3:48 PM EDT, April 25, 2013
Wandering past a tower of Clarisonic face scrubbers on display in Nordstrom, I discovered the solution to a problem I never knew I had.
Ridiculous as this sounds, right there in the cosmetics department I became convinced I needed help washing my face. I suddenly yearned for a Clarisonic Skin Cleansing System. Essentially, it's a vibrating brush with a handle.
But the most basic model, the Mia, costs $119. My DNA won't let me spend that kind of money on a beauty tool.
So for weeks after I continued what I now considered my entirely inadequate face-washing regimen: hands, face cleanser, towel dry. Totally old-school.
And then … while cruising the skin care aisle at the drugstore I saw a face scrubber at about one-fourth the Clarisonic price: the Olay Pro-X Advanced Cleansing System($33.99 at the drugstore; online for $21.97).
I've been using it ever since with happy results. It really is an improvement on the retro face washing I've been doing all my life. My skin feels softer and clearer, and clogged pores, etc., are diminished. All good.
But there was the nagging question: Would my skin be four times as refreshed and clog-free if I traded up to the Clarisonic?
I still wasn't willing to spend $119. That's when I persuaded my co-worker Seka Palikuca, whose thoughtful children had gifted her with a Mia Clarisonic, to swap scrubbers for a comparison. Seka would use the cheapie, and I'd try her luxury model.
The results are in. The Clarisonic is better in many ways. But not four times better.
Bottom line: I'm sticking with the Olay machine. My cheap model is a good value. Seka prefers the Clarisonic. Best advice: If you think you'll use it a lot, invest in the more expensive one. It's built better and it's more likely to hold up over time. If you're not sure you really want or need one of these things, buy the cheaper one and trade up if you like the effects (and can afford it).
In both cases they're offering limited money-back guarantees (keep those receipts!). So you can try them out and see which one you prefer.
Seka: I felt like my skin was smoother with the Clarisonic. I do love it.
Ellen: I thought there was no difference. Both left my skin better off than before. But the process of the two felt different — not better but different. Olay's brush rotates and is smaller than the Clarisonic, which oscillates (they call it sonic movement), which is kind of like vibration.
Olay is smaller, lighter, flimsier. Online reviewers' chief complaint was that they suddenly stop working within months.
But Olay is a better bet for international travel because it uses two AA batteries (included). The Clarisonic Mia has a wall charger. The rechargeable battery life is 24 minutes.
Olay has two speeds, but there's not a lot of difference between the speeds. No timer to tell you you've used it for the recommended 60 seconds. Olay has a single model of replaceable brush available online for less than $9; $13.49 at my drugstore.
Clarisonic comes with a sensitive skin brush and offers four additional brush styles (acne cleansing, deep pore, etc.) for $25 or two for $40. A timer turns it off at 60 seconds.
For both, you can use any cleanser (though abrasive, gritty ones are not recommended by Clarisonic). The Pro X exfoliating renewal cleanser is $21.99 for 6 ounces versus $25 for 6 ounces of the Clarisonic refreshing gel cleanser. Each device comes with a sample of its cleanser.
In the shower?
Both manufacturers say they can be used in the shower, but Clarisonic says it is waterproof, while Olay is water resistant.
Mia has a one-year warranty and money-back guarantee for 90 days. Olay's money-back guarantee is 60 days; no warranty.
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