I was a teenager when facial scrubs first became available. You know the ones I mean—crushed apricot kernels (currently marketed by St. Ives). They seemed like a miracle product with their promises of clearing away dead skin cells that could clog your pores and cause blackheads and blemishes.

What we didn’t know is that the crushed kernals had rough edges that could tear at your skin, making it more prone to blemishes. And tearing at the pimples already present not only spreads bacteria, it also made them heal slowly and scar. The scarring I got on my cheeks lasted well into my 30s when acid peels finally became available

There is no doubt that exfoliating is a good thing for your skin. It does slough off dead skin cells, helps stimulate blood flow, and deep cleans pores.

But it’s more than possible to over-do a good thing.

The popularity of the Clarisonic skin cleaning system and various knock-offs is leading to an increase in patients showing up at dermatologists offices with over-exfoliated skin. Despite the products’ claims that these brushes are safe for daily use on all skin types, including those with rosacea and sensitive skin, you may want to think twice before reaching for a sonic brush.

However, if you are determined to try a sonic brush because you’ve heard so many good things about them, practice an ounce of prevention. Get the softest brush they offer; unless your skin is like leather you won’t need the “normal” (i.e. “harder”) brushes.

Use the brush once a day. Sure, they all say to use them twice a day, but if you’re using it at night before you go to bed, is your face really going to get so dirty while you’re sleeping that you need to use it again in the morning?

FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS ON TIMING—I cannot emphasize this one enough. When they say 20 seconds on your forehead and 10 seconds on your cheeks, stop when you’ve reach the prescribed time. It’s the people who ignore this advice and keep scrubbing for longer who are the ones landing at the doctor’s office with the damage to their skin.

Since these brushes are expensive ($150 US for the Clarisonic Mia mini-brush), you might want to try something cheaper and a little more low-tech. I’ve been using a soft brush to wash my face for years. The Body Shop sells a small one that fits in the palm of your hand for the amazing sum of $3.00 Cdn. Shiseido has one with a handle available for $23 US and Sephora sells a similar one for $5.

Using gentle pressure and your favourite cleanser, these brushes might not vibrate 300 times per second, but they can be very effective in removing makeup and the grime of daily living.

Common sense should be your guide when exfoliating. Be gentle - you’ve got one face that has to last the rest of your life!