Is dry brushing the acai berry of beauty trends? Everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow (via goop) to Vogue to Allure raves about its ability to sweep away dead skin cells, improve digestion, reduce the appearance of cellulite (!) and stimulate “lymphatic drainage.” So is it just another fad?
First of all, what IS dry brushing?
It’s pretty much what it sounds like: it is the practice of sweeping a coarse brush across dry skin in upward motions towards your heart, generally before bathing/showering. Most experts recommend doing it once a day 2-3 times a week, although you’ll find some literature that suggests doing it every day. See below for a more detailed breakdown of how to dry brush and recommendations for types of brushes.
What are the benefits?
In Chinese medicine, dry brushing is most definitely not a fad or a gimmick. It is an age-old beauty and health technique: according to Matthew Scott, B.Ac, MA, the Native Americans used dried corn cobs to brush their skin, whereas the Chinese traditionally used loofahs. Yes, it has become a popular practice among the glitterati of the health and wellness world today, but practitioners of TCM have known for a long time that dry brushing stimulates the lymph canals to drain toxic matter into the colon, thereby purifying the entire lymph system. Daniel Reid, in The Complete Book of Chinese Health & Healing: Guarding the Three Treasures writes, “Most people today have chronically toxic lymph fluids and swollen lymph nodes, a condition which promotes toxicity throughout the system by robbing lymph of its power to clean the blood and cellular fluids.” Walking around with toxic lymph fluids running through you can cause all manner of ailment and will most broadly result in a low qi, or vital energy. Dry brushing, therefore, allows the lymph to perform its duties by keeping the blood detoxified. In addition, skin brushing stimulates blood circulation and leaves you feeling invigorated. And what’s so great about improved blood circulation? Blood circulation supports good health. Poor circulation can cause inflammation, pain, stroke and other chronic illnesses.
How is it different from scrubbing in the shower?
Dry brushing really is different from scrubbing intensely in the shower. Brushing the skin while it is dry allows you to exfoliate (read: remove dead skin cells and increase blood circulation) without robbing it of moisture—as would happen under hot water in the shower.
How to do it:
- Start at your feet and brush upward towards your heart
- When you are doing your arms, begin at the hands and work upwards
- For the stomach, work in a counterclockwise pattern
- Use firm, small strokes upwards, or work in a circular motion
- Do not press too hard or use an extra stiff brush
- Dedicate at least 3-5 minutes to dry brushing before you hop in the bath or the shower
And, 2 warnings:
- Never dry brush your face, breasts or genitals
- Never dry brush broken or extremely sensitive skin—such as eczematous or psoriatic skin
Check out these great brushes to get started on your dry skin brushing routine: