Written by Eunoia House
There’s a great home-style way to improve your skincare, immune system, and body all at the same time: Dry brushing! Dry brushing can reduce swelling, puffiness, lymph blockage, and cellulite. Your lymphatic system (which transports the materials and fluid surrounding your cells to and from around your body, and is part of your immune system) can get backed up, causing swelling. [[how often how common]] With many of us unable to get massages during the pandemic to treat the swelling, we can use dry brushing instead. The idea is to increase blood flow, which in turn increases lymphatic vessel flow, therefore restoring total body circulation.
What is Dry Brushing?
Dry Brushing works by rubbing a dry, semi-soft wooden brush against the body working towards the torso, which is where most lymph nodes and lymphatic ducts are located. The quick massages of the muscle help move the fluid around and improve overall flow. When lymph can flow throughout the body easily, it will increase circulation, which can energize you, and reduce swelling, according to Carly Cardellino from Byrdie. The increased circulation also means that the immune system is acting more efficiently with removing harmful substances from the body.
“Its main function is to accelerate the process of removing the accumulated liquid between the cells and their catabolic [breaking down of] residues, directing them...[onward] so that they are eliminated,” according to famous massage therapist Flavia Lanini.
Benefits of Dry Brushing
Besides helping your immune system work better, Dry brushing can help slim the body, exfoliate the skin, reduce cellulite, and relax the mind. reduce water retention, and thereby slim the body, says Cardellino. It also exfoliates and stimulates your skin. Overall, your skin can feel younger, tighter, and more supple. Although I’m focusing on the effects of dry brushing your body, it can be done on the face too, according to this article from Women’s Health. This is a great practice for anti-aging and contouring the face. It also achieves the same, soft glow on the face as the body.
By allowing water to travel better in the body, dry brushing reduces bloating and extra body weight. It also reduces fluid buildup in your lymph vessels, which can give you a slimmer and more toned appearance.
Not to mention, massaging your body is a great way to do some self-care when many spas and salons are closed! This article from Byrdie explains how increased circulation and muscle relaxation can make dry brushing a great way to relax after a long day or week. Dry brushing also helps increase good energy in the body.
Another benefit of dry brushing is that it has the potential to reduce the appearance of cellulite. Cellulite happens when fat accumulates under the skin tissue, causing a ‘dimpled’ look. Dry brushing can reduce the appearance of this by expanding the blood vessels, causing a temporary decrease in cellulite. It can also prevent future occurrences of cellulite by breaking up adipose tissue and fibrous bands that cause cellulite, according to Alicia Zalka MD from Byrdie. However, it is important to remember that dry brushing is not a permanent solution to cellulite since increased blood flow will decrease again once the brushing stops.
The skin benefits are perhaps the most popular benefit to dry brushing. The brush itself exfoliates the body which makes skin smoother and more radiant. Although many of us have been spending more time in our homes, it’s important not to neglect out skincare routines.
“Dry brushing improves skin appearance by removing the top layers of the skin through weakening the lipids that bond them together, thus removing dull and dead skin cells and revealing healthy skin cells,” says Dendy Engelman, MD.
Increased circulation also means plumper and therefore younger-looking skin. Still skeptical? Read this article about Miranda Kerr’s daily routine. Her skin absolutely glows and she mentions that dry brushing helps maintain her overall complexion.
What you need to dry brush
Although you can get a professional dry brushing and lymphatic drainage massage, that is not possible for most people. Fortunately, dry brushing can easily be done at home. Goop recommends dry brushing in the morning to energize you.
The first thing to do if you want to get started in dry brushing is to buy a good quality brush. It’s important to get a brush that will exfoliate and massage the skin without irritating it, so do not get a super hard brush with severe bristles. This one from Aromatherapy Associates is great for that. If you really want to splurge, or if you love the feeling of marble, you can get this marble one from Gilded.
Another aspect to consider in dry brushing is the handle. Make sure that it is a comfortable and easy grip for your hand so that you have better control, especially when working in hard-to-reach areas. uses medium-soft cactus bristles with a long handle so you can reach your back.
Another handy instrument is a Lymphatic Drainage Tool that looks like a wavy wooden paddle. This one from De La Heart works well. The wood is curved in various ways to help you reach all of the contours of your body. This tool will help deeply massage the skin since a brush may not be deep enough for your needs. The right tool will also help with contouring certain areas, such as the abdominals.
Although this might seem like a lot of information, you only need to get one brush. The good news is that the only other thing you will need is your favorite lotion or body oil. Either use some oil on the brush, or hydrate your skin with some lotion after. De La Heart has jojoba oil that will work, but baby oil or any other body oil you have on hand works as well.
How to Dry Brush Step-by-step
Dry brush up to three times per week for maximum results without any added irritation.
Before showering, grab your brush and start with your feet. Make sure that your skin is completely dry. Always move towards the center of your body with short, circular, and deliberate strokes. However, skip over any cuts, scratches, or abrasions. Work your way up towards your hips, then move onto the arms, starting with your hands. Move the brush towards your torso.
Continue brushing your torso with downward strokes. Make sure that you get your back and sternum! If your skin is fair or sensitive, then it will pink up, but this is simply an indication of more blood flow, so it should not be a concern.
Melissa Wood from melissawoodhealth on Instagram posted this video if you want a visual aid for dry brushing.
Once brushing is complete, take a shower. Then slather your body with the lotion or body oil. It is best if your skin is still slightly damp from the shower so it will hold the most moisture possible. Now that you have exfoliated all over, your moisturizer should easily absorb into your skin. After that, go over your body again with the lymph drainage tool if you have it. Move the tool downwards as if you are shaving your legs (Cardellino).
Remember that while it is important to exfoliate and increase blood flow, it is also important not to overdo it and cause a rash. Dry brushing should not cause long-term skin abrasions. Cardellino also warned that people who bruise easily should avoid taking any blood thinners such as ibuprofen. Normal dry brushing should not cause bruises. In addition, if you are going out after dry brushing, put on sunscreen since the fresh skin will likely be more sensitive to sun exposure (Allie Flinn from Byrdie).
As with any massage, drink plenty of water afterwards to hydrate yourself and to further increase circulation. Hydration after a massage can also minimize any feelings of soreness after.
When Not to Dry Brush
Dry brushing is not meant for everyone. If you have a condition that makes your skin highly sensitive such as eczema, psoriasis, or chronic dry skin, then dry brushing may not be for you and can make the irritation worse. Try dry brushing less frequently if your skin can handle minimal irritation. Also, if you have a really bad sunburn, then it may not be a good idea to dry brush.
Cardellino also recommends checking with your doctor if you’re pregnant before starting a dry brushing regimen.
Dry brushing certainly is not a magic wand for any circulation problem or for slimming down, but it can definitely help. Scientific evidence for some of the benefits of dry brushing is still scarce, but overall, incorporating dry brushing into a healthy lifestyle can be beneficial. The aforementioned healthy lifestyle being clean eating and regular exercise, of course.