Wellness and beauty trends have a habit of completely taking over, and then entirely ceasing from existence (you know, until they resurface again on the likes of Addison Rae… yes, I’m talking feather hair extensions). The trend cycle, however, makes it easy to weed out what’s actually worth it and what isn’t based on how long it remains popular. And one beauty trend that hasn’t lost any popular over the years? Dry brushing.
Even if you’re not seeing someone talk about dry brushing 24/7, they’re likely still doing it. It’s often a beauty ritual or health practice for those who swear by it—a little time to take for yourself every day or so. But what exactly is it, how do you do it, and why are people still talking about it? We asked a few experts for their take on dry brushing.
What Is Dry Brushing?
Dry brushing is an Ayurvedic practice that has been practiced for centuries for both beauty and wellness purposes, in which you brush your full body with a natural fiber brush. The coarse bristles on the brush are said to stimulate the pores and promote lymph flow to assist with the body’s natural detoxification process while exfoliating skin, as well as a whole other host of benefits.
Benefits of Dry Brushing
There haven’t been too many studies on the benefits of dry brushing, but the anecdotal evidence is astounding.
Exfoliates the skin: Joanna Vargas, Celebrity Facialist, Founder of Joanna Vargas Salons and Skin Care and Author of “Glow From Within,” said dry brushing is her favorite form of body exfoliation because it’s a good multi-tasker. It will leave your skin soft, supple, and firm. Some people even swear by it for exfoliating before shaving to help prevent razor bumps and ingrown hairs because it can unclog pores.
Provides a moment of self-care: during the busiest of days, you can look to your dry brushing routine to help you relax, take a second to breathe, and care for yourself.
Can increase circulation: dry brushing can act as a form of lymphatic drainage massage (more on that below), which works with the circulatory system to get blood moving throughout the body. Studies have shown that improved circulation can be better for your skin.
Assists with the body’s natural detoxification process: the lymphatic system consists of lymph vessels, ducts, nodes, and other tissues, and is located underneath the skin. Think of its function kind of like the garbage disposal of the body: it gets rid of “waste” in the body, whether it’s toxins, bacteria, or excess fluid. The lymph is a collection of the extra fluid that moves through the arteries and tissues to clean them out, before draining them through the lymphatic system. Since there is no “pump” to push the lymph through the body, it relies on our muscle action to get the job done: dry brushing is said to work by moving the lymph to the lymph nodes to eliminate excess toxins and bacteria.
How Often Should You Dry Brush?
According to Vargas, you should dry brush every single day. But for most people with busy lives and sh*t to do, that isn’t exactly always going to happen. Commit to adding dry brushing to your routine 2-3 times a week and see how it impacts your mood and skin.
Who Should Avoid Dry Brushing?
If you have extra sensitive skin, a skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis, or inflamed skin due to sunburn or allergy, dry brushing may irritate your skin and should be avoided. If you have an open wound, you should always skip over that area when you’re dry brushing. Also, talk to your doctor before dry brushing for lymphatic drainage if you have a heart condition or issues with the lymphatic system.
How to Choose A Dry Brush
You should choose a dry brush that will inspire you to use it multiple times a week, so sometimes, a splurge makes sense, but it isn’t necessary. You’ll want something that will stimulate the skin without being too rough. Boar bristles (or a vegan synthetic alternative) is a great choice because it’s the right amount of stiffness without being too abrasive or hard on the skin.
You can opt for a dry brush with or without a handle. Reaching your back or hard-to-get areas will likely be easier with a handle, but it’s all up to personal preference.
Steps to Dry Brush:
Get naked. Dry brushing is most effective when it’s done on the entire body, so you’ll want to remove your clothes. It’s recommended to dry brush before you shower because you’ll be removing a lot of dead skin that you’ll want to wash off, so it’s likely you’d be naked for that anyway. According to Sahara Rose, best-selling author, host of the #1 spirituality podcast Highest Self Podcast and founder of Dharma Coaching Institute, it’s best to dry brush in the morning because it can be invigorating and make you too awake before bedtime, but you can always try it at bedtime and see what works best for you.
Start at your feet and move upwards toward your heart. Your strokes will be a medium pressure that is firm but doesn’t hurt. It might take a few tries to get the movement down pat, but once you do, you’ll have no problem getting through your entire routine. “Apply light pressure where the skin is thin or sensitive and firm pressure on thicker areas like the bottoms of the feet,” Sahara Rose said.
Don’t rush. You’ll be using the brush on each area a few times, so don’t expect to make one pass and never overlap places you’ve already touched. This is a self-care practice after all, so enjoy it and take your time. “Spend extra time on areas that tend to be more stagnant, like the inner thigh, and don’t forget to include the backs of the arms and the back,” Vargas said.
Do circular motions on your stomach and joints (shoulders, elbows, knees, wrists, ankles, etc.) in a clockwise direction. Some anecdotal evidence says this aids in digestion because that’s the way the intestines move, but there is no proof yet to back this up. However, doing circular motions does make going around your stomach a lot easier and might feel better than doing the same long strokes you did on the other parts of your body.
Do long, stroking motions on the arms just as you did with the legs. If you’re focusing on lymphatic drainage, you can pay extra attention to underneath the upper arm as there are multiple lymph nodes there.
Be gentle with the neck and chest. Since this is above your heart, you’ll go in a downward motion.
Finish with a few circular passes around the heart.
What to Do After
According to Vargas, you should follow your dry brushing routine with a shower and a moisturizer. Your skin will likely be a little sensitive, maybe red, and dry, so you’ll want to replenish that with a nice moisturizer. Even better if you can do it while your skin is still damp—your moisturizer will soak in faster and absorb easier!