Dry skin brushing, otherwise known as dry body brushing, is a very simple technique where you use a stiff bristled brush on the skin, making strokes in the general direction of the heart. Dry skin brushing has many benefits including healthier and softer skin, increased circulation, and enhanced body detoxification.
Dry skin brushing has been practiced in various cultures for centuries, but it became more well known in the 1960’s through the Finnish Doctor Paavo Airola, as well from Dr. Bernard Jensen promoting the technique in the United States.
Dry skin brushing is one of the easiest and cheapest things you can do to help improve your skin care regime and boost your overall health.
Benefits of Dry Skin Brushing:
Promotes Healthy Glowing Skin
Daily brushing can significantly improve the health and appearance of the skin. Regular dry skin brushing will have these effects because it:
- Gets rid of dead skin cells on the surface creating softer, smoother, glowing skin.
- Reduces the occurrence of ingrown hairs.
- Increases blood flow to the skin, allowing more nourishment and oxygen to the reach the skin.
- Stimulates the oil glands of the skin, bringing more natural oil to the surface. These natural oils help protect the skin and provide extra suppleness and elasticity for the skin.
- Increases skin cell renewal and enhances collagen and elastin production, which improves the skin’s texture and prevents premature aging.
Long term skin brushing will break up cellulite buildup and tighten the skin. Don’t expect an overnight change, but daily brushing over the areas where you have cellulite will produce visible results if you keep at it for several months. To aid in the reduction of cellulite, combine dry skin brushing with proper diet and an exercise regime.
Prevents Spider Veins and Varicose Veins
Dry skin brushing increases overall circulation and mechanically assists the return of venous blood up towards the heart. This prevents the blood from pooling in the lower legs – the most common area to experience spider veins and varicose veins. Gentle brushing over existing spiders veins is safe, but if you have existing varicose veins, it is important that you do not brush over them as it may cause further damage.
Increases Detoxification Through the Skin
Our skin plays a vital role in ridding the body of toxins and other impurities. The skin is the body’s largest organ of elimination, and it is even sometimes referred to as the third kidney. We release between 1-2 pounds of waste through our skin in our sweat each day.
The skin is one organ that really shows signs of imbalance or toxicity in our body. Toxicity shows through our skin as acne, skin rashes, cellulite, hives, eczema, psoriasis, and body odor.
Without regular exfoliation, it is easy for dead skin cells, excreted wastes, and air pollutants to build up on the skin and clog the pores. When toxins cannot be released through the skin, they are stored in fat cells or are re-circulated back into the bloodstream, putting an extra burden on the other organs of detoxification, mainly the kidneys and the liver.
By removing the dead skin with dry skin brushing, the pores are opened, and toxins are more easily expelled through the skin.
Enhances Lymphatic Detoxification
The lymphatic system transports nutrients throughout the body and removes wastes. If the lymph (the clear fluid which moves through the lymphatic system) is not flowing properly, waste products accumulate in the body. The lymphatic system does not have a pump to help move lymph through the body, so we are dependent on deep breathing, exercise, and massage to aid the flow of lymph. These actions tend to be irregular or completely lacking in many people’s lives, so it is very beneficial to include skin brushing into one’s daily routine. Dry skin brushing helps to move the lymph through the system so it can carry out its functions more efficiently.
Supports Immune Function
The lymph nodes act as filters to keep bacteria and other microorganisms from entering the bloodstream. Also, lymph fluid carries antibodies and white blood cells which defend the body against viruses, bacteria, and other infectious substances. A properly flowing lymphatic system will help the immune system detect, fight and eliminate foreign matter from the body. If the lymph is not flowing well, then the foreign substance may not be detected early enough for the immune system to do something about them, and illness will most often occur.
Dry skin brushing not only prevents infections from taking hold in the body, it can also reduce the length of infection or illness because it will help move those toxins through the system more quickly.
Helps Tone the Muscles
Dry skin brushing stimulates the nerve endings in the skin. When these nerve endings are triggered, the associated muscle fibers are activated; over time, this stimulation will produce more tone in the muscles.
Invigorates the Body
Dry skin brushing is stimulating and invigorating. The increase in blood flow and the stimulation of nerve endings on the skin awakens and energizes the body. This is why dry skin brushing is recommended in the morning; the energizing tingle will quickly take you out of a groggy state and give a kick-start to your day.
What Kind of Skin Brush do You Need?
Choose a dry skin brush that has natural bristles. Natural bristles are derived from plant fibers or boar/horse hair. Avoid synthetic bristles as these can damage your skin.
The bristles should be quite stiff but still flexible. The bristles may seem too firm at first, but your skin will adapt over time, and the bristles will become slightly softer with usage. If your skin is very sensitive, then start with a softer brush, just make sure it is not too soft, as you will not get the same effects.
Most bushes come with a long handle. Look for one that has a removable handle as you will probably find it easier to brush most areas while holding the brush head in the palm of your hand. Depending on your flexibility you may or may not need the handle to reach you back.
Skin brushes are becoming quite popular so you can probably find one at your local health food store or a bath and body shop. Alternatively, there are many different body brushes available online. Brushes usually range in price from $8 -$30. Here are some examples of natural bristle brushes.
Long handled brushes include Earth Therapeutics Far Reaching Brush, and Yerba Prima Tampico Skin Brush.
Shorter handled brushes such as the Swissco Double-Sided Body Brush (pictured) are also available. The Swissco brush has a massager on the back of the brush for those who like extra pampering.
This other style of short-handled body brush is found in the Aquasentials Natural Body Brush (pictured) and the Purest Palm Body Brush. The Merben Soft Texture Jute Body Brush is similar but recommended only for very sensitive skin as it is a softer brush.
If you do not want any handle, the Smooth Skin Dry Body Brush (pictured) is a good option. This brush has a strap, which for some makes it easier to hold the brush.
Body brushes are too firm to be used on more delicate areas such as the face, neck, and décolletage. Face brushes are softer and also smaller in size to make it easier to brush the face. Face brushes are commonly round with a short handle. The Earthline Face Brush, the Juvitus Facial Brush and this Wooden Face Brush (pictured) are examples of suitable face brushes.
Face brushes also come without a handle. The Bernard Jensen Complexion Brush (pictured) is about twice the size of a regular face brush so you can cover a larger area with each stroke.
When Should You Dry Skin Brush?
Dry skin brushing is best when done in the morning before your shower. The morning is a good time because dry brushing will invigorate and energize you, helping to set a positive tone for your morning.
If you are short on time and just can’t fit it into your morning schedule, then do it in the evening or whenever you can. There is no right or wrong time – just brush.
Because dry skin brushing removes dead skin and helps to open pores you will release more toxins through your sweat; therefore, it is a good idea to brush before working out or before using a sauna.
How Often Should You Dry Skin Brush?
Try brush every day, make it a habit like brushing your teeth. Twice a day is even better, but it may take time for your skin to get used to the brushing, so start with once per day in the beginning.
If you are doing a fast or a cleanse, you may want to brush more than once a day to help your body release stored toxins. This will make the cleanse more efficient, and it will also help to reduce unpleasant symptoms associated with cleansing such as headaches and tiredness.
If you are feeling ill or your immune system is fighting a virus, brush twice a day to aid in the healing process.
How to Dry Skin Brush
As the name implies, dry skin brushing must be done on dry skin. Brush while you are fully naked. Do not wet your skin or the brush and make sure you have not freshly applied any creams, lotions, or oils to your body.
You want to brush in the direction of lymph flow – which is towards the heart. You can use longer or shorter strokes, whatever feels right to you. Keep strokes simple, in one clean sweep. Avoid back and forth motions, circular strokes or scrubbing/massaging your skin with the brush. Brushing in the opposite direction of lymph flow may put extra pressure on the valves within the veins and lymphatic vessels and could cause ruptured vessels or varicose veins to form over time.
Here is a diagram that shows an example of stroke direction:
The opinion on where to start brushing the body tends to vary. Some prefer to start with the head, others with the feet. Generally, brushing is done starting with the limbs and finishing at the chest, as this is where the lymphatic vessels end.
Use the order below as a guideline, but if a different order flows better for you, then do that. The most important thing is to cover the whole body and stay with the direction of lymph flow as much as possible.
Feet – You can start dry brushing at the feet, brushing all sides from the toes to the ankle.
Legs – Continue brushing from the ankle up the lower leg and to the knee. Then continue from the knee, brushing the thighs and then brush towards the groin where there is a concentration of lymph nodes. If you have cellulite on your thighs, you may want to spend a little more time brushing that area.
Buttocks – Brush from the back of your thighs over the buttocks. When you get to the top of the buttocks brush from the back, around over the hip, and down towards the groin.
Abdomen – It is recommended to brush the lower abdomen from the navel downwards as the superficial lymphatic flow in this area goes towards the groin. For the upper abdomen, brush from the navel up towards the heart. Brush under the breasts with a sweeping stroke towards the armpits. On the sides of the abdomen brush upwards to the armpits.
Back – Brush upwards to the shoulder blades. On the upper back brush from the spine to the shoulders or armpits.
Hands and Arms – Brush both sides of the hands, then work your way to the elbow, then to the armpit and shoulders. Brush the armpit as well because there is a concentration of lymph nodes in this area.
Face – Using a softer and smaller brush, brush from the center of the chin outwards along the jawline. Then brush from the bridge of the nose, over the cheeks to the side of your face. Move up to the forehead and brush from the center out to the sides, then down the sides of the face. If you do not have hair on your head, then you can brush the scalp as well.
Neck – Start at the back of the neck, at the base of the skull, and brush out to the sides of the neck, curve around to your collarbone on both sides. Brush behind the ears and curve down to the collarbone on both sides. Make sure to brush under the chin as there is a concentration of lymph nodes there. To brush this area properly, lift your chin and brush from under the jaw down your neck to the collarbone.
Chest – Be gentle brushing the breasts and brush from the nipple outwards (avoiding the nipples). On the upper chest, brush gently from the collarbone down to the heart.
It could take less than 5 minutes to dry brush your entire body, but you can take as much time as you want. It will depend on how short or long your strokes are as well as the speed in which you brush.
Tips for Dry Skin Brushing
- When you first start to brush your skin be gentle. You should not experience any reddening or irritation of the skin. The brush will feel a bit coarse at first, but your skin will become conditioned, and in a short time of regular brushing, you will be able to apply more pressure.
- While you skin is becoming conditioned to dry brushing, start with only one pass over each area. Gradually increase the number of strokes per session. A few strokes per area is enough to get good results, but you may have specific areas that you may want to spend more time on, such as areas with cellulite or regions rich with lymph nodes. If you skin can handle more strokes, then go for it. It should take less than two weeks for your skin to adjust, and from then on you will start to love the sensation.
- If your face and neck are particularly sensitive, then try brushing these areas every other day until your skin adjusts to the brushing. Use a softer brush to brush the face, neck, and décolletage as the skin there is more delicate than the rest of the body.
- Do not brush over any recent scars, broken skin, cuts or bruises. Avoid any areas that have rashes, burns or irritation. Although it is fine to brush over spider veins, do not brush over varicose veins.
- Most people do not have any reactions to skin brushing, but if your body is quite toxic, you may notice a slight cleansing reaction a few days after you began dry brushing. A cleansing reaction happens when the body becomes slightly overloaded after stored toxins become more mobile before they work their way out of the body. Symptoms of a cleansing reaction can include slight fatigue, nausea, skin outbreaks, or headaches. To minimize reactions start brushing gently and don’t do it for too long. Assist your body in releasing the toxins by drinking more water, sitting in a sauna, taking an epsom salt bath, or doing an enema.
Skin Brushing Aftercare
- After you dry skin brush you may shower. To further stimulate your circulatory and lymphatic systems you may want to practice contrast hydrotherapy (alternating hot and cold water) while in the shower.
- If you have dry skin, or you typically apply a moisturizer, be mindful about what you are putting on your skin. You don’t want to put effort into detoxing your body only to slather on toxic body care products afterward. Use natural moisturizers such as coconut, almond, sesame, jojoba, or avocado oils. Aloe vera gel, cocoa butter, or shea butter are also good options.
Caring for Your Dry Skin Brush
- For sanitary purposes, do not share your skin brush with anyone.
- Keep the brush dry; regular exposure to water will soften the bristles and reduce the stimulating effects of the brush.
- To reduce bacterial growth in the bristles, spritz your brush with diluted tea tree oil after each use.
- You can wash your brush every few weeks, but it may decrease the lifespan of the brush. If you wash it use only natural soap and warm water. Shake the water out of the brush, then be sure to place it in a dry and warm place to ensure it dries quickly.
- To prevent mildew from growing on the bristles avoid storing your bush in a damp environment.
Is Dry Skin Brushing Safe During Pregnancy?
Not only is it safe, it is also recommended. Regular dry skin brushing can prevent edema (water retention) which commonly occurs during pregnancy. Edema occurs because fluids (blood and lymph) tend to accumulate in the body, most often in the feet and legs. In a pregnant woman, this is due to an increase in blood flow in her body and also because the growing fetus puts pressure on the veins in the pelvic area as well as the inferior vena cava (a major vein which returns blood from the lower limbs to the heart). Dry brushing during pregnancy will assist the body in maintaining proper circulation of both blood and lymph.
Photo: Valua Vitaly