Product Review: Clarisonic PLUS Sonic Skin Cleansing System

The Clarisonic PLUS Sonic Skin Cleansing system exfoliates skin gently and removes dirt from pores.

Clarisonic PLUS Sonic Skin Cleansing system ($119-225, is designed to provide a consistent clean. That’s because part of maintaining skin integrity is maintaining some kind of routine — Clarisonic regulates that by making something timed with specific instructions. The brushes should loosen dirt from pores and even help clean off makeup better than a regular manual wash. So how does the whole system work as a package? Pretty darn well.

Clarisonic Brush

Antes e Depois Clarisonic - Acne / Rosácea / P...

Clarisonic has been shown to be effective after just one use. (Photo credit: Lady Por Menos – Moroccanoil e Clarisonic)

Clarisonic brushes use a frequency of more than 300 pulsations per second to remove dirt and oil from the skin (Clarisonic). The brush was created to provide consistency in cleansing — as too much or two little cleansing can compromise skin. [Read More: The Great Shower Debate: Is Everyday Too Much For Your Skin?] In using the system, the brush loosens inelastic comedones — or black heads — and clears them; making way for smooth, clean skin (Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology). It’s also good at removing makeup. In a study using florescent lighting, researchers found that it was “significantly more effective” by six times the ability to clean off makeup (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology).

In 2006, a study found the brush to be considered “gentle” and helps the skin prevent acute or chronic infections (Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology). The brush is gentle enough to exfoliate skin while still maintaining the integrity of the skin barrier (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology). In a study testing a sonic brush — on legs, researchers found that the transepidermal water loss fell within the normal range established for the skin on the leg and declared the brush gentle enough to use (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology).

Clarisonic Refreshing Gel Cleanser

White willow (Salix alba) is a natural source ...

White willow bark is the plant used to make aspirin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

White Willow Bark

White willow bark has antipyretic and pain-relieving properties. It also has several compounds that benefit users, like aspirin, salicyclic acid, ferulic acid, glycosides, and tannins (Longwood Herbal, Skin Therapy Letters).

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

This cleanser contains sodium lauryl sulfate. This ingredient is a detergent that gives cleansers their soapy suds. It’s been shown to improve delivery of topical medications in creams and gels (Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy). However, it’s not totally good, though. Unfortunately, it’s a known irritant. It impairs the skin barrier and strips the skin of its lipids — leaving it at the mercy of the environment (Cosmetic Dermatology). As an irritant it’s been used to induce contact dermatitis in tests with guinea pig skin (Journal of Investigative Dermatology). [Read More: Spotlight On: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate]

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic Acid is used in skincare products because it’s thought to have a rejuvenating, anti-wrinkle effect (Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology). An industry-backed study found that cream containing hyaluronic acid and oglio peptides firmed users’ skin (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology).

Clarisonic Refining Skin Polish

Jojoba Esters

There aren’t many studies on jojoba but it’s been used in ethnic medicine for some time as an emollient. It’s been shown to form a lipid layer on the skin that helps to moisturize and clean and is a known humectant (Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine). When mixed with glycerin — which this product has — the pair increases moisturization and improves the length of time the formula moisturizes (Cosmetics and Toiletries).

Opuntia Streptacantha Stem Extract

Prickly pear CDC

Optunia Streptacantha Stem Extract comes from the prickly pear and has been shown to stop oxidative stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This extract actually comes from prickly pear. One study demonstrated that it had excellent antioxidant abilities, but called for further studies to determine whether it would be an effective inclusion in products that work against oxidative stress (Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry). It also been used in folk medicine because it appears to have anti-inflammatory effects and healing effects (Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science).

Green Tea Extract

Green tea extract the compound EGCG, which has been shown in studies to have to show anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties (On the Horizon, ). It’s also been shown to work against photocarcinogenesis and phototoxicity in mice. And another study that it helped lower oxidative stress after UV-irradiation on human skin (Carcinogenesis). [Read More: Spotlight On: Green Tea]

Personal Use and Opinion

The brushes were gentle but effective — there was definitely a difference in how my skin felt.

Clarisonic PLUS Sonic Skin Cleansing system was easy to put together, take apart, and figure out how to use. There’s a system of light blinks to understand what setting the brush is on, but they’re pretty easy to figure out with the guide. The brush feels really soft, but it’s definitely firm enough to get some good exfoliation in pretty quickly — without feeling rubbed raw. My face felt very thoroughly cleaned — and just one use made it feel noticeably smoother. But I wanted to make sure. To really give a good test, I used the body brush on one arm and not the other and the difference in softness is very apparent. The arm I used the brush on feels softer, smoother, and better-hydrated — other people can feel the difference too. Plus, it came with a super cute pattern.

Bottom Line

Clarisonic PLUS Sonic Skin Cleansing system is a great way to get a regular, reliable clean. That may sound funny, but keeping up with skincare is one of the best ways to maintain skin’s integrity and Clarisonic has developed a product that keeps this the same from day to day. The refreshing gel cleanser has sodium lauryl sulfate in it, which could irritate sensitive skin, but the products are otherwise full of beneficial ingredients. I got results that were immediately apparent and studies suggest that’s common when using sonic cleansing.

Product Rating:  8/10

  • High or optimized concentration of key ingredients: 2.5/3
  • Unique formulation or new technology:  3/3
  • Value: 2.5/3
  • Sunscreen: 0/1


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Do Isolaz Lasers Really Work?

Typically, those with cystic acne are out of luck when it comes to trying new treatments.  From LED light to new ingredients, most treatments are designed for mild to moderate acne.  Based upon our analysis, as you will read below, Isolaz lasers are an efficacious treatment best reserved for those without sensitive skin or rosacea.  They are ideal for women in their 40s and older with acne who are simultaneously looking for a wrinkle-fighting and skin-smoothing treatment.

Quick Facts

  • About $800 per treatment; 3-6 treatments needed
  • 90% of patients in a small clinical trial (11 patients) had statistically significant improvement in acne (Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, 2008)
  • FDA approved
  • Little to no downtime
  • Suitable for all skin tones, unlike many other laser treatments
  • Also helps to fight wrinkles as a non-ablative laser

How Does it Work?

The Isolaz laser works in a simple process.

Isolaz lasers use a process known as Photopneumatics™, a combined light and vacuum technology.  The vacuum first removes surface dirt and debris.  Then, the non-ablative laser zaps the bacteria.

Unlike an ablative laser, the non-ablative laser does not remove thin layers of skin.

However, they are still efficacious.  Numerous scientific and clinical studies support the use of non-ablative lasers for acne and signs of aging.  Not only do they decrease wrinkle depth and increase skin smoothness for 3-6 months after a treatment (Dermatologic Surgery, 2008), but they have also been shown to increase skin’s collagen production over time as well (Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, 2000).  

How Does It Feel?

Most people getting Isolaz treatments report that it feels like a rubber band being gently snapped against your skin.  Though the company reports they have a clinical trial in which 100% of the participants reported it was “painless,” our sources tell us that it is mildly uncomfortable, but not painful.

Side Effects

Mild redness for approximately 1-3 hours following the procedure is normal.  We do not recommend this treatment for those with extremely sensitive skin or rosacea, because the suctioning action can increase facial flushing.  However, as an individual, it is best to see an Isolaz laser provider for specific recommendations.

Some people, particularly those with a heavy amount of pore-clogging debris, may temporarily experience more breakouts for up to a week afterwards.

The treatments may also make your skin feel more sensitive afterwards.  This is normal.

However, the deleterious side effects of early CO2 treatments are not associated with the non-ablative Isolaz laser.  These side effects, which include scarring, reflux hyperpigmentation, and pain, are not associated with non-ablative laser treatments in general (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2008).

Before and After Photos

For before-and-after photos, we recommend:

Bottom Line

We’re definitely on board with the Isolaz laser, particularly for those with severe cystic acne, for whom there are few treatments on the market.  It’s even better for those with darker skin tones, because there are fewer lasers that are suitable for these populations.  Even better – Isolaz simultaneously fight signs of aging, like skin roughness, loss of firmness, and fine lines and wrinkles.

So we’re definitely on board with Isolaz!  Just be prepared for redness for a few hours after, sensitivity for 2-3 days afterwards, and the possibility of increased breakouts after your first treatment, especially if you haven’t deep-cleansed for a while.

We only say avoid this if you have extremely sensitive skin or rosacea.

Hope this helps!

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Follow Friday + Nicki's Personal Updates: Week of August 10, 2012

The first six bottles of FutureDerm Time-Release Retinol 0.5 ever produced! I’m so excited!

The first six bottles of FutureDerm Time-Release Retinol 0.5 ever produced! I’m so excited!

It’s funny:  When I read books on dermatology, there is often so much information about retinoids.  And now that I’m devoting myself to inventing novel beauty products full-time (for at least a year, hopefully longer!), my life is again all about retinoids.

Our FutureDerm Time-Release Retinol 0.5 comes out on August 16.  It’s the earliest date I know we will have all of the inventory, ordering systems, and shipping materials in place.  I’m nervous and excited and scared and thrilled, all at the same time.  On the one hand, I know we have a great product, and I’m super proud of it.  I’ve been using it for three weeks and I’m ecstatic!  On the other hand, I’ve never released a product before, and I’m scared.  I just want for the readers to love it as much as I do, and for everything to run smoothly.

One trick I started to do this week was to make small changes.  One of my favorite books, The Compound Effect, is all about how small, seemingly insignificant changes every day are what really make a difference in your relationships, career, and health over time.  The author is the publisher of Success magazine, Darren Hardy, and he says small, positive daily habits developed early in life helped him become a millionaire by age 24 (source).  Not to mention help improve millions of lives by the time he was in his forties.  He’s truly one of my role models.

I’ve read his book before, but I follow him on Facebook, and the other day he posted the following status:

It’s time to WAKE UP and realize that the habits you indulge in could be compounding your life into repeated disaster. The slightest adjustments to your daily routines can dramatically alter the outcomes in your life. Again, I’m not talking about quantum leaps of change or a complete overhaul of your personality, character, and life. Supersmall, seemingly inconsequential adjustments can and will revolutionize everything.

This is me, before a recent presentation. I’ve found that waking up super early helps me stay calm and relaxed throughout the day, including before big presentations.

What I love about this philosophy is that it’s doable.  It’s not plausible for many of us to think, Oh, I could lose 25 pounds easily, but it is easy to think that we could switch out hamburgers and fries with fish and vegetables tonight for dinner.  Or to run tonight instead of watching an extra half hour of TV.

The biggest change for me since re-discovering this philosophy is getting up a little earlier. This sounds strange, but the world is just so clean before 7 AM.  Traffic is lighter.  Deadlines are relatively later. There are no e-mails or text messages coming in.  It’s just free, open space and time.

I love to sit, make some coffee, read some books, and write.  It’s amazing, much more invigorating than an extra hour of sleep.  I would even go so far as to say it’s the closest thing to meditation I can think of without actually meditating.  It’s really that peaceful.  And it helps for me to stay grateful, peaceful, centered, and even more relaxed throughout the day.  And who doesn’t love that?  :-)

Well, that’s all for now.  Please feel free to contact me on our Facebook page or Twitter anytime.

All the best,

Now for Our Follow Friday!

How can we improve   Please let us know in Comments or by taking our 2012 reader survey today!


Autumn 2012: What are the Best MAC Lipstick Hues?

With Fall right around the corner, I thought it would be nice to share some fall lipsticks with you. I have quite a collection of lipsticks, as I used to be primarily a lipstick lady. For part one, I’ve got some reds and plums for you.

To swatch these on my hand, I did one swipe down, and then at the bottom of each swatch I did a few swipes to show how the color can be built up. The swatches above were taken under my daylight bulb with no flash.

You can really see the lovely gold in Fresh Moroccan in this one.

This image was taken with flash.

Of course, I also did lip swatches for you, too. For my lips I went for one swipe application, though I used a lip brush. I wanted to show what one layer looks like on my lips. Each color can be built up more.

MAC Rebel is a midtone creamy plum with a satin finish. I think it’s a cool shade. The formula is slightly dry. It’s got great pigmentation.

MAC Quite the Thing! is a pretty deep blue plum. It’s fairly moisturizing and has a lovely glossy finish. It’s sheer but it can be built up a bit.

MAC Hot Tahiti is a slightly warm red with coral tones. It’s a glaze finish, so I think it’s a bit sheer and a bit creamy. It’s slightly moisturizing. I’ve always been a fan of the glaze finishes. I think this is one of those great reds for people who don’t want a loud red.

MAC New York Apple is a muted red with pink shimmer. It’s on the sheer side and is slightly moisturizing. It’s not drying on my lips. I feel like it’s more of a neutral red and the finish has a hint of a pearly sheen.

MAC Fresh Moroccan is a brick red with gold pearl. More than any of these shades, I feel that this color screams fall. It makes me think of autumn leaves… reds and golds and burnt oranges. It’s very pigmented and slightly moisturizing. It’s definitely a warm shade to me but I think it’s very flattering.

You can see the pink shimmer in New York Apple in this photo, as well as the gold in Fresh Moroccan.

To me, Rebel is so eye catching!

You can always use a lip pencil underneath these lipsticks to either intensify the shade, or change the hue. Some suggestions would be a light pink, red, wine, violet, pale coral, or gold.

You can also use a gloss on top to amplify the color, cool it off, or make it warmer.

What do you think of these lip colors for Fall? Are you looking forward to Autumn?

Products purchased by me when MAC was still cruelty-free. All opinions are my own.

Spotlight On: Phenoxyethanol

Spotlight On: Phenoxyethanol

Recently, a reader asked if phenoxyethanol was the same as ethanol. They are in fact, two distinct molecules. However, they do have some overlapping characteristics and uses. Since I covered ethanol quite extensively HERE, this post will focus primarily on phenoxyethanol.

What is phenoxyethanol?

The cult-classic NARS Sheer Glow foundation uses a phenoxyethanol-based preservative system!

Phenoxyethanol (PE) is an ethylene glycol ether (basically an ethanol molecule attached to a phenol group) that has a viscous or oily texture in its liquid state. In cosmetics, it is most-commonly used as a preservative, appearing in everything from bronzers to liquid foundations (1).

Rather than functioning as an antioxidant-type preservative that reduces the rate of decay, PE functions as an antimicrobial agent, which inhibits or even eliminates “challenging” doses of many variations of Gram-negative and Gram-positive micro-organisms (2). It’s also been shown to be effective against more common strains of bacteria, such as E. coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (3).

Is it safe?

If ingested in high concentrations, PE can certainly cause death. However, the scope of this post will be limited to the topical application of standard concentrations (<1.0%) of PE.

In the ethanol post, I discussed whether or not it was significantly metabolized to acetaldehyde in the skin, and if any meaningful amount was systematically absorbed through the skin. Similarly, these two aspects must also be examined for PE. On intact human skin, out of five glycol ethers including ethanol, PE had the highest rate of metabolism to its corresponding acetic acid (ethanol had the lowest rate) (4). If the metabolism pathway of PE is anything like that of ethanol, the next metabolite could be some form of acetaldehyde, which is highly unstable and if not quickly converted to (phenoxy)acetic acid, can generate free radicals.

But before you panic, as we learned in the retinol metabolism post HERE, which also involves the same family of enzymes responsible for PE metabolism, this conversion process occurs below the stratum corneum. Therefore, we need to see what amount of PE is absorbed systematically or basically into the dermis. According to this study that tested absorption of an occluded water-based product containing PE and another antimicrobial, the amount of 2% PE absorbed into porcine skin, which of the tested surfaces is most comparable to human skin in terms of permeability, was only 1.4% after 6 hours and 11.3% after 28 hours (5).

Phenoxyethanol-based antiseptics are safer than ethanol-based ones for babies!

These studies suggest that at <1.0%, the rate of absorption and conversion of PE to potentially harmful intermediates and metabolites, is very low. In fact the exact same product from (5), was tested on premature newborn infants that were <27 weeks old, and the result corresponds to those found in (5). The study demonstrated that, “In contrast to alcohol-based antiseptics, an aqueous solution of … 2-phenoxyethanol does not cause major skin damage… 2-Phenoxyethanol is readily absorbed by the newborn’s skin but apparently undergoes extensive oxidative metabolization to 2-phenoxyacetic acid” (6). The conclusion substantiates the theory that PE has the highest rate of metabolism in skin, while also triggering no measurable damage. If babies can handle it, so can adults.

So how DOES PE compare to ethanol?

While PE metabolism occurs more frequently than ethanol metabolism in the skin, the amount of PE allowed in topical products (<1.0%), is significantly lower than that allowed for ethanol. Therefore, the two balance each other out in this particular aspect. Since the stratum corneum prevents significant absorption of both molecules, any free radicals that are generated will most likely be equal or less than those generated from everyday autoxidation reactions. On a plus side though, due to the phenol group present in PE and consequently its “oily” texture, it evaporates and dries out the skin less severely than ethanol, as witnessed in (6).

Bottom Line

Phenoxyethanol (PE) is a safe and efficacious preservative that is used pervasively throughout the cosmetics industry, second only to parabens. And while I believe that the use of parabens is also safe, if you’re interested in paraben-free products, look for ones that use PE!

What did you guys think of this article?  Let us know down below or on my blog!



About the author: John Su is an established skin care expert and aspiring dermatologist. He also runs a blog, The Triple Helix Liaison, dedicated to providing unbiased, meaningful, and insightful information about skin care. For his full bio, please visit our About Page.