Can mechanical cleansing devices damage your skin?

Can mechanical cleansing devices damage your skin?
Can mechanical cleansing devices damage your skin?

By Ron Robinson

We’ve all seen and heard about them, and probably even used at least one of them daily: electronic cleansing devices.

The ClarisonicTM automatically comes to mind, in addition to a slew of counterparts like the DDF Revolve 400X Micro-Polishing System, which uses a sponge-type head to buff and polish the skin for microdermabrasion results.

They are available in a number of high-end and low-end retailer locations, and are even affordable, like the Olay Pro-X Advanced Cleansing System ($29.00) that is clinically designed to cleanse hard to remove makeup 6X better than basic cleansing.

All of these deep-cleansing devices promise to give you brighter and clearer skin, compared to what you get from regular cleansing alone.

Most of these cleansing brushes are recommended by leading dermatologists, aestheticians and spa professionals alike, becoming a skincare staple due to their affordability, effectiveness and impressive results.

With continued use, the skin becomes less worn and tired-looking due to removing layers of unwanted dead skin cells. Pores are less prominent, fine lines are diminished and black heads become obsolete.

But, are these electronic cleansing devices, with their powerful spinning brush-head technology, safe for our skin? We’ve come this far, for years using our God-given hands alone to cleanse our face. Our hands seem to have been doing a good job, but, could we actually be damaging our skin by using mechanical cleansing devices?

I spoke with Julius Few, MD, an ASAPS member from Chicago, IL, who explained that using our hands alone is just not as effective as the cleansing brush, “The attached brush is better able to lift off dead skin without damaging the healthy skin underneath. This is called ‘mechanical exfoliation.’”

He also explained that using an at home retinol product and periodic use of a mechanical cleansing device will create a result that is similar to an in-spa light chemical peel, although he did warn that this would not be analogous to a traditional medium to deep in office chemical peel.

Although theses electronic facial cleansing tools may seem to be the Holy Grail for clear skin, it is possible to abuse their cleansing ability. The skin naturally flakes off weekly, so using one of these cleansing tools nightly may be excessive and can over-dry and/or irritate the skin.

“Overusing the device is the most common problem we see with the Clarisonic,” explains Dr. Few. “People think that if a moderate amount is good, then more is even better. This is counterproductive and can really do a great deal of harm to the skin of the face.”

It is also best understood that these devices are not miracle workers. They are to be used in moderation; they are not intended to treat cystic acne or a variety of dermatologic conditions, unless advised by your doctor.

With all of that said, when using any type of mechanical cleansing device, it is best to listen to your doctor and most importantly your skin.