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Unisex face brushes: the next frontier in gender-neutral?

Sam Wolfson

The Foreo is boxed like an iPhone, but when you take it out of the fancy packaging and official carry bag, it looks like a cross between a Glade plug-in and a vanilla sex toy. I switch it on and look at the instructions that basically show a woman ramming it at different parts of her face. That can’t be all there is to it, so I visit the Foreo website where there’s a video of the Foreo Luna FOR MEN (exactly the same as the unisex model but in jet black). In it, an American Psycho-style City boy undresses and gets into the shower – he washes his face and then, while he’s still all soapy, out comes the Foreo, gently pushing bubbles around his stubble. Apparently Foreo is selling itself to lads as “the ultimate pre-shaving device”. Our Patrick Bateman then removes his high-street stubble, gets resuited and is then ready for the big presentation (or to throw a prostitute in a ditch, whatever’s closer).

I follow his lead and soap up, and it feels quite pleasant, but not as pleasant as, say, a nice Aesop face wash with some gritty bits in. I shave, moisturise, then look in the mirror afterwards and I look – you know, as if I’d just washed my face and moisturised. I try it again a few times using only soap with much the same effect.
Herein lies the problem for the Foreo as a unisex device: men like beauty products that leave them with a distinct sense of “this made a difference” – aftershaves that stink, moisturisers that tingle, mouthwashes that leave bits in the sink. If the Foreo has any advantages, then they are long-term and invisible and I know no man who is willing to spend £149 on something they can’t immediately see the benefits of.
But back to the unusual design: since showing the Foreo off, my work colleagues and my female flatmate have all judged it to be little more than a repurposed vibrator. “I think it would do the job quite well,” says one, asking if she can have it when I’m done. So I think the question for Foreo, if it wants to make its products more multipurpose, is not: “Can we make a face brush be unisex?” but: “Is it dishwasher safe?”

Morwenna Ferrier

I have no idea if sonic power brushes work, but a successful spate of online canvassing by the mother of sonic – Clarisonic – sucked me in earlier this year, so here I am, institutionalised with a very clean face. Sonic brushes are designed for anal people like me who are scared of dirt. Since launching in 2004, a bunch of other companies have launched similar sonic products, including one by Clinique and this, by Swedish company Foreo, which claims to remove 99.5% of dirt and 98.5% of makeup residue from your skin. As Sam explains, it looks sort of freaky. While the Clarisonic is palpably a giant brush, this is iPhone size and covered with little bobbles not geared towards people with trypophobia. Made of silicone, it looks like a ped-egg or something I use to scrape lasagne out of my pan with, but that’s besides the point: its usp is that it’s unisex, something demarcated presumably by the colour, as there are “feminine” shades and masculine shades. Mine is slate, which presumably is for men inspired by axes and gravel and steel and stuff. But I’m relieved; I’m post-pinkification and frankly, the pink one was offensive.

The instructions are straightforward. Over the course of a minute I paste my skin in oil and move the brush up my cheeks, nose, forehead and under my eyes in circular and straight movements. The vibrations are very light, the Foreo coaxing dirt from my skin instead of choosing the Clarisionic method of removing it by force. That said, there’s a school of thought that says the latter is too powerful so maybe this is better for everyday use. Afterwards my skin feels clean enough. £149 clean? It’s too early to call. What’s extraordinary is that something like a sonic brush is being marketed to both sexes despite them requiring different routines (Sam, for one, has a beard; his is also, he says, a pre-shaving device), which suggests its piggybacking on the unisex movement, the trendiest of all trends. Still it has its pros: it’s tiny, light and plugs into your computer with a USB charger which is ideal. But, as my friend Priya asks, “what happens to all the little bits of skin?” I have no idea.

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