APR 20 2016

Cleansing Tools: Why You Need Them

A cleanser’s job is to break down and loosen makeup, oil, and impurities. But it needs help to whisk them away. If you rely on splashing water on your face to wash off cleanser, you’re only half-cleansing. Much of the makeup, oil and impurities will remain on the skin and begin to clog your pores.

Enter the cleansing tool. High-tech or low-tech, you need one to wash your face properly. It will help keep your pores clean, which means less blemishes and more even-toned skin. And clean pores allow products to penetrate better so you get more mileage out of your skincare.

Here are the four cleansing tools I rely on, from low-tech to high-tech:

Facial wipes: sometimes old-school works best. I use facial wipes when my skin is feeling sensitive, dry or flaky, and to remove makeup before using my Clarisonic brush or Foreo Luna (see below). Wipes give you the most control and allow you to move gently over the skin. My favorite is Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Towelettes. The ingredients are clean, they're reasonably priced, and they come in different textures to suit your specific skin type.

How to use: I don’t use them as a substitute for cleanser. I apply cleanser, wet the wipe and use it to remove my cleanser, repeating and rinsing until all traces of cleanser and makeup are gone.

Konjac sponge: this little tool has recently become popular in North America, but it’s been a skincare staple in Japan for over a hundred years. It’s made from the fibres of the Konjac potato and is 100% biodegradable.

How to use: apply your cleanser, wet the sponge under warm water until it’s soaked through and expanded, then move it in circular motions around your face and neck to remove all traces of cleanser. When finished, gently squeeze it between your hands to get the water out.

My favorite Konjac sponges are by One Love Organics. There is a pink sponge for dry/sensitive skin and a black sponge for deeper cleansing. Serious cuteness aside, the heart shape makes it easy to get into hard-to-reach areas. When the sponge starts to deteriorate (usually after 3-4 months) you know it’s time to replace it, and you can throw it in the compost!

Clarisonic brush: stubborn sunscreen or a full face of makeup require more than a facial wipe or sponge. I reach for the Clarisonic when I need a heavy-duty clean.

How to use: remove your makeup using a facial wipe or Konjac sponge, and eye makeup remover for eye makeup. Then apply your cleanser, turn on the Clarisonic and move the brush over your face and neck. Rinse thoroughly with water. The brush head vibrates and gently rotates to loosen makeup residue, oil and impurities in the pores.

There are many different models and brush heads to choose from. I use the sensitive brush, and my device is about 7 years old. Despite its age it works great and has never given me any problems. Which says a lot about the quality of the product.

If you have very sensitive skin, or skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, the Clarisonic may be too aggressive, even with the most gentle brush heads. Instead, opt for the Foreo Luna described below.

Foreo Luna: this tool strikes a balance between thoroughly cleansing your skin while remaining gentle. Instead of a cleansing brush with bristles, the Luna has a cleansing surface with soft little silicone touch points. When the device is turned on, these touch points pulsate to dislodge impurities from the pores. Like the Clarisonic, there are several models to choose from based on skin type and portability of the device.

How to use: remove your makeup using a facial wipe or Konjac sponge, and eye makeup remover for eye makeup. Then apply your cleanser, turn on the Luna’s “cleansing” side and work it over your face and neck. Rinse thoroughly with water. The Luna’s shape makes it easy to handle and get around facial contours.

Aside from being more gentle, the benefit of the Luna over the Clarisonic is that you don’t need to replace the head every 3 months (at a cost of $30 per head). The Luna’s head is made of body-safe silicone that’s easily washable, and since there are no bristles to trap bacteria there is nothing to replace.

The reverse of the “cleansing” side is Luna’s “anti-aging” side. According to Foreo, this side emits lower-frequency pulsations that smooth the appearance of lines and wrinkles and leave skin looking firm and lifted. You know what I think about overly ambitious claims, and this is certainly one of them. I tried this for six months and can’t say that my fine lines diminished or that my skin was firmer or more lifted. In the absence of science-backed evidence to demonstrate its anti-aging benefits, the Luna is first and foremost an effective cleansing tool.

The Clarisonic brush and Foreo Luna are available at Sephora and other online retailers.