When you hear the phrase ‘ultrasonic skin scrubber,’ you likely think of one of those vibrating rubbery skincare devices that are used to elevate your cleansing experience. While those facial scrubbers are lovely in and of themselves, they’re not actually ultrasonic skin scrubbers. Instead, ultrasonic skin scrubbers (also known as ultrasonic skin spatulas) are metal devices used to deeply unclog pores and cleanse the skin, leading to what many believe to be the purest possible complexion. But the question so many people are asking is: Do they really work?
Ahead, with the help of NYC-based cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Michele Green and Charlotte, North Carolina-based dermatologist Dr. Scott Paviol, discover everything there is to know about ultrasonic skin scrubbers, including whether or not you should be using one to clarify your skin.
What Is an Ultrasonic Skin Scrubber?
Also commonly referred to as skin spatulas, ultrasonic skin scrubbers are devices that use high-frequency to collect dirt and oil from pores.
If you thought that an ultrasonic skin scrubber cleanses the skin using vibration, you’re right. But, instead of a rubber format, these scrubbers are made of metal and use high-frequency vibes via sound waves to transform skin from cell to cell.
“Cells start ‘talking’ to each other and your pores open wide, so dirt and debris are gently vibrated and scrubbed away,” Green explains. In removing dirt and debris, she says that these ultrasonic skin spatulas are able to gently exfoliate the skin, as well as collect what’s being sloughed off.
All in all, these scrubbers are just another way to exfoliate your skin. “Much the same way a Clarisonic brush utilizes vibrations with its brush mechanism, or the Foreo face brush (a silicone face brush) uses vibrations for deep cleansing as well, an ultrasonic skin scrubber/spatula does the same thing, only through ultrasonic soundwaves (essentially high-frequency vibrations),” Paviol explains.
- Deep cleanses skin
- Exfoliates skin
- Shrinks the appearance of pores
- Improves skin texture and tone
- Gentler than other forms of exfoliation
While pores can’t actually shrink in size—they’re genetically predetermined—Green says that using a deep-cleaning skin scrubber can dislodge even the most stubborn built-up dirt and debris, effectively making pores look less stretched.
Additionally, by removing all the build-up, treatment products are better able to penetrate the skin, which Green says helps to improve texture and tone, often leading to smoother, brighter skin overall.
Skin Type Considerations
One of the biggest benefits of an ultrasonic skin scrubber is that they’re one of the most gentle forms of exfoliation on the market. As such, Paviol says that they’re especially great for those who don’t respond well to other exfoliation methods, such as scrubs, brushes, or chemical peels. “The scrubber/spatula trend is a great treatment for those with sensitive, over-reactive, rosacea-prone, or acneic skin types,” he explains. “While microdermabrasion is a cult classic for deep exfoliation, it uses crystals or a diamond tip, plus negative pressure vacuum suction which can cause redness and can dilate or break capillaries depending on how sensitive someone’s skin is.”
As gentle and exciting as ultrasonic skin scrubbers are, they’re not so gentle that they can be used incessantly.
“Clients who have purchased skin scrubbers for home use [can become so] excited to see their oil lift up off their skin, that they overuse the device or use it too aggressively which can lead to unnecessary sensitization or injury to the skin,” he explains. With that in mind, it’s important to remember that skin scrubbers are, first and foremost, exfoliation devices. As such, it’s important not to use them morning and night, every day of the week, just as you wouldn’t with facial scrubs, brushes, or some chemical exfoliants.
Since skin scrubbers are still relatively new to the world of at-home dermatology, Green says that, when in doubt, it’s best to see your dermatologist for guidance.
“There are many options and these devices are safe to use if users follow the instructions for use carefully,” she says. “The only drawback is the user’s ability to follow the instructions carefully without causing harm to the skin.”
How to Use
As Paviol points out, ultrasonic skin scrubbers are water-based exfoliation devices. As such, in order to work, he says it has to have a flat shape and must be used while the skin is wet, which allows the ultrasonic vibrations to form and build.
While exact use will vary from device to device (so it’s essential to read the directions), as a general rule of thumb, ultrasonic skin scrubbers are to be used as follows.
1. Wet your skin. Remember: An ultrasonic skin spatula will only work if the skin is wet.
2. Run the spatula along your skin. Using gentle pressure, push the scrubber along your skin in an upward and/or outward motion. For example, if you’re scrubbing your forehead, start between your brows and push up. While the actual direction of the device can change, we recommend going upward and outward, as it prevents the debris from potentially pooling in the creases surrounding your nostrils, into your brows, and so on.
3. Go slow if you’re trying to extract. While running the device along your forehead and cheeks will significantly improve the appearance of your skin, if you have blackheads, the slower you go, the deeper and more effective the spatulas effects will be.
4. Follow up with your regular skincare routine. After you finish scrubbing, feel free to cleanse, tone, and moisturize as you regularly do. If you don’t normally tone, know that following a scrubbing sesh, doing so will help close up your pores to keep them fresher for longer.
5. Clean your device when you’re done. Once you finish your spatula sesh, it’s imperative that you disinfect your device. After all, it’s not covered in all the gunk that was filling your pores.
How Often to Use
As with regular exfoliation—whether with a scrub or brush—Green says that it’s best to use an ultrasonic skin scrubber no more than two to three times per week. She suggests watching how your skin reacts and upping or lowering your use from there.
The Best Ultrasonic Skin Scrubbers
The best part about this fan-favorite skin scrubber is that it’s one of the most affordable skin scrubbers on the market. No wonder nearly 30,000 Sephora shoppers love it so much.
“I usually recommend this for my patients just starting out using a skin scrubber,” Paviol says. “It’s easy-to-use modes—there are only three: Lifting, Moisturizing, and Cleansing—make this skin scrubber very easy to use. It does the work for you, so depending on what part of your skincare routine you are at, you can select the appropriate mode and experience what Ultrasonic technology is really all about.”
This award-winning ultrasonic spatula is a shoo-in for anyone looking to shrink the appearance of their pores and improve the texture and tone of their complexion overall.
Here we have one of Paviol’s go-tos. “It’s a super-sleek option that exfoliates the face and firms and lifts the skin via its microcurrent pulse and intermittent ultrasonic technologies,” he says. “The positive ion mode of this devices removes excess buildup, dirt and oil, and deeply cleanses the skin, while the negative ion mode (you would flip the spatula over and use it in an upward motion) is used for product penetration and skin lifting, giving a light massage helping your skin easily absorb the skincare ingredients you have applied.” That said, his favorite part about this device is that it also utilizes blue LED therapy within the handpiece. “Blue light is amazing for [lifting] p. Acnes bacteria that causes acne, and it diminishes inflammation and can help lessen the look of acne scarring,” he adds.
It’s pricey but, according to Paviol, worth it. “Probably my favorite device, which I use personally and professionally in almost all of my treatments, is the BT-Micro from Bio-Therapeutic,” he says. “Featuring four pre-programmed modes with high and low options, this device allows for a completely customizable facial experience. There’s an exfoliation, serum, cream, and clear mode. The ‘serum’ and ‘clear’ modes use ultrasonic and low dose microcurrent technology to pulse applied creams deeper in the skin to maximize their benefits while, my personal favorite modes, are the exfoliation and the clear. The exfoliation mode works much like any skin scrubber but I find the high-speed ultrasonic vibrations on this particular device create that gentle cavitation peeling effect within the skin which effectively removes build-up, dirt, oil, and debris, and preps the skin for better product penetration.”
At the end of the day, ultrasonic skin scrubbers are spectacular for all skin types, especially those with highly reactive skin, as they’re just about as gentle as it gets when it comes to exfoliation. “The skin scrubber or spatula whichever you want to call it is a great investment if you’re just starting out using gadgets in your routine or if you’re a pro and using it in your treatment room,” Paviol says. “This device is great for all skin tones, textures, and colors, just make sure to read the instructions for the proper use of your specific skin scrubber so that you are using it safely and effectively to get the most out of your treatment.”