabolic changes that take place internally when collagen declines: 

  • Initial signs of dull and sallow skin
  • The appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, lost elasticity, and skin sagging 
  • A reduction in sebaceous activity (i.e., your skin starts to produce less oil, resulting in drier skin)
  • Your skin's ability to naturally renew itself slows down

As such, a facial exfoliating brush can help keep this natural process consistent, maintaining youthfulness and radiance. 

  1. They cleanse the skin more thoroughly — and improve product efficacy!

Unlike a standard cleanser, washcloth, or exfoliating scrub, a facial exfoliating brush allows you to enjoy the best of both worlds. Many people opt for an exfoliating brush because it allows them to adequately rid their skin of any unwanted make-up, sunscreen, bacteria, and dead skin cells far more effectively than a cleanser alone, without causing any potential damage often resulting from harsh exfoliating scrubs. 

What if we told you your skincare is only as effective as your exfoliation ritual? Those who have read this far will likely be the same selection of people who invest in good quality skincare. However, If you don't exfoliate your skin adequately, using the right tools, the chances are, the rest of your skincare steps likely aren't living up to their full potential. Wondering why? Gently exfoliating your skin allows your skincare products to penetrate deeper, improving their efficacy and your results. 

  1. They're beneficial for blemish-prone skin

The overarching benefit of adding an exfoliating brush to your routine is its ability to deeply cleanse and exfoliate the skin far more than a standard product or washcloth.

Those with acne-prone or oily skin types are more susceptible to experiencing clogged pores and pimples due to excess sebum production and dead skin cells getting trapped. As exfoliating brushes can penetrate deeper, they assist in unclogging pores, which helps to minimise the risk of acne breakouts and flare-ups. 

Unclogging your pores allows additional skincare products to penetrate deeper and work more effectively. This is particularly beneficial if using specific acne treatment. However, the exfoliating brush quality and routine are paramount to success for blemish-prone skin. We recommend opting for a gentle, silicone exfoliating brush that can be easily cleaned to avoid bacteria spreading that won't irritate the skin. 

  1. They help brighten skin tone

Believe it or not, dead skin cells are generally the culprit for dull-looking skin. Exfoliating brushes help to slough away the build-up of dead skin cells and additional impurities on the skin's surface to reveal brighter and smoother skin. 

Increasing cell turnover is also suggested to help improve the appearance of discolouration and unwanted dark spots, often caused by sun exposure, hormones, or medication. Likewise, massaging the skin with a vibrational exfoliating device helps to increase blood flow and boost radiance, giving the appearance of healthier skin.  

The recap

The verdict is in: there is a well-deserved spot reserved for facial exfoliation brushes in your skincare routine. From improving skin tone and blemish-prone skin to increasing collagen synthesis and product efficacy, there is an undeniable list of advantages to adding this vital step to your ritual.  

Yet, quality and procedure matter when it comes to ensuring a safe, gentle, and effective exfoliating ritual. Like skincare, not all devices are created equal, meaning you need to conduct your own research to find a quality solution with your best interest at heart. We recommended starting slow and assessing your skin's response to the device before implementing a consistent routine. Additionally, we suggest opting for a silicone brush, like our incredible Dr Tanya NuSonic Facial Exfoliator, over a hard-bristle brush to ensure it is gentle and hygienic on the skin for optimal results. Most importantly, listen to your skin and what it needs to thrive!