- Dry Brushing: Benefits, Risks, and More
- Lymphatic system and the removal of toxins
- What supplies do I need?
- Brush maintenance
- Should You Try Dry Brushing?
- The Truth About Dry Brushing and What It Does for You
- 1. What are the real health benefits of dry brushing?
- 2. Can brushing aid digestion or reduce the appearance of cellulite?
- 3. Why a dry brush? Why not just brush skin in the shower?
- 4. What kind of brush should I use?
- 5. How do I do it?
- 6. When should I dry brush?
- 7. What if If I have sensitive skin, can I dry brush?
- A Step-By-Step Guide To Dry Skin Brushing To Get The Most Benefits
- How does dry brushing work?
- 4. Start at the feet and move upward.
- 6. Then finish with neck and décolletage.
- 7. Afterward, you can take a shower as usual.
- 8. After the shower, hydration is key.
- Why You Should Be Dry Brushing Your Skin
- Read This Before You Start Dry Brushing
- Dry Brushing for Skin: Benefits & How to Do It the Right Way
- Dry Brushing for Skin
- Benefits of Dry Brushing
- 1. Lymphatic Support
- 2. Exfoliation
- 3. Clean Pores (& Smaller Pores!)
- 4. Reduces Cellulite
- 5. Natural Energy Boost
- Selecting a Dry Brush
- How to Dry Brush: The Method
- Here’s How to Dry Brush the Skin:
- But, Does Skin Brushing Actually Work?
- What the Scientific Evidence Says
- A Warning for Sensitive Skin
Dry Brushing: Benefits, Risks, and More
Dry brushing is a type of Ayurvedic medicine that has been around for centuries. It’s believed to have many health benefits. Some of the benefits may include:
- stimulating the lymphatic system
- exfoliating the skin
- helping the body rid itself of toxins
- increasing circulation and energy
- helping to break down cellulite
Dry brushing works by exfoliating the skin. Practitioners of dry brushing rub a brush with coarse, natural-fiber bristles over their bodies in a particular pattern.
The idea is that the coarse fibers will help to remove dead skin and improve the skin’s ability to eliminate toxins through the pores.
There is little scientific evidence to support the benefits of dry brushing. There is anecdotal evidence, however. The possible benefits include the following:
Lymphatic system and the removal of toxins
The lymphatic system helps your body fight off infections. Fluids flow through the system and are filtered through the lymph nodes. If you’re sick or exposed to a lot of toxins, the system may become backed up and clogged. That is why your lymph nodes often become swollen when you have a cold.
Dry brushing is thought to help the body release toxins through sweat. The course bristles on the brush stimulate the pores and open them up. This makes it easier for the body to sweat, which in turns reduces the amount of toxins flowing through the lymphatic system.
There is little research to support this claim.
The coarse bristles can brush away dry, dead cells from the skin. This can leave your skin more smooth and soft.
Similar to a massage, dry brushing may make you feel relaxed. To make the most of this benefit, practice dry brushing in a dark, quiet space.
Cellulite is a condition that mostly affects women. Areas affected by cellulite have a rippled or “cottage cheese” appearance. The cause is not fully known.
Massage has been shown to temporarily reduce the appearance of cellulite. Some claim that dry brushing can reduce the appearance of cellulite because it has similar effects on the body as massage. There’s no scientific data to support this theory, and it’s not a recognized treatment by most doctors.
“[Dry brushing] does exfoliate, which is fine if not done too vigorously,” says Dr. Carolyn Jacobs, a board-certified dermatologist and director at Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology. “But it won’t help cellulite as that is due to fat and collagen bands in women.”
Some people should avoid dry brushing or proceed with caution. People with open or inflamed skin, including people with eczema and psoriasis, should avoid dry brushing over the inflamed area. You should also avoid dry brushing over an open wound. You could introduce bacteria to the wound, which could lead to infection.
To dry brush, use a natural fiber brush with a long handle. The long handle will help you reach all areas of your body. Follow these steps:
- Start at your feet and move up your body.
- Brush your skin using wide, circular, clockwise motions.
- Use light pressure in areas where your skin is thin and harder pressure on thicker skin, the soles of your feet.
- Brush your arms after you have brushed your feet, legs, and mid-section. You should brush upward towards your armpits.
- After dry brushing, take a cool shower to help remove the dry skin.
- After your shower, dry off and then consider adding natural plant oil, such as olive or coconut oil, to moisturize your skin.
When you first start dry brushing, it’s best to begin with light brushing. As you get used to it, you can increase the pressure.
Avoid sensitive areas and anywhere the skin is broken. These include areas with:
Also, never brush an area affected by poison oak, poison ivy, or psoriasis. Don’t dry brush your face unless you’re using a softer brush made for that purpose.
What supplies do I need?
All you need to dry brush at home is a brush with natural fiber bristles. You should also look for one with a long handle to help you reach every part of your body.
You may want to dry brush in the shower so that you can easily clean the area once you’re done. You may also want to have a moisturizer on hand, such as natural oil.
You should be able to find a brush for less than $10. Dry brushing kits are also available, though these are more expensive.
Dry brushes are available at health food stores or online.
If you don’t want to dry brush yourself, you may be able to find a local spa that offers dry brushing. If you have a treatment done at a spa, ask them how they clean the brushes and let them know about any areas they should avoid.
Make sure you rinse your brush after you have completed your brushing routine. Dry it in an open, sunny area to prevent mildew. Clean your brush once a week using soap and water. You should also avoid sharing your brush with anyone. This can help prevent the risk for infection.
There’s little scientific evidence to support the benefits of dry brushing. For most people, however, there’s little risk. If you’re interested in dry brushing, you can purchase a brush and try it at home.
If you have a skin condition, such as psoriasis, you should speak with your doctor before dry brushing. Be sure to avoid brushing over or around an open wound or infection.
Should You Try Dry Brushing?
Photo: olga_sweet/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Though it may alarm you, it did not seem particularly odd to stand naked in my bathroom on a cold February morning brushing the entirety of my dry skin with a brush that looks the kind of brush ranchers use to brush horses. No, no.
Participating in wellness often means surrendering yourself to a small humiliation. Wearing a panda-face sheet mask on a flight. Paying $12 for a single cup of admittedly incredible juice.
Rolling jade over your face, in case that does something. It’s fine. We want to be well, and we’ll be damned if a small humiliation is going to stop us. So the dry brushing was for skin wellness, obviously.
And for something with, you know … toxins.
Dry brushing has traveled across time, seamlessly morphing from an ancient pre-bath ritual of the now-dead to a modern pre-bath ritual of the Instagram model. Its devotees swear by its ability to exfoliate, reduce the appearance of cellulite, and aid lymphatic drainage for a more swift removal of toxins. Molly Sims swore by it in 2010 and Miranda Kerr, I’ll have you know, loves it.
Of course, I had to try.
To dry brush, you use a natural-bristle brush to gently but firmly brush your skin in long strokes toward your heart, usually going over each area two or three times.
At your belly, you brush in a clockwise motion. Dry brushing is typically done before showering, and should be followed with a vitamin-rich moisturizer.
There are two styles of brushes you can choose from: one with a long handle, and one without a handle.
Though the handled version seems more practical, for my dry brush I chose the handleless for easier storage, and because it is cuter. I purchased this one on Amazon for $9.99 because it is “Amazon’s Choice,” a designation I trust even though I do not know what it means or how it is calculated. For my post-brushing replenishing, I chose U.K.
skin-care brand de Mamiel’s “Salvation Body Oil,” which includes “seven potent plant oils including argan and prickly pear both rich in essential fatty acids and antioxidants, renowned for strengthening and protecting the skin.” Amazing.
It costs $135 and I did not pay for it; I asked de Mamiel if I could try it for this project and they sent a bottle to me, which I loved.
a lot of wellness practices, dry brushing is at worst recommended without acknowledgement that its touted benefits are not backed up by clinical data, and at best recommended with acknowledgement that its touted benefits are not backed up by clinical data. Basically, people just feel better after they do it — softer, more energized, as if their stagnant, toxin-laden lymph has been expunged. And feeling is believing.
But what is the lymphatic system, even? It’s similar to the vascular system. Lymph is a fluid that, blood, exists mostly in vessels that circulate it around the body.
It seeps the vessels and helps the body’s cells survive, by carrying immune cells. It also carries away metabolic waste, which is I guess what we’re calling “toxins.
” Un the vascular system, it doesn’t work on a pump; lymph moves throughout the body by process of the body’s own movement. So, does dry brushing help?
“Any massage with light-medium pressure can help with lymphatic circulation,” dermatologist Ivy Lee told me, “but how significant the impact is unknown.
” She noted that for medical conditions where lymphatic circulation is impaired, lymphedema, physical therapists undergo specialized training and certification in manual lymphatic drainage, as the pressure and direction in which the pressure is applied matter.
“I could see dry brushing as a way to exfoliate, but that’s all,” James Hamblin, M.D. and friend I asked to explain the lymphatic system to me, said. “Unless you’re unable to move or have a serious problem with your lymphatic system, you don’t need to brush your skin to make your lymph move.”
“Dry brushing has been touted as providing a number of benefits, but many of these aren’t entirely true,” Sejal Shah, another dermatologist, told me.
“There is an element of massage which theoretically may stimulate the lymphatic system, but there is no evidence that rids the body of toxins or aids in digestion.
” As for the part about cellulite, “Any improvement in the appearance of cellulite is ly due to temporary skin plumping from the massage aspect.”
Although I am naturally skeptical of health techniques that necessitate belief, I also love doing new little things that might improve me or relax me or energize me, or at least give me something to buy. This is a paradox of the modern, thinking wellness-enjoyer and I am not immune. Gimme that bullshit. Gimme gimme gimme.
So one morning, shivering but energized by new possibility, I brushed my whole dry body with a brush. Admittedly, there isn’t much to say about it.
It hurt a little but the pain was slightly invigorating, and it had the satisfying feeling of scratching an itch that you didn’t even know was there.
Immediately afterward it made my skin itchy, which I think is because my skin is a little dry and fragile. This was eased first by the shower and then later by the Salvation Body Oil.
The dry brushing made my skin feel softer, it’s true, and the body oil seemed to apply more smoothly. I would touch my arms during the day and think, “smooth.” I dry brushed again the next day, which hurt a little more.
The day after that my dry-and-sensitive skin screamed at me, “PLEASE STOP!!!!!!!!!!” Unfortunately, though I would love to be the sort of person with a multi-step morning wellness routine, I do not think I am the sort of person who can brush my dry skin every day.
“If you have sensitive skin, dry brushing may cause irritation or over-drying of the skin,” Shah told me. Plus, it can cause flare-ups in conditions acne, rosacea, and eczema. Arielle Nagler, another dermatologist I spoke with, told me she doesn’t recommend mechanical exfoliation in general (as opposed to chemical) — it’s just too abrasive for most people.
Will I continue to dry brush? Good question. I’ll certainly continue to hang the cute little dry brush in my bathroom, both to give the appearance of someone who dry brushes and because I’ve already attached its hook to the wall. I’ll certainly continue to use that body oil. As for dry brushing itself, though, I think I’ll maybe do it, … once a week. Softly.
Should You Try Dry Brushing?
The Truth About Dry Brushing and What It Does for You
By: Jamie Starkey, LAC
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There are a variety of health claims about dry brushing. For those who aren’t familiar with the technique, it involves daily body massage with a dry, stiff-bristled brush. It’s been said to help flaky winter skin, increase circulation, detoxify, help digestion – and even improve the appearance of cellulite. But are these claims true? Some, but definitely not all.
Below, find some questions patients often ask about dry brushing:
1. What are the real health benefits of dry brushing?
The mechanical action of dry brushing is wonderful for exfoliating dry winter skin. It also helps detoxify by increasing blood circulation and promoting lymph flow/drainage. Dry brushing unclogs pores in the exfoliation process. It also stimulates your nervous system, which can make you feel invigorated afterward.
2. Can brushing aid digestion or reduce the appearance of cellulite?
There is absolutely no evidence in the literature to confirm that dry brushing aids in digestion or the appearance of cellulite. It’s ly that what people interpret as cellulite reduction is really just a temporary “plumping up of the skin” from increased blood circulation. The claim that it actually reduces cellulite isn’t supported by any scientific evidence.
3. Why a dry brush? Why not just brush skin in the shower?
Brushing the skin while it is dry allows you to exfoliate and increase blood circulation without robbing it of moisture, as the hot water in the shower can.
4. What kind of brush should I use?
You want to use a natural stiff-bristled bath/shower brush, preferably with a long handle. Some bristles are stiffer than others, and it depends on your skin’s sensitivity and preference. The long handle helps you reach your back.
5. How do I do it?
You always start on dry skin using a natural bristled brush. I typically start from the feet/ankles and work my way upward in long fluid strokes on limbs and circular motions on torso and back. I move in the upward direction. It can be sensitive on the abdomen, breasts and neck, so lighten up pressure as needed.
A long handle is helpful so that you can get to the back, which can be brushed in downward strokes. A few overlapping swipes per area is enough. If you go over one area too long, you can actually break the integrity of the skin and cause irritation or bleeding. You generally do this once each day and shower immediately afterward.
6. When should I dry brush?
The best time to dry brush is just before a shower. Then you can wash off any dead skin cells and flaky skin. Be sure to apply lotion afterward to put moisture back into your skin.
7. What if If I have sensitive skin, can I dry brush?
Never brush over skin that is broken, which includes cuts, scrapes, lesions, sores or burned skin, including sunburns. Don’t ever brush over areas of infection, redness or general irritation, inflammation, cellulitis or skin cancer. Stop dry brushing if skin becomes irritated or inflamed. I also do not recommend using the brush on your face.
These brushes have bristles that are usually pretty firm. If your skin is too sensitive, you may want to switch and try a plain dry washcloth.
A Step-By-Step Guide To Dry Skin Brushing To Get The Most Benefits
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Last updated on December 23, 2019
As far as morning routines go, dry brushing is one not to be missed for your skin and body. The classic ritual has gained popularity of late—and now has plenty of devoted fans. Read on below, and you might become one yourself.
How does dry brushing work?
Dry brushing is a classic ayurvedic ritual that involves brushing your full body with a special bristled tool. The benefits are often sung anecdotally but haven't been studied significantly. Many of the claims that you'll see out there— reducing cellulite or even improved immune system function—should be met with a skeptical eye.
However, there are a few healthy skin benefits we can get behind:
- It buffs skin. Dry brushing is an effective physical exfoliator, meaning it's manually removing dead skin cells from the top layer of skin, improving the appearance and making topical treatments more effective.
- Encourages circulation. Lymphatic drainage and circulation is the most often cited benefit of the ritual.
Your lymphatic system works alongside your circulatory system and removes waste in the body, which is why you might hear people say that dry brushing is “detoxifying.” It's up for debate whether you actually need to manually stimulate circulation (some studies show lymph pumps can improve lymphatic function) or if simply moving your body is enough.
Regardless, studies show that improved circulation is better for skin overall—no matter how you get things going.
- Offers a moment of self-care. If anything, dry brushing encourages you to take a moment and focus on your body.
Even if aesthetically there's no life-changing improvement, feeling good about the body you live in is always a goal worth achieving.
Here, a step-by-step guide to the ritual, courtesy of holistic esthetician and dry brushing expert Amity Spiegel:
Finding your perfect brush is highly subjective. You want a stiff bristle but nothing too abrasive: Most recommend a boar bristle brush as that will have the right texture, but if you're vegan, you should consider synthetic bristles. There are options that have a long handle or none.
It's up to personal preference, but many find it easier with a handle as it will help you hit those hard-to-reach places, on your back. However, others say they the control of a handheld brush. Ultimately, it will be your call.
For the advanced-level dry brushers, you can find options with ionic copper fibers as well, which allegedly help to detox the body even more, but those can be too harsh for first-timers. We recommend the Ecotools Dry Body Brush or Beluda Premium Dry Body Brush Set.
You'll need to be completely nude. It’s best to do before a shower, as you’ll be lifting up dead skin cells that you'll ly want to wash off right after.
On that note: Consider standing in the shower itself, so flakes don't go flying all over your bathroom.
Also, many claim it's energizing for them—if you're one of those people, make this part of your morning routine.
The strokes should be medium pressure—you want to feel something happening without irritating the skin. Long strokes are the best since you are trying to push up lymph fluid, and that requires a delicate and rhythmic touch.
You'll also want to do each pass more than once and overlap sections while brushing. Think of it moving along each limb a spiral staircase.
Along bends ( your joints) or smaller areas, you will switch to shorter, quicker movements.
4. Start at the feet and move upward.
The point of dry brushing is to encourage lymph toward your upper torso and chest, where the lymphatic fluid will reenter the bloodstream: You always want to follow the circulatory system. You will take the legs in sections. Start with the top of the feet, then target the lower leg, the knee, and the thigh.
When you work on the back of the thigh, treat the butt as an extension of your thigh and continue upward onto the small of your back. As for your stomach, some recommend making circular motions (it's thought to aid in digestion, but there's no proof that's the case) while others prefer long strokes.
You can find what feels right for you.
Much you start with the feet, start with the hands and go across toward the heart.
Do a similar routine as you did with the legs: Brush the back of your hands, work around the forearm, and then around the upper arm.
Be mindful to treat under the upper arms with extra attention, as that's where many lymph nodes are (as a rule of thumb, you'll want to always pay attention to areas with lymph nodes).
6. Then finish with neck and décolletage.
You'll want to be extra gentle, as it's more delicate skin. Also, here you're deviating from the bottom-up technique—as you are above heart level. Start at the jawline and move down toward your chest. Finish by going over your heart in a circular motion to end your routine.
7. Afterward, you can take a shower as usual.
This will help clean the body of the dead skin cells that have come loose during the brushing process. As your skin is thoroughly exfoliated, be mindful of how you are washing it—skip the scrubs and abrasive loofahs.
8. After the shower, hydration is key.
Because the skin will absorb product more readily, it's important to use healthy, high-quality ingredients after dry brushing sessions. Do it while your skin is damp, as smoothing on an oil or cream will seal in water from your shower. Always moisturize with damp skin!
You're not going to see any difference unless you are diligent—as with any routine.
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Why You Should Be Dry Brushing Your Skin
Dry brushing the skin really is as simple as it sounds—a firm, bristled brush is swept across the skin, from toe to head. It's called “dry” brushing because you aren't scrubbing up while you bathe or shower. Instead, both your skin and the brush are completely dry (although some people apply a dab of body oil to the brush before using).
While dry brushing is a relatively new trend today, it actually has its roots in ancient times. It's common in Ayurvedic medicine but many cultures, including the ancient Greeks and Japanese, have used skin brushing to cleanse and beautify the skin.
Dry brushing is sometimes done as part of a body treatment package at the day spa, but it's also a very simple DIY treatment you can indulge in at home to reap the benefits. All you need is a body brush, which is relatively inexpensive, and a few minutes.
Verywell / JR Bee
There haven't been formal studies done on dry brushing and the effects it has on the skin or body systems. But experts agree that dry brushing does have its benefits. Here's what we know.
Dry brushing exfoliates the skin much the more commonly used body scrubs do, via physical exfoliation. The bristles of the brush manually sweep away dull, rough, flaky skin cells. After a dry brushing session, your skin will feel softer and smoother.
The brisk brushing stimulates circulation. The leaves skin looking more radiant, albeit temporarily.
Maybe it's the increased circulation, maybe it's simply the few extra minutes indulging in a self-care ritual, but most people feel invigorated and energized after a dry brush session. And there's no denying dry brushing just feels good on the skin (if it doesn't, you're probably brushing too hard, but more on that later).
Again, there is little to no research done on dry brushing and the skin. What we do know about dry brushing from piecing together what we know about how the skin and body systems work.
As a rule, there is no evidence that dry brushing does any of the following:
The lymphatic system is part of your immune system. Its job is to drain fluid and carry a clear fluid called lymph throughout your body via a network of vessels.
Some claim that dry brushing can stimulate sluggish lymph. There are no studies to prove this, and while it's possible it's not probable.
Although things manual lymphatic drainage massage have benefits, brushing isn't ly to have the same effect.
“Eliminates toxins” has become a buzz phrase of late. Juicing, hot yoga, and yes, dry brushing, all supposedly detoxify your body. The skin may be the largest organ of your body, but it's not the largest detoxifying organ of the body. That distinction belongs to your liver, with the kidneys being runners-up. Unfortunately, you can't brush toxins the body.
The skin isn't tied to your digestive system, so any brushing of the skin isn't going to aid in digestion. Gentle massaging of the stomach may help with mild constipation, so brushing your tummy could, in theory, help alleviate the problem. But in general, there are better ways to improve your digestion.
Increased circulation plumps the skin, making cellulite look less obvious. It's just a temporary fix, though; dry brushing isn't really reducing cellulite permanently. But if cellulite looks better to you after a dry brushing session, that's awesome. As far as balancing or redistributing fat, dry brushing can't do it.
In most cases, dry brushing is a very safe thing to do. Still, before you start brushing away at your skin, there are a few things to keep in mind.
The most common side effect of dry brushing is irritated skin. This is more ly to happen if you brush too hard, brush too often, or if your skin is especially sensitive.
While your skin may be a bit pink after a session, you most definitely don't want to see redness or abrasions on the skin. Your skin shouldn't burn or sting afterward, either.
Dry brushing should feel good; if it doesn't, you're being too aggressive.
Dry brushing can leave your skin feeling dry. It's important to use some type of moisturizing product after your dry brush session to prevent dryness.
Never dry brush over eczema, psoriasis, rashes, wounds, sunburn, or irritations. If you have very sensitive skin, you may want to skip dry brushing altogether. In any case, if your skin seems to be getting irritated by your newfound dry brush routine, scale back the frequency or stop dry brushing altogether.
The nice thing about dry brushing is you don't need much to get started, just a brush. And since dry brushing has become fairly popular, brushes are easily found. Try your local health food or beauty supply store, or search online. Brushes are sometimes sold at big box stores in the skincare aisle too.
Most dry brush experts recommend a natural bristle brush. These are made from plant sources jute, sisal, even cactus fibers.
A brush with a long handle makes it easier to reach those awkward areas the back, behind the shoulders, and the backs of the legs. A smaller brush that fits in the palm of your hand is less unwieldy to use. Some brushes offer the best of both worlds with a removable handle. Check out a few styles to see what appeals to you.
Don't be tempted to buy a brush with super stiff, hard bristles. Firmer bristles don't mean a better dry brushing. If it feels you're running a wire grill cleaner across your skin, get a different brush. Your brush should never leave red marks or abrade the skin but should feel good.
For the face, take extra care in choosing a brush. The brush you're using for your body won't work for the face. Instead, you'll need a smaller brush with much softer bristles. If even soft-bristled brushes are too abrasive for your face, consider using a soft cloth instead.
Keep your brush sanitary by cleaning it occasionally. Follow the cleaning instructions that came with your brush. Otherwise, you can wash the bristles with a gentle soap, rinse well, and set out to dry. Another option is to dampen a cloth with rubbing alcohol and rub over the bristles to clean.
You've got your brush and you're ready to start! The dry brushing process isn't complicated, so don't be too worried about getting doing it “right.” Once you've done it a few times, you'll develop a technique that works for you.
Some proponents suggest doing your dry brushing in the morning, rather than before bed, because of its stimulating and energizing quality. But really you can dry brush whenever is convenient for you.
- To begin, strip down to bare skin. Some recommend standing in an empty bathtub or shower, but anywhere you're comfortable and won't slip is fine. Starting at the feet, brush upward toward the body with light, smooth strokes. Dry brush the entirety of each leg, working up to the upper thighs.
- Continue with the buttocks and back (provided you can reach; if not, no worries. It's OK to skip it).
- Move on to the arms, starting at the backs of the hands and work upwards to the shoulders, again using light, smooth strokes.
- The stomach and chest are more sensitive than the arms and legs, so lighten your touch a bit here. You can continue with upward strokes here, or circular ones, depending on which is more comfortable to you. Don't brush over breasts (for women) or nipples (for everybody).
- If you'd to also brush your face and neck, switch to a smaller, softer brush. Brush lightly upward on the neck, then gently across the face from chin to forehead.
- After your dry brushing session, shower or bathe, then finish with an application of lotion, body balm, or body oil.
- The whole process doesn't take up much time, five minutes max, so don't feel you have to linger.
- When dry brushing the body, work upward or toward the heart.
- There's no recommended number of dry brush sessions. Do what works for you, whether that's daily (if your skin can tolerate it), twice weekly, or occasionally when the fancy strikes.
- Don't go over the same area for more than just a couple of strokes. Otherwise, you can cause irritations.
Dry brushing can be a relaxing yet stimulating indulgence to leave your skin feeling soft and smooth. The key to remember through all dry brushing sessions is to treat your skin gently.
Rough brushing won't gain you better results.
Be realistic about the results you're expecting (dry brushing is lovely after all, but it's not a cure-all) and listen to your skin, and dry brushing can be a simple luxury to add to your self-care routine.
Read This Before You Start Dry Brushing
It’s the skin exfoliating technique that many aestheticians, fitness pros, and your friend at brunch can’t shut up about — one that is said to reduce cellulite, expedite lymph drainage and exfoliate skin. We’re talking about dry brushing. And with buzz this, it’s hard not to whip out our phones, search “body brushes,” and swiftly add to cart.
But if the hype around vaginal steams and jade eggs has taught us anything, it’s that sometimes, a deeper dive is in order before giving a beauty practice a go.
So we talked to a spectrum of pros — including aestheticians, dermatologists, fitness experts, and body workers — to find out whether grooming our body we do our hair can really help our skin and what lies beneath.
The claim about dry brushing that’s perhaps easiest to grasp is the idea that it can help exfoliate skin on the body. Certainly running a bristled brush along limbs will slough off some dead skin cells — and even help the actives in products applied after brushing to better absorb. But how crucial it is to exfoliate skin on the body is less clear.
“Dry brushing helps to exfoliate your skin but you skin naturally exfoliates anyway, especially when you are younger,” says Raja Sivamani, MD, an associate professor of clinical dermatology at University of California, Davis who also specialized in Ayurvedic medicine. “There is no scientific evidence of benefits specific to dry brushing.
What we do know is that it can increase the rate at which you lose water through the skin and this can make your skin more prone to dryness, so if you do dry brush, it’s important to moisturize after.” Dr.
Sivamani does point to one outlying perk of the practice: “Dry brushing does help you slow down and focus on your skin — and hopefully that means that people will also take the time to moisturize their skin as well.”
Rianna Loving, an aesthetician and founder of Organic to Green and Sauna Bungalow & Spa in Santa Monica, California, also notes that dry brushing may not be for everyone.
“If you have sensitive skin due to hormones ( post or pre-baby, menopause, or allergen medicine) or suffer from other skin conditions, then dry brushing may do more harm than help,” she says, adding that skin should feel smooth and clear, not irritated, after regular use.
Further, “dry brushing should not be done by those that are prone to eczema or skin infections,” says Dr. Sivamani.
But there may be internal benefits to brushing your skin, such as helping lymph flow, which Dr. Sivamani says, “can be important in removal of wastes.” Though our lymph system is built to operate autonomously, various factors may cause it to work more slowly.
“The problem with the lymph system it doesn’t have a regular pump within the body, so you have to move the lymph with activity, whether it’s going for a walk, doing yoga or working out another way,” says Lauren Roxburgh, a trainer and fascia and alignment expert who works with athletes and celebrities, Gabrielle Reece and Jordana Brewster.
“If you’re sitting around too much, are stressed, or develop scar tissue in the connective tissue or fascia, your lymph system can become stagnant, Roxburgh explains.
When that happens, our bodies may do a poorer job of flushing out the stuff that doesn’t benefit the body, pesticides from food, carcinogens from cigarettes, or environmental toxins from breathing air.
“That’s why I talk a lot about the the way dry brushing can benefit the lymph system, because it’s such an easy easy and effective tool for helping to get the lymph system pumping and to flush toxins more efficiently.
” Though the wellness expert (who is certified in fields of structural integration, nutrition, and pilates) admits that there’s little research in the scientific literature about the lymph system and dry brushing, she has seen the positive effects in her body and those of her clients.
Annee de Mamiel, an acupuncturist, aromatherapist, holistic facialist, and founder of the skin care brand de Mamiel also subscribes to the idea of dry brushing to help boost lymph movement and drainage — and Dr. Sivamani, she sees the value of targeted hydration immediately after a dry brushing session.
“After brushing, using a body oil that has grapefruit or cypress to help increase the effect,” she says. “Grapefruit and cypress are two oils which support circulation and lymph movement. Cypress is a detoxifier that helps flush out toxins that are carried in the lymph system and grapefruit has an affinity for the lymph system, detoxifying and stimulating.
” (Both ingredients are present in de Mamiel Salvation Body Oil.)
Finally, Roxburgh says there may be a connection between dry brushing and cellulite. “I find there is a connection between dry brushing and your fascia.
Your fascia is a webbing in which the lymph system and nerves live, and your blood pumps through.
Wherever there’s scar tissue or knots in that webbing, you’re going to have blockages and those things are going to make the skin on top will look more dimpled and rippled,” she explains.
Ahead, find the best tools of the trade, along with our experts’ best tips for safe dry brushing.
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Dry Brushing for Skin: Benefits & How to Do It the Right Way
You probably brush your hair, and your teeth (hopefully with natural toothpaste), but do you brush your skin? And why would you?
Dry Brushing for Skin
This practice has been gaining popularity lately and with good reason. I’ve even noticed “dry brushing” as an offering on the menu at spas in hotels. Dry brushing has many potential benefits, from smoother skin to helping with lymphatic drainage.
So what is it and why should you consider doing it?
Dry brushing is exactly what it sounds … brushing the skin in a particular pattern with a dry brush, usually before showering.
In dry brushing, the skin is typically brushed toward the heart, starting at the feet and hands and brushing toward the chest.
Benefits of Dry Brushing
I’ve been dry brushing my skin for years, mostly because it feels great and makes my skin softer, but there are other benefits as well:
1. Lymphatic Support
The lymphatic system is a major part of the body’s immune system. It is made up of organs and lymph nodes, ducts, and vessels that transport lymph throughout the body. Many of these lymph vessels run just below the skin. Proponents of dry brushing claim that brushing the skin regularly helps stimulate the normal lymph flow within the body and helps the body detoxify itself naturally.
This benefit is often noticed the first time a person dry brushes. The process of running a firm, natural bristled brush over the skin helps loosen and remove dead skin cells, naturally exfoliating skin. I noticed less dry skin and much softer skin in the first few days and weeks after dry skin brushing. My skin has stayed soft thanks to this built-in way to exfoliate.
3. Clean Pores (& Smaller Pores!)
The added benefit of exfoliating the skin is clearing oil, dirt, and residue from the pores. Use a smaller, gentler dry brush for the face (don’t use the stiffer body brush here… ouch!). I notice that my face is softer and my pores are much less noticeable.
4. Reduces Cellulite
Though the evidence is anecdotal, I’ve found many accounts of people who claimed that regular dry brushing greatly helps to reduce cellulite. I talked about this and my other cellulite remedies here. There isn’t much research to back the cellulite claims, but dry brushing feels great and makes skin softer, so there isn’t really any downside to trying it!
5. Natural Energy Boost
I can’t explain why but dry brushing always gives me a natural energy boost. For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend dry brushing at night but it is great in the morning. One theory is that because it increases circulation, it also increases energy. Either way, I only do it early in the day as part of my morning routine.
Selecting a Dry Brush
I use a firm, natural bristle brush with a long handle, which allows me to reach my entire back and easily brush the bottoms of my feet and the backs of my legs. This set of brushes is my favorite because it includes a face brush and two body brushes with different firmness.
When I started dry brushing, my skin was much more sensitive and I preferred the softer one, and now I much prefer the firmer brush. With the set, I have options.
How to Dry Brush: The Method
Dry brushing can be done daily over the whole body, preferably in the morning before showering. Start with a gentle brush and soft pressure. Work up to a firmer brush and more firm pressure over time.
Here’s How to Dry Brush the Skin:
- Starting at the feet, I brush the bottoms of my feet and up my legs in long, smooth strokes. I typically brush each section of skin 10 times. For lymph flow, I always brush toward the heart/chest area where the lymph system drains.
- As a good rule of thumb, always brush toward the center of the body.
- Repeat the same process with the arms, starting with the palms of the hands and brushing up the arm toward the heart. Again, I brush each section of skin 10 times.
- On the stomach and armpits, brush in a circular clockwise motion.
- I then repeat the process on my abdomen and back, and then switch to my face with the more delicate brush.
Note: Don’t brush too hard! A soft and smooth stroke often works best.
My skin is slightly pink after brushing, but it should never be red or sting. If it hurts at all, use less pressure!
I brush before showering and use a natural lotion after showering.
Replace the brush every 6-12 months as the bristles will eventually wear out. I also recommend washing the brush every few weeks to remove dead skin cells.
But, Does Skin Brushing Actually Work?
I have personally dry brushed for years and noticed that my skin is softer (and possibly firmer, though this is hard to measure) from dry brushing. Skin brushing is very invigorating, easy, and a low investment of time and money, so I keep up the habit.
Especially during pregnancy, I *personally* found that dry brushing seemed to help keep me from getting stretch marks and also seemed to help tighten skin after pregnancy.
Here’s the thing:
It isn’t meant to be a medical treatment and shouldn’t be considered one. Dermatologists also claim that cellulite is genetic and that there is no cure, while podcast guest Dr. Cate Shanahan would disagree and points the finger at polyunsaturated omega-6 fats in our diet.
What the Scientific Evidence Says
The evidence is divided and several sources point out the obvious fact — there have not been any specific scientific studies about dry brushing. Much of the evidence, especially relating to the cellulite benefit, is anecdotal and much more research would be needed before dermatologists would consider it a legitimate medical treatment.
Supporters of dry brushing claim that it can stimulate the lymph system, help the body rid itself of toxins and increase circulation or energy. Even dermatologists agree that gently brushing the skin does have exfoliating benefits and may go beyond skin care by stimulating the body in a way similar to massage, which certainly does have well-documented benefits.
I’m not completely sold on all of those benefits, but this definitely falls in the “can’t hurt” category, with one exception…
A Warning for Sensitive Skin
Always, my advice is to pay attention to what works for you and your body. If you have sensitive skin or a history of eczema or other skin conditions, this is one health habit you may want to skip. As Sarah from the Healthy Home Economist found, aggressive skin brushing could irritate sensitive skin over time.
Still, as long as you don’t ignore warning signs discomfort, itchiness, redness, or even pain, done the right way a dry brushing session should benefit most people. Avoid sensitive areas, don’t use overly firm bristles, and stop if bothersome symptoms occur.
As a gentler detox option for sensitive skin, try a detox bath instead of skin brushing.
At the end of the day, researchers will ly never do studies on dry brushing so we don’t have solid scientific evidence of its benefits.
There is no incentive to do such a study when a good quality brush set costs around $20 and is available online. At the same time, it is generally agreed that the practice is harmless and at worst ineffective.
any aspect of health (or life), it is important to do your own research, try things, and gauge the effects for yourself.
I personally dry brushing for the smoother skin and burst of energy, but give it a try and see what you think.
This article was medically reviewed by Madiha Saeed, MD, a board certified family physician. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
Have you ever dry brushed? Will you try it?