This was one of the biggest of the bunch, but it still felt cheap in my hand. Confusingly, it had settings to rotate the brush clockwise or counterclockwise, which didn’t make sense since I’m sure my skin can’t tell the difference. And no matter which direction I chose, the brush flew off into the shower each time I started to massage it across my face. Typically, with more affordable brushes, the bristles come as an attachment you stick into the head of the device. This one wouldn’t stay attached no matter how delicately I maneuvered it.
Conair Facial Scrub Brush, $14.99
This small bullet is sort of an anomaly in that, rather than using your own cleanser, you attach a packaged, pre-soaped pad that sticks to a Velcro-like landing pad. You then wet it in your sink and turn the device on to get the suds moving. Unfortunately, it all sort of turns into this sad white sludge that will definitely spray into your eyes while washing. There’s also a drying-out problem: Once you open the container of pads, that’s what happens to them. It’s also what the product did to my skin.
Neutrogena Wave Sonic Power Cleanser, $14.99
There is somewhat of a conspiracy among face brushes in that many of them seemed to be made by the same foreign manufacturer with slightly different branding. This one — a small L-Shaped brush with a soft brush-head attachment that oscillates slowly — was essentially the same as some others I tested, and they all worked fine: The process made my skin feel great and there wasn’t too much sputtering or noise, but the brush head (which never clicks into the handle) did have a tendency to fall off. Especially when I wasn’t using it, when it would bounce from the shelf onto my bathroom floor. Gross.
DDF Revolve 400X Micro-Polishing System, $99
A wolf in sheep’s clothing, as far as I can tell: I think this is the exact same brush as DDF, but without the microdermabrasion attachments. Since those don’t matter in this test, let’s call it even (except this one is way cheaper.)
Olay Pro-X Advanced Cleansing System, $29.99
This is basically the Papa Bear, extra-large version of the DDF and Olay brushes. One downside to that is that the handle is so big (and phallic), it seems to overpower the small face cleansing attachment. This makes it even more likely to fall off while cleaning than the other two. On the plus side, it does have a “body brush” attachment that I could see using on a particularly sweaty sunny day. Can you bring a battery-powered device into the shower? Let’s find out!
Dermabrush Advanced Cleansing System, $29.99
Unlike the others, this has bristles that click directly into the handle, rather than as some interchangeable head you swap in and out. And what lovely bristles they were: the longest of the bunch I tested, with a nice bend and soothing feel against my beardy face. This was also one of the few that vibrated, rather than oscillated, which is nice because it gives you a wider range of motion — an ability to go left, right, up, and down — while you’re moving it across your nose and forehead and stuff. It’s small and light, so it’s good for travel, but my female roommate did remark that someone might mistake it for a different kind of vibrator; she’s right, as the motor seems plenty strong.
Proactiv Deep Cleansing Brush, $29.95
Sorry to all those folks who expected some surprise out of this field test, a pot of gold at the end of this slideshow rainbow. There’s several reasons why the Clarisonic — which is the most well-known and expensive option here — is the clear winner. The contoured handle feels great in your hand, and the magnetic charger means you never have to worry about replacing the battery. Beyond that, the oscillating bristles feel legitimately nice against the skin, like a small and tingly massage. And the built-in timer, which beeps to let you know when to move to a new part of your face, is the best way to prevent overexfoliation. It’s a little loud, but not in an obnoxious way. There’s no soap sputtering as it vibrates softly. And, like my Sonicare toothbrush, I’ve become a bit obsessed with this guy. I just have to remind myself not to use it more than twice a week.
Clarisonic Aria Sonic Cleansing Brush, $199
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