- Gentle? Yes! More effective than using nothing, gentler than using a washcloth or a brush.
- Improves effectiveness of cleanser? Yes! So if you're new to cleansing tools, you can try a milder cleanser than you're used to. Helps remove makeup nicely, too, just make sure you keep it clean and rinsed well.
- Exfoliates? Not really. Too soft and squishy.
- Needs to be soaked for minutes? Nope. I get mine wet and put it to the side of my sink for like 10-30 seconds while I finish brushing my teeth, and it's fine.
- Contains super awesome skin-changing ingredients? Completely unrealistic. Don't pay for a gimmick here!
- Overall I like them! Easy to use cleansing tool that should be well tolerated by all skin types.
Can be used with any type of cleanser in my opinion, though cleansing oils/balms may work better with a washcloth or brush. Clean the sponge by getting it wet and working a small amount of unscented soap into it, and rinsing thoroughly.
Always remember that cleansing tools, whether brushes, washcloths or sponges, need to dry out completely between uses, or they will get mildewed very quickly. I recommend hanging the sponge from a hook somewhere out of the way.
And here's some info on the alleged alkaline pH of the sponges (spoiler alert, it's marketing bs.).
But wait--did I really say that the Clarisonic is not exfoliating?! Yes, believe it or not, the Clarisonic and other cleansing brushes are *not* deeply exfoliating, and they are perfectly safe to use as tolerated on a daily basis. "As tolerated" means use them as often as you like as long as your skin is not showing signs of irritation. Face brushes are cleansing tools--and really great ones--but not exfoliating tools, so if you're looking for something to get flaky surface bits off, I suggest either using a face brush gently with a very mild scrub (try rice powder mixed with your cleanser), or using a washcloth--again, gently. This is called "mechanical exfoliation", and will help make the surface of the skin feel smoother. For more effective exfoliation to deal with things like wrinkles and discoloration, you'll want chemical exfoliants.
Note about charcoal: it's fine as an ingredient. Here's a full post about it. It's not the cure for all of your problems, it's just another ingredient that can work with other ingredients.