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Deep Cleansing Brushes: What’s the Difference Between All of Them?

Deep Facial Cleansing Brushes review and comparison


I’m sure you’ve noticed it in my Beauty Expert Series that Clarisonics have been mentioned many, many times. They’re continually mentioned in magazines and on-line by both dermatologists and estheticians as a must have (and use) item. Why? While you might think that using just your hands, cleanser and a few splashes of water is enough to clean your face…. it really isn’t. You need a bit more friction than that. Add in a little light exfoliation each time you use the Clarisonic and it is a skin’s dream come true. You look more glowy, don’t have a light residual layer of makeup when you go to bed, and since you’ve exfoliated off a little dead skin all of your expensive skin care works better.

But, that Clarisonic is so expensive! I have one, I admit to being too lazy to use it every day (I’m more of an every 2-3 days Clarisonic girl, I go with an old fashioned wash cloth twice a day usually). I’ve been resolving to improve this to every night over the summer.

But, what if you don’t have a Clarisonic? And can’t imagine shelling out the big bucks to do it? There are alternatives, and I thought a review and comparison of the 4 deep facial cleansing machines I have here at home would be worthwhile. I do want to state that in the past I’ve reviewed the Sirius Beauty brush as well, but I’ve since given it away. So, here are the 4 I have at home!

Clarisonic Plus
Obviously this is the big one, the gold standard against which all others are judged. There are many options, ranging from the Mia up to the Plus. I had the Classic but upgraded to the Plus. I have 3 speeds, a recharging base and the whole thing is waterproof so I can take it in the shower with me. It does beep at me at intervals, which if I paid attention to the timing would tell me when to switch from my forehead to my left cheek or something. I ignore this and just go at my own pace while concentrating on my t-zone.

There are different brushes available though I use the deep pore cleansing head. The head has an outer ring of bristles that don’t move and the inner circle of bristles vibrate with “sonic motion”, they do not spin. If you’ve ever used a Sonic Care toothbrush, this is the same idea. It’s still movement (and super fast movement at that) and I really don’t think it matters that the movement in little in amplitude rather than large. You can see how the brush is broken up in the picture at the right.




Olay Pro-X Advanced Cleansing System
The Olay Cleansing brush is available at big box stores around the country and is a fraction of the price of the Clarisonic. Rather than hanging out in a plugged in charging base, this brush has 2 AA batteries. You can see that they’ve included a rubber ring in the battery case to help make it water resistant, but I would certainly not consider this waterproof. It has 2 speeds and the entire brush rotates rather than vibrating. They do sell replacement brushes, though I haven’t found them in stores (I haven’t looked very hard though, I’m sure they’re around.)


Proactiv Deep Cleansing Brush
This brush is pretty similar to the Olay in setup, except with 1 speed. Again, the battery case has a rubber ring to make it water resistant, simply flip the switch and off you go. This one vibrates instead of spinning, and while it isn’t quite as fast as the Clarisonic it’s not too far off! You can order the regular Proactiv kit and get this brush for free. I am not a Proactiv subscriber currently (I have been in the past) so I can’t really get into the area to order specific items to know if that is possible. (I have an email out to their PR to ask, I’ll let you know what they say!)


Neutrogena Wave
The Neutrogena Wave is included here really because I still get emails asking me about it. Obviously this is a much different ball of wax. There are disposable pads with cleanser inside that are then velcro attached to the Wave machine. There’s 1 little button, 1 speed and that is it. The pad vibrates a little bit, but there isn’t a lot of movement. Most of the cleansing/exfoliation comes from the little pad, which is a bit abrasive like a Buf-Puf. Note that there isn’t a rubber ring on the battery case so this product is not water resistant even.


Here’s a quick peek at the relative size of each brush head. You can see that the Clarisonic is the biggest and the Olay the smallest. Proactiv is about 75% the size of Clarisonic.


When looking at the bristle length, there is quite a bit of difference. The Clarisonic bristles are the shortest and the stiffest. I do use the deep cleansing brush, but I don’t think there is a lot of difference between that brush head and the sensitive brush. The Olay is the most flexible, and because of this I’ve found that it is actually a little bit too soft and the bristles kind of splay all over the place. The Proactiv bristles are in between the Clarisonic and the Olay in flexibility. Even though they are longer than the Olay they provide more friction for washing and don’t easily splay out all over. I like that they’re longer than the Clarisonic bristles, so it is easier to get into the area around my nose.

I decided to make a little movie showing how each of the machines “moves”, I apparently still need to work on the whole focal length of this camera, but you get the general idea.

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About Me

Iā€™m a doctor, a mommy and a bit of a beauty addict. If you let me, I can take 2 hours to get ready in the morning. Really. I'm on a quest for faster beauty that works!

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  1. 5.9.12

    very informative and well done comparison post! i have a clarisonic from when it first came out, so i haven't ever used any of the other brushes

  2. 5.9.12
    Anonymous said:

    Thank you for the review on the various exfoliating brushes out there. More than likely, I will never own the Clarisonic due to the price. I'll just stick to my Pretika. Hopefully, I'll eventually kick the feeling of missing out on a Clarisonic.

    Tam tshawpayton@yahoo.com

  3. 5.9.12

    Great review! I love that you have so many different cleaning systems. I used to use the Neutrogena Wave, then I got my clarisonic and I haven't looked back since.

  4. 5.9.12
    Anonymous said:

    Regarding the deep pore cleansing head for the Clarisonic- do you find there's a benefit to having an outer ring of bristles that don't move (the Clarisonic website says they just move in a different direction)? I use the sensitive head and am due for a replacement and was wondering if I should change it up.

  5. 5.9.12
    Christine said:

    I hadn't noticed that the website said they move a different direction. On mine they really just… don't move. They sit there. I'm not certain that is good or bad, I think most of the benefit comes from the bristles that move. I haven't used a sensitive head for over a year, I'd probably stick with that if I was you.

  6. 5.10.12
    Stacie said:

    This is a fantastic post!!! So helpful! Well done!

  7. 5.10.12
    Lindsey said:

    Great descriptions! You don't say much about how well you think they work though. It sounds like you prefer the Clarisonic overall. How do the results of the Proactiv and Olay versions compare to the Clarisonic? Is one better than the other?

  8. 5.11.12

    This is the best comparative post I've seen on facial cleansing brushes. I use the Clarisonic and sensitive brush head and when I try to use any of the others my sensitive skin complains. I also use the lightest setting for the same reason. My skin loves the Clarisonic though. I didn't take it on vacation and what a difference.

    My observation, both my own personal experience and seeing my dermatology patients results, is that the Clarisonic works the best, and the Plus or Pro work better than the Mia. I've had patients use all the brushes except the Proactive and I see cleaner pores and better overall skin improvement in whatever we are treating when they use the Clarisonic. It's why I actually started selling it.

    I've been a big Buf Puf Facial Sponge fan for years; at $5 you can't beat the economy. When patients bought the Clarisonic on their own we both could see a difference.That's what convinced me that the technology is somehow special. Being thrifty I didn't want to sell a gizmo that's so pricy, but the darn thing makes a difference.

    I recently sent my staff to the Clarisonic seminar and here is what my aesthetician learned http://www.drbaileyskincare.com/blog/whats-so-great-about-the-clarisonic/

  9. 5.12.12
    Unknown said:

    After reading a very informative review on Amazon, I bought a NutraSonic on eBay. I'm actually surprised to see that it's not mentioned here. It's quite similar to the Clarisonic in power and general design. Anyway, I'd recommend looking into it (no I'm not trying to sell one, haha). I haven't tried the Clarisonic myself but I'm pretty happy with my NutraSonic.

  10. 5.12.12
    Anonymous said:

    Doesn't the Pretika also belong in this review?

  11. 5.13.12
    Christine said:

    This wasn't meant to be an exhaustive review of every brush on the market, though I haven't heard of the brushes that Anon and Unknown have mentioned. This is just the brushes I personally have and that I get emails about from readers.

    In terms of which one I prefer, I generally prefer the Clarisonic, mostly because it is the one I'm the most used to and I like that it is completely waterproof so it goes into the shower with me sometimes. I like that the Proactiv can go around my nose more easily, and I pretty much don't like how flexible the Olay bristles are at all. The Wave is a bit more of an intensive exfoliation, I'm not sure that I'd use it every day. Most people could probably only handle it a few times a week.

  12. 10.13.12
    Helen said:

    This is good thorough review, Christine. Thank you! My sister has the Olay one and I've always wanted to try it, but bought the Plus instead cause I like the option of having two brush heads. I wrote a brief review on my blog too about it and added a link to this post at the end.

  13. 11.26.12
    Anonymous said:

    Have you tried the Ultra Dual Action Cleansing System? It appears to be comparable to the Oil of Olay but is only $25.00.

  14. 11.26.12

    I haven't seen it before! I'll have to check it out.

  15. 12.4.12
    beano54 said:

    A great review I bought the tresonic about three years ago was good but just stopped using it
    Think I might buy the clarasonic

  16. 1.2.13
    Livia said:

    Great post, very useful!

  17. 1.17.13
    Anonymous said:

    I recently started on a Manual Facial Brush, similiar to the Sephora brand (see link at end), it's really just a simple brsitle brush with a handle, no battery involved. Been using it for a couple weeks and already found a great improvement in my skin. I used to have lot of pimples, so I do have scars and dull complexion, but after using the brush, I find my face a lot more bright and luminous, I'm even brave enough to go out without ANY make up on me other than lipstick. So my question is, would there be a great benefit in upgrading my $6 manual brush to a $100+ Clarisonic system?? I mean, if the only benefit of a Clarisonic system is to give you a light exfoliation and deep cleansing everyday, wouldn't my manual brush do the same? Do you know what the true difference is? Thanks.


  18. 1.18.13

    Well, it should be like using one of those super sonic electronic tooth brushes vs. a regular toothbrush. My teeth always feel WAY better after using one of those, there are a lot more vibrations so the exfoliation should be better and more even. However, I almost never use that toothbrush, I think my regular one is good enough for every day.
    I think it's up to you, it sounds like you're really happy with your manual brush, so I'd probably stick with that. šŸ˜€

  19. 2.5.13
    Barb said:

    I've liked my Clarisonic for the past two years! Son and I have different brushes, and he's used my Clarisonic—but I'm toying with getting him one versus, his using my BC pink one!

  20. 2.19.13

    All the brush products are very help for deep clean, it is very easy to handle. I think i must go for it.

  21. 4.7.13
    Anonymous said:

    Christine, thank you so much! I really appreciate the time you took to explain the different ones and the video is great. I can't afford the Clarisonic right now, but I can afford the Proactiv since it's free with the purchase of their 3-step system.

    I have to chime in about using a regular toothbrush versus my Sonicare – there is no comparison! I love how my teeth always feel and look like I just had them dentist cleaned. With that said, I hope the Proactiv is Sonicare for my face and I'll retire my Buf-Pufs!

    – Julie

  22. 4.24.13
    Anonymous said:

    Hello Thank you for your reviews. By reading this i now know what brush to try. Definately the Proactive cos i'm a subscriber…

  23. 5.13.13
    Anonymous said:

    Very informative and written in a quirky way that kept my attention but actually gave me insight on the products. Thank you!

  24. 6.10.13
    Anonymous said:

    I have the CVS brand brush for $19.99. It works great. It also has good reviews on the cvs.com.

  25. 6.24.13
    Anonymous said:

    Does anyone know more about the Proactive brush? Thinking of ordering…

  26. 7.18.13
    Anonymous said:

    You did a great job of showing the comparison of all these gadgets. I am impressed! It's easy to see what the Clarisonic has to offer. Nice to see the options we all have.

  27. 8.4.13
    Anonymous said:

    Clarisonic does not even compare to all the other inexpensive options. It is true with the saying you get what you pay for. Why bother purchasing a face cleaning system if you can not take it with you in the shower?

  28. 9.10.13
    Anonymous said:

    I will be turning 60 soon and I use retin-a on my face twice a week. I have large pores and much chin wrinkling due to sun worshipping in my stupid years! I was wondering if the Clarisonic would be gentle enough to help rid t he light peeling that happens evry 7-10 days from the retin-a?

  29. 9.15.13
    Anonymous said:

    Thanks for the great reviews! However, you made no mention of battery life for each (that use them) or how often it's recommended to use them.

    Any info on those aspects?

    Thanks so much!

  30. 9.18.13

    That's not something that I can really test and it is so dependent on how you use them that I don't really want to figure it out. LOL

  31. 10.9.13

    I just want to say as a skin care professional the investment for the clarisonic is well worth it. They have a 2 year warranty on them! You do not want to use anything that "rotates" the twisting can actually cause more damage to your skin and break down elastisity which is opposite of what we want to happen. The clarisonic is the only brush that has occulating brush heads meaning the rotate back and forth within each other without twisting the skin. You are better off using a wash cloth than something that rotates round and round. The clarisonic has several types of brush heads that are interchangable so it is good for all skin types and you can change brush heads as needed. Also it is not best to use every day. Over exfoliating can cause the skin to be too sensitized and can also cause broken capilaries. For best results I say to use 2-3 times per week šŸ˜‰

  32. 10.11.13

    Thank you for sharing this information! Very helpful!

  33. 11.13.13

    I am thrilled to announce that Mary Kay has a Skinvigorate Cleansing Brush now! It's only $50 and comes with 2 brush heads and batteries. It has 2 speeds and is waterproof. I've been using mine for a few days now and totally in love! You can find it after 11/15 from your local Beauty Consultant or shop on my website if you don't have one. http://www.marykay.com/smiter.
    I have to admit I have never used another cleansing brush but it seems to be doing a fabulous job and for $50 you can't go wrong. Plus, Mary Kay offers a 100% guarantee on all of our products.

  34. 11.23.13
    Anonymous said:

    I use my Neutrogena wave (the original version) in the shower. I've never had any problems with the battery compartment getting wet. In fact, it seems to be more water resistant than battery operated toothbrushes.

  35. 12.16.13
    Anonymous said:

    I would like to get a brush for my wife but she would not want me to spend $200. Is the Clarisonic Mia a worthy compromise or is it not considerably better than the less expensive systems?

  36. 12.17.13

    The Mia really is a good compromise. I think if you want something that will really last, the Clarisonic is the way to go. There are some great deals on the Mia this holiday season too!

  37. 1.16.14
    Anonymous said:

    Do you or anyone else have any thoughts on the Episonic skin care brush? I cannot seem to find a review for it online. I wonder if that's a sign….hmmm…

    Thanks! šŸ™‚

  38. 2.4.14
    Anonymous said:

    Thank you and all your lovely readers. I almost made a mistake! I was debating about which one, when really the question wasn't cost/effectiveness but is it safe for me? I have trouble being too rough and using too much pressure with toothbrushes, so I will be skipping the nifty brushes. Sad and happy to be safer than sorry.

  39. 2.10.14
    Anonymous said:

    For those that think the Clarisonic is too expensive, some Shoppers Drug Marts carry the Clarisonic. As a collector of Optimum points, yesterday, I was ablve to redeem 80,000 points towards $200.00 of cosmetic products. I decided on the Clarisonic Plus, and paid the difference (it retails for $265.00). It comes with 1 body and 1 sensitive face brush. With some additional points, I also purchased one sensitve brush head twin pack so each of my daughters can use it as well. I spent about $120.00 taxes in, to get everything. The Plus also includes three face cleaner samples, and one body wash sample. Looking forward to using it and spending less money on acne and other skin care products!

  40. 2.17.14
    GulfGal said:

    My daughter and I bought the Clarisonic Pro. Both lasted slightly past the warranty period.. of course!
    The brushes barely operate on the lowest speed.
    Clarisonic won't do anything about the failure to operate.
    Between us we blew about $700. Buyer beware! Never again..!

  41. 3.8.14
    Anonymous said:

    Hi, I just started using the Clarisonic Plus, it is amazing. My dermatologist was using it on my face pre peel, and I was hooked. It really makes a huge difference in removing dead skin cells. I bought mine from skinstore.com and just received 20% off! If anyone is considering, it's still going on. Best thing is that you can register it online and it has a 2 year warranty.

  42. 3.9.14
    Anonymous said:

    Hi Christine, I'm about 30 years old, my skin is normal to combination and very sensitive skin, I have a lot of black and white head in the nose area that I cant do anything about it. I m looking for this kind of product but don't know which brand I should go for? maybe the clarison due to its' reputation? how do you think? if yes which one is suit to me? mia, plus or pro? there is a Korean beauty brand for this kind of item, anyone has tried it yet? thanks

  43. 3.9.14

    Over time I've decided that the Clarisonic does do better because it is sturdier, but I don't know of a Korean alternative. I'd think there are some great Asia exclusive versions, I feel like so many great skin care and beauty items come out of Asia that there's no way they wouldn't have a similar product!

  44. 3.16.14

    Hi Christine, I'm 51 years old and have been using the Mary Kay Skinvigorate Cleansing Brush for about 3 weeks now. About two weeks ago I went to a friend's birthday party and all my friends were asking me what I had done to my skin! The brush is wonderful! I am a little concerned with one of the comments that the swirling action wasn't good for the skin. My skin actually looks tighter. What are your thoughts about this?

  45. 3.18.14

    I've heard from some derms and estheticians that they worry about that swirling instead of the sonic vibration that doesn't pull as much on the skin. I'm not sure that I'd worry about it, but I'm just a PICU doc and not a derm šŸ˜€ If I was you I'd keep using the MK brush that has done so well for you currently and keep an eye open for all of the Clarisonic Mia2 deals that come up on occasion. I'd swap out to a Clarisonic when your MK brush is worn out, but you have time to wait for a deal!