Foreo ISSA Electric Toothbrush Tested and Reviewed

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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 ISSA Electric Toothbrush and accessories that come inside the box

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.

Foreo ISSA Electric Toothbrush in plain white box

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.

Related Reading: Foreo Issa Toothbrush Review

Foreo ISSA instruction manual font size

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:

Foreo ISSA accessories held 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:

Foreo ISSA leather pouch creased from folding in half

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

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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.

Foreo ISSA Electric toothbrush handle front photo

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.

Foreo ISSA Electric toothbrush handle rear photo

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:

Foreo ISSA Electric toothbrush metal shaft to hold onto brush heads

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:

Foreo ISSA Hybrid Brush Head in display case packaging

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

Close up on front and side of Foreo 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

Close up on front and side of Foreo 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.

FOreo ISSA electric toothbrush compared with Oral-B toothbrush side by side

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.

Foreo ISSA Electric Toothbrush USB charging cord

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.

Foreo ISSA electric toothbrush carging socket silicone cover

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.

Foreo ISSA Electric toothbrush with USB cord charging battery

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.

Foreo ISSA electric toothbrush held in right 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:

  1. Brush left half of top teeth for 30 seconds
  2. Brush right half of top teeth for 30 seconds
  3. Brush left half of bottom teeth for 30 seconds
  4. 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.

Foreo Issa Washed under running water from faucet

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:

Foreo ISSA electric toothbrush head sticking out the top of the travel pouch

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.

Variations

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.

Final Thoughts

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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

13 thoughts on “Foreo ISSA Electric Toothbrush Tested and Reviewed”

  1. The Foreo Issa toothbrush was an article in today’s newspaper. I read it with enthusiasm and anxiety to make a purchase. BUT, I wondered how good it really is. My homework started with the internet and this is where I found your review. Your comments were most enlightening and I believe, very thorough. Seems they were quick to market this “silicone sensation” before fine-tuning this gem. I appreciate the thoroughness of your review and though I haven’t purchased the brush, I support your findings as believable and therefore, will wait for the next generation. In the meantime, I’ll replace my Sonicare with a newer one.

    1. Hi Dick,

      We don’t believe you will regret updating your Sonicare. The finer bristles trump silicone ones found on the ISSA.

      I think the biggest tell that Silicone bristles are not ready to go mainstream is that none of the larger companies (Philips Sonicare, Braun Oral-b) have released competing toothbrushes, despite the the ISSA being on the market for over 4 years in it’s current form. If it really was that amazing then these industry powerhouses would have jumped on the silicone bristle bandwagon.

  2. Thank you so much for this thorough and honest review! I read about ISSA on bloomberg and then went to their site only to discover that there is a shocking amount of information missing there.

    For example, they don’t have any specifications as to the weight, height or any other dimension for the product! Not for the whole thing and certainly not for the brush head! They don’t even show it being held by a person, although of course different people have different size hands.

    Also, I was curious why they offer a ‘hybrid’ if their much vaunted silicon bristles are so good. Obviously they are not capable of cleaning as well and they basically admit as much as you also noticed. They offer absolutely no evidence or scientific measure of why their product is better or by how much compared to simple manual brushing, electronic brushing or sonic toothbrushes like Sonicare.

    FOREO seems to have put design way way way ahead of function. This is an all too common mistake by the ‘hipster’ culture of new companies. Then they go bankrupt and wonder why… sigh.

    In summary, I appreciate your honest and complete review. Something lacking on the amazon reviews which seem to be all purchased by FOREO and just skim over any details.

    Personally, I’ll stick with my Sonicare for now. It was recommended to me by my old dentist. My current dentist and hygienist are constantly telling me that they are impressed and have basically nothing to do when I go in for my regularly scheduled check-ups and cleaning appointments! There is a minimum build up of plaque but no toothbrush will ever be able to get 100%.

    As for the hygiene of the bristles which Foreo claims to have ‘solved’ by their use of silicone, you can either purchase the Sonicare UV package which will nuke the head with UV light and kill all bacteria leaving you with truly clean bristles or you can go the ‘cheap’ route and submerge the head every week or so in a shotglass full of hydrogen peroxide.

    Just make sure that you leave the ‘shotglass’ in the dark because hydrogen peroxide reacts with light and converts to its component parts (water and oxygen) that’s why it always comes in a dark bottle.

    cheers

  3. Maria Grayson

    Finally some honest and nonpaid review. I used this brush for some time and had to replace it 2 times because it kept losing power and the battery only held for about 3 weeks instead of 6 months as they claim. In addition, my teeth were never as clean as when I use nylon bristles and plaque built up. I switched to another sonicare brand and I am more than happy I did.

  4. Thanks for the thorough review – I was about to buy a ISSA – because of quality fustrations with my Sonicares – I have had 4 models of the Diamondclean – only to replace them once thoothpast gets into the on/off switch blocking the toothbrush from being switched on – tried to clean – never switched on again. I bit deperate if to buy a new one again.

    1. Hi Nik,

      Thank you for your comment. Out of curiosity, how much toothpaste flows down the handle of your DiamondClean? I only ask because during testing we were making fun (in good spirits) of one of our collegues for the incredible amount of toothpaste that drops from her mouth and down the handle during brushing. She actually uses the DiamondClean at home and despite her **ahem** messy brushing habits, has never had the power button stick from toothpaste. Would love to know how this problem has occurred so that we can attempt to replicate it ourselves and warn our readers if necessary.

  5. Hi Georgia,

    Excellent points. We do not expect this brush to do everything. Yes, we have heard of both floss and mouthwash. But this isn’t a review on those. It is a review on the Foreo ISSA.

    The Foreo ISSA IS capable of brushing your teeth. We don’t deny that. But as per our review we found it didn’t brush as effectively as other electric toothbrushes (and we have tested most of them). Coming in at four times the cost of electric toothbrushes that outperformed it, the Foreo ISSA earned this review and we stand behind it.

    The beautiful thing about reviews is that they are subjective and you are free to disagree with our findings. However we have had numerous users write in to us to say they wish they read this review prior to buying the toothbrush and that they share our thoughts. We are just happy to hear you have found an electric toothbrush you are satisfied with.

    As for who we are accountable to; we are accountable to our readers. We make money when someone clicks links based on our recommendations (like the links in this review).

    If we really wanted people to buy this toothbrush, so that we get an affiliate commission, we would have said we loved it. But the fact remains: We don’t and it would be dishonest for us to state otherwise.

    Thanks for taking the time to write to us and share your thoughts.

  6. Thank you for your in depth and descriptive review of this product. I was considering buying it as I found
    some aspects of the design intriguing. The head seemed to be large and you confirmed that for me.
    The “bristles” seemed too thick – again, you confirmed that also.

    In your estimation, what is the best electric/sonic electric toothbrush available on the market? Also,
    what is the difference between electric and sonic in toothbrushes? I find this confusing.

    1. Hi Lisa,

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, you can find a comparison of our favorite electric toothbrushes here. It also covers the difference between rotary and sonic toothbrushes towards the end of the guide.

  7. Thank you for the thoroughness and honesty of your reviews. Justifying upwards of $200 for a toothbrush seemed at first to be utter folly but because of some bad news at the dentist – in short, a long-anticipated salvage procedure was not feasible and that a more traditional and ferocious approach was necessary – your review of the DiamondClean by Phillips convinced me that my teeth were worth it – especially given the money I would save by not having to pay for the expensive but ultimately impossible procedure we had planned.

    I do appreciate good design and your mention of the ISSA made me want to check that out too, being absolutely brand new to the world of high-end toothbrushes.. My tastes are more minimal, but I thought that if I were going to part with that much cash I might as will get the very best. Reading your review of the ISSA, I feel even better about having earlier ordered the diamond clean. Can hardly wait a little arrives! Thank you again.

    Do you review other products? I would very much like your opinion on just about anything I planned on buying again in the future, from cat food to cars!

  8. Hey Bob;
    You wouldn’t be the first to have an issue with customer service, nor is your view too much different than many others. Most users don’t have an issue with the effectiveness of the brush, but with customer service and longevity. Hopefully, Foreo will listen to such concerns in the near future!

  9. Your brush will be replaced for free, each brush is equipped with a serial number on bottom so u dont have to keep that muggish reciept.

  10. I found your review to be absolutely helpful and sounded very “common sense” and honest! Undoubtedly one of the best reviews I’ve ever read!

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