You are probably brushing your hair and teeth (with a little luck with a natural toothpaste), but do you brush your skin? And why would you do it?
This practice has grown in popularity lately, and with good reason. I even noticed “dry brushing” as an offer on the menu at hotel spas. Dry brushing has many potential benefits, ranging from smoother skin to lymphatic drainage.
So what is it and why should you consider doing it?
Benefits of dry brushing for the skin
Dry brushing is exactly what it sounds like… brushing the skin in a particular pattern with a dry brush, usually before showering.
When dry brushing, the skin is usually brushed towards the heart, starting with the feet and hands and brushing towards the chest.
I have been brushing my skin dry for years, mainly because it feels great and it makes my skin softer, but there are other benefits as well:
1. Lymphatic support
The lymphatic system is an important part of the body’s immune system. It is made up of organs and lymph nodes, ducts and vessels that carry lymph throughout the body. Many of these lymphatics pass just under the skin. Proponents of dry brushing claim that regular brushing of the skin helps stimulate normal lymphatic flow in the body and helps the body to detoxify naturally.
This benefit is often noticed the first time a person dries the brushes. The process of applying a brush with firm, natural bristles to the skin helps loosen and remove dead skin cells, naturally exfoliating the skin. I noticed less dry skin and much softer skin in the first few days and weeks after brushing the dry skin. My skin stayed soft thanks to this integrated way of exfoliating.
3. Cleanse the pores (and small pores!)
The added benefit of exfoliating the skin is removing oil, dirt and residue from the pores. Use a smaller, softer, dry face brush (don’t use the stiffer body brush here… ouch!). I notice that my face is softer and my pores are much less visible.
4. Reduces cellulite
Although the evidence is anecdotal, I have found plenty of testimonials from people who claim that regular dry brushing goes a long way in reducing cellulite. I talked about this and my other cellulite remedies here. There isn’t a lot of research to support cellulite claims, but dry brushing feels great and leaves skin softer, so there’s no real 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 in the evening, but it’s great in the morning. One theory is that because it increases circulation, it also increases energy. Anyway, I only do this 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 my lower feet and the back of my legs. This brush set is my favorite because it includes one 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 the brush: the method
Dry brushing can be done daily all over the body, preferably in the morning before showering. Start with a soft brush and gentle pressure. Work up to a firmer brush and firmer pressure over time.
Here’s how to dry brush the skin:
- Starting with the feet, I brush my lower feet and upper legs in long, gentle strokes. I usually brush each section of skin 10 times. For lymphatic flow, I always brush to the area of the heart / chest where the lymphatic system drains.
- As a general rule, always brush towards the center of the body.
- Repeat the same process with the arms, starting with the palms of the hands and brushing the arm towards the heart. Again, I brush each section of skin 10 times.
- On your stomach and underarms, brush in a clockwise circular motion.
- I then repeat the process on my abdomen and back, then move to my face with the softer brush.
Note: Don’t brush too hard! A soft, smooth stroke often works best. My skin is slightly pink after brushing, but it should never be red or itchy. If it hurts, use less pressure!
I brush before I shower and use a natural lotion after the shower.
Replace the brush every 6 to 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 brushing the skin really work?
I have personally dry brushed for years and have noticed that my skin feels softer (and maybe firmer, although it’s hard to measure) after dry brushing. Brushing the skin is very invigorating, easy, and requires little time and money, so I keep this habit.
Especially during pregnancy, I * personally * found that dry brushing seemed to keep me from getting stretch marks and also seemed to help tighten the skin after pregnancy.
Here’s the thing:
It is not meant to be medical treatment and should not be viewed as such. Dermatologists also claim that cellulitis is genetic and there is no cure, whereas Podcast guest Dr Cate Shanahan would disagree and point the finger at the omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in our diet.
What the scientific evidence says
The evidence is mixed, and several sources point to the obvious fact: There have been no specific scientific studies on dry brushing. Much of the evidence, especially regarding the benefits of cellulite, is anecdotal. More research is needed before dermatologists consider it a legitimate medical treatment.
Proponents of dry brushing say it can stimulate the lymphatic system, helps the body rid itself of toxins and increases circulation or energy. Even dermatologists agree that gently brushing the skin has exfoliating benefits and can go beyond skin care by stimulating the body in a manner similar to massage, which certainly does. well documented benefits.
I’m not completely convinced of all of these benefits, but it definitely falls into the “can’t hurt” category with one exception …
A warning for sensitive skin
I always advise you 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 a health habit you may want to avoid. As Sarah from the Healthy Home Economist found, aggressive skin brushing can irritate sensitive skin over time.
Yet, as long as you don’t ignore warning signs such as discomfort, itching, redness, or even pain, a dry brushing session should benefit most people. Avoid sensitive areas, don’t use too firm bristles, and stop if bothersome symptoms appear.
As a gentler detox option for sensitive skin, try a detox bath instead of brushing the skin.
Skin brushing essentials: find what works for you
At the end of the day, researchers will likely never do any studies on dry brushing, so we don’t have strong scientific evidence for its benefits. There is no incentive to do such a study when a set of good quality brushes cost around $ 20 and is available online. At the same time, it is generally accepted that the practice is harmless and at worst ineffective.
Like any aspect of health (or life), it’s important to do your own research and choose what works for you.
This article has been medically reviewed by Madiha Saeed, MD, a family doctor approved by the board. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk to your doctor.
Have you ever dry brushed? Do you want to try it?