There are so many various "suggested" methods of cleansing—it can be overwhelming to keep up. When a new method comes out, we all get super excited, hoping the new tool or technique will keep our skin clear and glowy like never before. It doesn't always work like that. But, the right cleansing tool can be a serious upgrade for your skin.
Silicone scrubbers have become popular by brands like Foreo and Boie as alternatives to cleansing with your hands. For some of us, finger-cleansing doesn’t feel effective enough and we’ve all heard of horror stories of how loofahs can be breeding grounds for bacteria. But what about silicone scrubbers? Are they really effective in cleansing and exfoliating? Are they gentle enough on the skin? To find out, we consulted dermatologists Dr. Jessica Wu and Dr. Tiffany Clay. Below, find out if it’s worth ditching your current ritual to incorporate the popular tool.
Meet the Expert
What Is a Silicone Scrubber?
According to Dr. Clay, a silicone scrubber is simply a gentle method of exfoliating the skin for a deeper cleanse. At your favorite beauty store, you can typically find manual silicone scrubbers or ones powered by battery or USB. The scrubber is made of little bumps of rounded silicone to help remove dirt from the skin's surface.
As Dr. Wu explains it, the silicone tips grab onto dirt and oil to draw them out of your pores. Because you have cleansed and exfoliated the physical skin barrier, this process helps active ingredients penetrate better. She recommends an automatic scrubber over the manual one, because high speed vibrations will create a mechanical movement that’s more effective.
Plus, it can be the best option for cleansing after wearing a full face of makeup or if you have a lot of products on your face. “The scrubber can create a better lather to help remove all that dirt and oil,” says Dr. Clay. They are also typically hypoallergenic, odor resistant, and anti-bacterial—meaning there’s less chance of it transferring something foreign onto your skin.
Silicone Scrubbers Versus Other Cleansing Methods
“I was so happy to see silicone scrubbers come out because I’ve never been a fan of skincare brushes,” says Dr. Wu, who strongly cautions overusing them because they can be abrasive. She recounts a story of one patient of hers who overused her brush and ended up developing a skin infection. “The silicone tips grab onto dirt and oil out of pores like a squeegee, while brushes loosen the surface dirt and move it around. It’s like if you’re trying to clean your shower, would you use a broom or a squeegee?”
Dr. Wu highly recommends silicone scrubbers to her patients for both the face and body—essentially anywhere you need a deep cleansing. The scrubber is great to cleanse sunscreen off your body or anywhere you get back or butt acne. If you choose to use a body scrubber and like wearing fragrance sprays or body washes, make sure to clean the scrubber well so the fragrance doesn’t linger.
Both experts emphasize how gentle silicone scrubbers are versus other methods of cleansing and exfoliating. Other than your hands, the scrubber is the most gentle method as compared to a washcloth, loofah, or spin brush.
If you don't wear makeup, your fingers may be all you need to cleanse properly. However, if you wear makeup or use a lot of products (i.e. sunscreen, etc), a scrubber cleanses more deeply than your hands. She finds wash cloths are fine for most people on the body, but the cotton fibers may be too rough for your face. Loofahs are too strong for your face because the fibers can be too stiff and hard, and are better served for specific rough patches on places like elbows, knees, and heels. According to Dr. Wu, the loofah can dig into your skin and rip off the top of acne which can lead to bleeding and scarring. “The scrubber is less abrasive for a deeper clean without irritation and redness,” she says. She specifically recommends the scrubber on the body for people with acne breakouts, eczema or sensitive skin.
It's important to stay cautious and read through the product descriptions before purchasing. According to Dr. Clay, some silicone scrubbers may not be antibacterial. “They can hold onto some bacteria or possibly skin viruses. If they aren’t cleaned often, they can cause breakouts or rashes on your face.” If you purchase one that’s hypoallergenic, it needs to be replaced less often, but she defers to what the company says on maintaining or replacing the scrubber. Both of our experts recommend cleansing the scrubber after each use. If you don’t clean it properly, it could even grow mildew, although it’s highly unlikely versus other cleansing methods like a brush. Even then, you should replace it after 6 months of everyday use.
“If you have sensitive skin and press too hard, it could potentially irritate any eczema and rosacea,” says Dr. Wu. If you have sensitive skin, consult with your dermatologist first and practice in moderation. Dr. Clay recommends starting off with the scrubber once or twice a week, then slowly increasing use in your routine. You should also stay mindful of other exfoliating formulas you're using in conjunction, as that could cause additional irritation.
Speaking of irritation, don't use the scrubber if you’ve just had a procedure done like micro-needling, a chemical peel, laser, or cosmetic injectables (i.e. Botox or fillers). “The skin’s barrier is a little compromised, and any bacteria left on the scrubber, even if you think it’s very clean, could cause an infection on the skin,” she says.
How to Use It
If you want to try a silicone scrubber for yourself, Dr. Clay recommends using a gentle cleanser (creamy and moisturizing) for your face. If you use one with acids, use your hands instead of the scrubber to get the most gentle cleanse. For the body, she says it’s easier to use a body wash or mousse. She likes Dove's Body Wash Mousse and Instant Foaming Body Wash because they lather easily.
To use the scrubber, Dr. Clay says to cleanse with lukewarm water and avoid mechanical exfoliants with little beads that could further erode or exfoliate the skin. Follow your cleanse by patting the skin dry, then using moisturizer and sunscreen. Dr. Wu recommends you remove your makeup with remover before cleansing with the scrubber.
To clean the scrubber after use, Dr. Wu says you can use something as simple as a baby shampoo or something super gentle like Cetaphil, then set it out to dry. You can even throw it in the dishwasher.
Our experts recommend using a silicone scrubber on the face and body for a gentle, yet effective clean. Although the scrubber is more gentle than other forms of cleansing or exfoliating, be cautious when using it if you have sensitive skin conditions. It is recommended that you wash the scrubber after each use.
A pulsating, silicone facial tool (you can control it from the brand’s app) to wash away dirt and oil in just one minute.
This facial cleansing device uses 7000 vibrations per minute to cleanse your skin and massage your moisturizer.
If you’re looking for a no-fuss, manual facial scrubber—this one is flexible and under $10.
These manual silicone scrubbers are small enough for your face and easy to grip. They come in a set of four and are super budget-friendly.
This body scrubber by Boie is in high demand. It’s created to be antimicrobial to avoid any germ buildup to keep your skin as clean as possible.
Bottone EJ, Perez AA, Oeser JL. Loofah sponges as reservoirs and vehicles in the transmission of potentially pathogenic bacterial species to human skin. J Clin Microbiol. 1994;32(2):469-472.