Facial Cleansing Brushes: What You Need to Know

by Catherine Devine

Getty ImagesGetty ImagesI know I'm a little late to the game, but I finally started using a facial cleansing brush a few weeks ago. I'd heard my coworkers and friends rave about them for years, about how glow-y their skin looked and how smooth it felt, so I couldn't wait to use one. I thought my skin would look Jennifer Aniston flawless after using it once. What I got, though, was the total opposite: My face broke out--badly.

Aside from a few zits every now and then (which I could probably attribute to my slight affection for chocolate), I've luckily never had a serious acne problem. But after a few days of using the brush with my everyday cleanser (Philosophy Purity Face Wash), my face was spackled in pimples. I freaked out big time. According to dermatologist Jason Emer, this is totally normal.

"At the beginning, your skin might flare, probably within the first two weeks," he said. "The dead skin cells that are being sloughed off plug up your pores. But as your skin gets used to it, your pores become more open and there will be fewer dead skin cells to exfoliate, so you'll be less likely to have breakouts."

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He was right: After about a week and a half, my skin cleared up. I've been using the brush for over a month now, and my skin looks...OK, maybe not as perfect as Jennifer Aniston's, but it's the best it's looked in a very long time. After all the tears shed over the breakout (I never said I wasn't overdramatic), it was definitely worth it. As are the long-term benefits: "Normal skin turnover has a one-month cycle, but you want that skin to turn over faster," Emer said. "A face brush allows the dead skin cells to exfoliate quicker, and from that produce more collagen, and gradually, [you] get tighter skin. Plus, it removes any oil or debris that's plugging pores and allows medication to penetrate skin better."

Here, a few of his tricks for cleansing-brush rookies:
- Start using a face wash with acne treatments such as a salicylic or glycolic acid before you use your brush for the first time as a preventative measure.
- Ease the brush into your routine. Try using it once or twice a week at first and slowly build up your use. Normal skin types can potentially use it every day, while those with more sensitive complexions should stick with once or twice a week. The most common breakout spots? Your temples, cheekbones, and chin, "since they have a lot of gland activity" (read: more oil) and thinner skin, Emer said.
- Follow up your cleansing with any topical medications you may use, then with moisturizer and SPF.

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