Note: This is a review of the Foreo Issa. The only difference between this and the Foreo ISSA Hybrid is the brush head. We cover both brush heads in detail further down this review.
Foreo is well known for their incredibly stylish and colorful beautiful products. The Issa is Foreo’s take on the rechargeable electric toothbrush. And it looks gorgeous.
Until I tried the Foreo ISSA it has never occurred to me just how ugly the other electric toothbrushes are on the market. The focus on minimalist design is present from the moment set your eyes on the plain white packaging.
Inside the box you will find the following:
Breaking it down:
- Foreo Issa Electric toothbrush handle
- Foreo Issa Toothbrush Head
- Travel Pouch
- USB Charger
- Instruction Manual
- Warranty Card
The instruction manual has the smallest size font I have ever come across. I consider myself to have pretty good vision but I found myself squinting at the ridiculously tiny words to the point where I was straining my eyes.
Above is a comparison in font size compared to an Oral-B instruction manual. A single line in the Oral-B manual is almost as bit as a paragraph of text in the Foreo ISSA manual. It really is ridiculous. I can see why the third section on the first page of the instruction manual prompts you to download a digital copy, it is the only way you will be able to read the darn thing.
While I was squinting through the manual I noticed that all Foreo Brushes come with a limited 2-year warranty and a 10-year quality guarantee. If nothing else, Foreo has a lot of faith in the build quality of their product.
I have barely had the box open for a minute before I come across another poor design choice grouping the majority of the box contents together with a rubber band:
While it may look neat and keep everything together, I do not see why Foreo chose to fold the pouch in half.
Now the travel case is made of a fake leather of some description. Whatever the material, folding it in half caused a lovely crease down the middle:
So it is unavoidable. Your brand new Foreo ISSA case is going to arrive creased. The most annoying thing about this is that there is plenty of room in the box to lay the pouch flat.
I will cover the case in more detail further down the review. First I want to take a closer look at the toothbrush itself. Starting with the handle.
Foreo ISSA Handle
Staying true to the minimalist design, the Foreo ISSA handle is incredibly plain and is available in 4 different colors (Cool Black, Cobalt Blue, Lavender and mint). The color of the ISSA photographed in this review is mint.
The entire handle is made up of a smooth easy to grip silicone and if I can be brutally honest, makes the Foreo ISSA look more like a sex toy than an toothbrush.
At first glance it appears the Foreo ISSA has no buttons whatsoever. They are actually cleverly hidden by the Silicone grip. If you look closer you will make out a small circular indentation with a plus (+) and minus (-) button either side of it. This is the power button.
The plus and minus buttons increase of or decrease the motor speed which has a direct impact on the vibration intensity. There are 8 different speed settings to choose from and unlike Oral-B toothbrushes, the ISSA remembers your chosen setting when you turn the toothbrush off.
One thing I did like was that pressing both the + and – buttons together activates travel lock. With travel lock activated the Foreo ISSA will not turn on by accident. A handy feature when travelling – your electric toothbrush won’t turn on at the bottom of your bag.
Flipping the handle over reveals a rather plain back.
The only noteworthy feature on the rear is a small tab towards the base of the handle. Lifting this up reveals a small socket for you to plug in the charger.
At the top of the handle you will find the shaft:
This is where your brush head sits. The toothbrush heads simply slide over shaft and click into place. A light tug is all that is required to remove the brush head.
Foreo ISSA Brush Heads.The Foreo ISSA has two very unique silicone brush heads. Trust me when I say you won’t have seen anything like them before on an electric toothbrush.
Traditional bristled electric brush heads need to be replaced once every three months. The Foreo brush heads have double or quadruple the life of a traditional head which does go a little way to justifying their cost.
Still, having to buy a whole heap of brush heads for our testers wasn’t cheap and we feel the packaging was a little over the top:
Yep, each brush head ships in it’s own little display case. Now I know that Foreo had to do something to make you feel like you are getting your value for money but the packaging just feels excessive and wasteful. It is also worth pointing out that the packaging is very frustrating to open.
Out of the box each brush has a very strong odor, similar to that of a silicone ice cube tray. I was able to remove this odor for the most part by thoroughly washing my brush head with a white vinegar and water solution and leaving it to air.
Let’s take a closer look at the two brush heads.
1. ISSA Brush Head
The original all-silicone brush head in all it’s glory. As you can see in the side photo, the silicone bristles all vary in length as they curve down the head.
As you can see, the bristles are a lot thicker than the nylon bristles found on a traditional toothbrush.
The standard ISSA brush head only needs to be replaced once very 12 months.
Now you might be a bit concerned that a brush that is only changed once a year is going to have a lot of bacterial growth. The beauty of non-porous silicone is that it actually resists bacteria buildup. Foreo claims that their silicone bristles carry up to 10,000 x less bacteria than bristled toothbrushes.
2. ISSA Hybrid Brush Head
A strip of PBT bristles runs down the center of the Hybrid to assist with the removal of plauque.
Straight from the Foreo Website:
For heavier plaque buildup, PBT polymer bristles deliver more vigorous cleaning while silicone bristles remain gentle on gums.
I found myself chuckling statement. To me this is an admission that the standard bristles remove plaque more effectively than the silicone bristles which work better on the gums.
The ISSA Hybrid brush head needs to be replaced once every 6 months.
With a brush head attached, the entire brush measures a measly 7.6 inches. The Foreo Issa is perhaps one of the shortest toothbrushes I have come across.
You will become aware of just how small the brush is when you compare it to the other electric toothbrushes on the market. In the above photo you can see the Oral-B Pro 1000 (reviewed here) and the Foreo ISSA side by side.
Charging the Foreo ISSA
Before we test the Foreo ISSA, we are going to have to charge it up. Now it appears that the ISSA does ship with a charged (or at least partially charged) battery since I was able to turn the toothbrush on and use it straight out of the box.
Curiously, the Instruction manual warns you not to charge the toothbrush for more than 24 hours. This warning is easily missed in the small print of the instruction manual and is a big change from the Oral-B and Sonicare range which allow you to leave the brush on charge for as long as you want.
The included charger is a USB cord. This is very likely why the Foreo ISSA is ready to use out of the box. If you do not have a USB charger or a computer nearby then you are going to be unable to recharge your toothbrush. Still, it’s nice to be free from the bulky charging stations that normally come standard with electric toothbrushes.
Now I think USB charging is a great idea and means that you can charge your electric toothbrush in any country you visit, you are not limited by voltage.
I honestly wish Oral-B would get on board with this because only being able to use your Electric toothbrush in one country isn’t all that helpful if you travel for work or want to brush your teeth on vacation.
The USB cord is annoyingly short and measures just over 19 inches from end to end. This was not long enough to stretch from the electrical outlet to my bathroom counter so I found myself charging the toothbrush in the same location as my phone, on my beside table. As you can imagine I was pretty unimpressed with this.
Then there is the charging socket on the handle itself. If you have short finger nails then the darn thing is near impossible to open.
See that little bump? That is the only thing you have to grip to open the cover of the charging socket. After finger wrestling with the darn thing for too long I gave the job to my longer fingernailed wife, who had the flap opened in seconds.
With the cover finally open you simply slide the end of the charger into the socket and an indicator light in the base will flash to alert you that your toothbrush is charging.
The whole charging process is finished much quicker than any other electric toothbrush I have tested. Charging the battery from dead to full takes little over an hour. Foreo claims that you can use the electric toothbrush up to 365 times off a single charge.
I was originally a little dubious as to the claim, but we tested the ISSA over 3 months, and did not need to recharge it so there may be some truth to it.
Testing the Foreo ISSA electric toothbrush
The small size of the ISSA handle was very noticeable when I first picked it up to use it. If you have larger hands like me then the Foreo ISSA almost feels like it get’s lost in the hand.
Those with smaller hands in our tester group found this much less of a problem.
The silicone bristles of the ISSA can be used with any store bought or home made toothpaste with one exception. Foreo warns to avoid toothpastes that contain bleach as these may permanently stain the brush head or handle. That still leaves plenty of varieties of toothpaste to choose from.
Testers with sensitive teeth and gums claimed the silicone bristles were gentler than any traditional bristled toothbrush they had ever used. Not even the softest bristled offerings from Oral-B or Sonicare could compete, even when the Foreo ISSA was used on the fastest setting.
The Like most of the Oral-B range, the ISSA has a built in timer. During brushing the ISSA will alert you each time 30 seconds passes by very briefly pausing.
If you are familiar at all with Oral-B brushes then the timer will be instantly familiar. Foreo recommends you split your teeth into quarters and spend 30 brushing each one. So your brushing routine might resemble this:
- Brush left half of top teeth for 30 seconds
- Brush right half of top teeth for 30 seconds
- Brush left half of bottom teeth for 30 seconds
- Brush right half of bottom teeth for 30 seconds
Once two minutes are up you have not only brushed your entire mouth but also spent the recommended (by an overwhelming number of dentists) 2 minutes brushing your teeth.
The ISSA will pulse three times to alert you that you have been brushing for two minutes. At this time the toothbrush will remain on for those of you who wish to brush longer. You will need to manually turn the ISSA off when you are finished.
You can see how the timer works in the video below:
Two things are immediately apparent when you start brushing with the ISSA. The first thing is the size. The head of the ISSA is big. Very big. If you have a small mouth then you will be in for a very uncomfortable brushing session. I have used large head manual toothbrushes before but the head of the ISSA dwarfs even those.
If you can fit the toothbrush in your mouth then the next thing you will notice is what a strange feeling it is brushing with silicone bristles. It really is hard to describe but the thickness of the bristles definitely takes some getting used to.
But how well does it clean?
Running my tongue along my teeth after the first time using the ISSA was a silky smooth experience. But problems arose on repeated uses.
While the ISSA was satisfactorily cleaning the fronts of my teeth, it was letting plaque build up between the teeth and along the gum line. This was more and more noticeable as days went by exclusively brushing with the ISSA. This was also a problem that our group of testers also experienced.
We really wanted to love this toothbrush and tried everything, from brushing with the standard manual toothbrush technique (as recommended) to only using the very tip of the toothbrush on these troublesome spots. But whatever we tried, we just couldn’t get the same clean from as you would from a nylon bristled brush.
Swapping out the head of the ISSA with the ISSA Hybrid helped a little, but this only helped prove that small thin bristles brush a lot better than thicker silicone ones.
Now if your gums are so sensitive that a regular toothbrush just isn’t an option then brushing with the ISSA is almost certainly better than brushing skipping brushing altogether.
But it isn’t all bad news. The ISSA is perhaps the best gum massager we have ever used. The silicone bristles exerted the perfect amount of pressure. I know it is expensive just to be used as a gum massager but all the testers unanimously agreed that nothing else comes close.
After you have finished brushing your teeth you simply rub your fingers back and forth under running water to remove any remaining toothpaste from the brush head.
With the ISSA all clean you are free to store it away in the included pouch. Except there is a problem:
The ISSA just doesn’t quite fit all the way inside. As you can see in the above photo, the tip of the brush head pokes out, which defeats the purpose of covering the brush with a pouch in my opinion.
As I touched on earlier in the review there is a smaller silicone toothbrush by Foreo called the ISSA Mini.
Despite the ISSA being a small toothbrush, the Mini is smaller again and is designed for kids over the age of five. Foreo also claims that the brush head is better suited for those of you with smaller mouths, but I simply cannot see an adult being able to comfortably hold the smaller handle.
It is also worth mentioning that the ISSA Mini has a single brushing speed and is capable of outputting a lower 9,000 pulses (vibrations) per minute compared to the 11,000 of the standard ISSA toothbrush.
A great feature of the Mini is that it’s happy face/sad face indicator. If the brush is used for over 2 minutes a happy face will appear. Under 2 minutes and a sad face will light up. The best part is that if the brush hasn’t been used in over 12 hours the sad face will also light up, allowing you to keep an eye on your child’s brushing habits.
I really wanted to love the ISSA. The electric toothbrush is long overdue for a facelift and the use of antibacterial silicone bristles really sounded amazing.
Unfortunately there are small design flaws across the entire toothbrush. And then there is the brushing experience. I am able to forgive poor design if a product at least performs its basic function effectively. But the ISSA just isn’t quite ready to replace your traditional bristled brush. Not just yet.
While the Hybrid brush head performed a lot better it only cements the point that as of right now, fine bristles work better than thicker silicone ones.
Still, the ISSA offered small glimmers of hope that make me really excited for the future of toothbrushes. But before that can happen there are a lot of creases to be ironed out before silicone bristles are ready to go toe to toe with Nylon
- Electric Toothbrush Guide – Testing notes on all the different electric toothbrushes.
- Instructions – Foreo ISSA PDF user manual