In light of the holiday season I’m giving all massage clients a free dry brushing service this month! The brush is yours to keep for your own self care practice at home and you can bring it back in for subsequent treatments at no cost. So what exactly is “dry brushing” and how is it done? Let’s dig in!
Dry brushing is an ancient Ayurvedic practice done with a soft or stiff bristled brush, special gloves or a dry loofah. The purpose is to gently exfoliate the skin, starting with the extremities and working toward the center of the body. While there is little to no research on the benefits of dry brushing, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest multiple benefits.
1. Dry Brushing May Exfoliate The Skin
At the most superficial level, the brush gently sloughs away dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. This leaves the skin feeling softer and a bit more vibrant. It also prepares the skin for moisture application, like the oil or lotion used in a massage.
2. Dry Brushing May Increase Circulation
It’s a widely accepted notion that any type of massage may increase circulation. Believe it or not, there's very little scientific evidence to back this up! Largely because there just aren’t many studies done on massage techniques. However, in my professional experience, I believe that massage and dry brushing do increase circulation.
3. Dry Brushing May Boost the Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system is a key part of the immune system, it’s much like the blood vessels of circulatory system, helping your body maintain optimal fluid levels. The lymphatic system carries a fluid called lymph, which is composed of extra fluids from cells & tissues, damaged cells and pathogens among other bodily wastes to be eliminated. Unlike the circulatory system which has the heart to pump blood throughout the body, the lymphatic system relies on our muscles contracting and relaxing during activities like exercise to move lymph. Actually bouncing on a trampoline is one of the best activities to support lymph flow! For many reasons, someone’s lymphatic system may become burdened and need a little help, so dry brushing is theoretically a gentle way to support lymph flow.
4. Dry Brushing May Aid in Detoxification
Our skin is the largest organ of the body and is largely involved in the body’s detoxification process by excreting toxins. The idea is that dry brushing removes dead skin cells that may otherwise clog pores and sweat glands, allowing for these waste products to leave the body more efficiently. Additionally, in aiding the circulatory and lymphatic systems, dry brushing theoretically helps these systems eliminate the body’s waste products. Again, there are no studies to support these claims.
5. Dry Brushing Feels Good!
Probably the most underrated benefit, but still powerful. It simply feels good! Especially this time of year as the weather gets colder, our skin starts to feel dry and itchy. The dry brushing feels kind of like a good back scratch but all over the body. In a massage treatment it offers an alternative sensation, breaking up the monotony of the massage. This may be favorable for some but disruptive for others who just want a massage. Be sure to let me know if the dry brush just isn’t your thing!
How to add dry brushing into your self care regimen:
I prefer to use a brush with natural fibers but there are many different options available, ranging from very affordable to higher end brushes that have copper infused bristles. You can also use a dried loofah sponge or a special glove or mitt. The brushes I have are made with boar bristles, so if you’re a vegan you may want to look for a brush with plant-based or synthetic bristles.
I recommend dry brushing before bathing. Exfoliating damp skin may actually slough off skin cells that weren’t ready to go yet and cause irritation.
Starting at the outermost extremities (hands or feet) brush gently, in a circular motion, always toward the center of the body toward the heart or the liver (under the right rib cage). If you notice red marks or irritation, you may need to lighten your pressure.
It’s good to spend a little extra time in areas where the limbs meet the body. Armpits, groin and hips are more concentrated with lymph nodes that can get congested.
Brush the trunk of your body last, using the same circular motion, aiming toward the center of the body. Pay close attention to any areas that are usually under tight bands of clothing like the bra line or around the waist. You can dry brush your face and neck, although you may want to invest in a softer, smaller brush for these more delicate areas.
Bathe and apply moisturizer per usual and notice how your skin and body feels!
Does Dry Brushing Help Cellulite?
I’ve seen some claims that dry brushing may help improve the appearance of cellulite or even eliminate it altogether. I’m sorry to say I don’t believe this is true. Cellulite is caused by an interplay between fat cells and connective tissue, dry brushing the surface of the skin likely won’t impact these structures. Cellulite, while unsightly for some, is harmless and very common (even the skinniest people can have cellulite!). If massage could help with weight loss or cellulite, I’d probably be a millionaire but alas…
When is dry brushing not advised?
Dry brushing is generally very safe for most people. However, if you have an active infection, are immunocompromised, have pitted edema or are in treatment for a serious condition like cancer, talk to your doctor if dry brushing is right for you. Because dry brushing may increase circulation and lymph flow, it could spread an infection or disease that is otherwise localized. Also, it probably goes without saying- avoid any areas of the body that have open wounds, injury or irritation.