Are facial cleansing devices such as Foreo effective for acne-prone skin?Acne & Scars
Is a cleansing device necessary to achieve "squeaky clean pores" if I have acne-prone skin?
Facial cleansing devices such as Foreo and Clarisonic may be effective for acne-prone skin, though there are many other methods to treat clogged pores and to help with acne-prone skin.
Facial devices keep pores clear by physically (manually) removing dirt, makeup, old sebum and dead skin. Other physical exfoliants such as konjac sponges are also good alternatives.
Some people prefer chemical exfoliants - skincare products containing glycolic and/or salicylic acids - that clean out excess sebum and dead skin cells from pores, which are also effective in preventing acne. They also have other skin benefits such as reducing sebum production, brightening, and anti-ageing.Chemical exfoliants are used on clean skin, right after face cleansing.
Generally, either physical or chemical exfoliation once a week is sufficient - too much can lead to skin irritation.
As Dr Joanna has mentioned, there isn’t much evidence based on studies comparing these cleansing devices with traditional face washing methods. These studies should also be taken with a pinch of salt as they may have been funded or published by the company. Anecdotally, many who use these devices report good results, but there are also many who report redness, skin sensitivity, and acne outbreaks - signs of over-exfoliation. It is also not advisable if you are prone to broken capillaries, flushing, or sensitive skin.
If you decide to get one, it is best used once or twice a week only, and with very gentle pressure. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on cleaning your device, as bacteria accumulation may also trigger acne. If you experience redness, irritation, or breakouts, do reduce your usage. Most importantly, know your own skin and its reaction to different skincare products and tools. You may also consult a doctor if you need professional advice.
The short answer is that there is insufficient evidence at the moment either to promote or to discourage the use of facial cleansing devices as their evidence in improving acne is mixed.
Proponents of facial cleansing devices theorize that the use of ultrasonic skincare brushes which oscillate at sonic speed results in loosening of comedones (whiteheads and blackheads) from the pores (1). Since clogged pores are one of the main features of acne and acne-prone skin, these devices are such able to help with acne. A Korean study showed that facial cleansing by a cleansing device with a rotating brush was shown to cleanse better than manual cleansing. In addition, the number of black heads, skin brightness, desquamation index, sebum and the number of enlarged pores were also improved (2).
However, there are no head-to-head comparisons with facial cleansing (with a suitable cleanser and manual washing) vs. use of these facial cleansing devices. A suitable exfoliating cleanser will also be able to unclog pores of blackheads and whiteheads. As such, some doctors may regard washcloths and hand-held cleansing devices as unnecessarily and possibly even irritating to the skin, especially for patients with very sensitive skin.
Do let your doctor check your skin to determine the best option for you.
Dr. Joanna Chan
1. Development of sonic technology for the daily cleansing of the skin.J Cosmet Dermatol. 2006 Jun;5(2):181-3.
2.Yeo, In Kwon et al. (2013) "Effects of Cleansing Device Using Rotating Brush," Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists of Korea. Korea Society of Cosmetic Scientists, 39 (2), pp. 97-103. doi: 10.15230 / SCS.2013.39.2.097.
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