Skin Brushing With A Dry Brush: Why And How, Step By Step
Ever wondered what the big deal is about dry brushing (sometimes called skin brushing)?
Basically, dry brushing is slam dunk treatment: It’s easy, it’s inexpensive, it really doesn’t have any negative side effects, and it has some pretty significant health benefits.
I’m excited to share with you why skin brushing should be an important part of your health and beauty routine, and exactly how to do it!
In this article:
- What is Dry Brushing?
- Dry Brushing: The Benefits Aren’t Just Skin Deep!
- What Kind of Dry Brush Is Best For Skin Brushing?
- Proper Method for Dry Brushing the Skin
- Any Negative Side Effects from Dry Brushing?
- Is There Scientific Evidence for Dry Brushing?
- Conclusions About Dry Brushing
What Is Dry Brushing?
Dry skin brushing is pretty much what it sounds like: You use a brush (in this case, a long-handled brush with stiff natural bristles) on dry skin in a series of specific movements and patterns.
While dry brushing is easy to do at home, don’t reach for your nearest hairbrush and start stroking quite yet. The correct tools and brushing technique you’ll learn in this article (all the details below!) is important to reaping the health benefits of dry brushing.
Dry Brushing: The Benefits Aren’t Just Skin Deep!
Some of the benefits of dry brushing are pretty straightforward (but they’re only the beginning!):
Exfoliation and Softer Skin
Dry brushing sloughs off millions of dead skin cells, which encourages cell renewal while also tightening the skin, making it much softer to the touch, and giving it a healthy glow!
Opens and Clears the Pores
Clearing away all those dead cells will open up your pores, allowing the skin to breathe and eliminate any bacteria or debris more efficiently. If you deal with recurring acne or ingrown hairs, you may find that improving the health of your pores1 improves both problems!
Helps Get Rid of Cellulite
While I can’t point you to a study that shows a definite link between cellulite removal and dry brushing, I can tell you that the science on adipose tissue (including cellulite) backs me up here: While part of cellulite’s function is simply to store caloric energy, it also acts as “safe storage” for toxins and harmful chemicals.2 Your body uses the fat cells and connective tissue beneath the subcutaneous level of your skin to trap toxins, so they can’t do damage to your internal organs.
However, through skin brushing and encouraging lymphatic detoxification (more on that in a moment), you can help your body flush out these toxins, release cellulite from its job, and decrease its presence on your thighs or arms!
So those are the more obvious benefits of dry brushing your skin. But why is dry brushing so good for overall body health? Because the skin is the largest detoxification organ you have! Running just beneath the surface of your epidermis is your lymphatic system, which carries lymph (a fluid chock full of white blood cells) throughout your body and transports waste and toxins out of the body. Let’s take a look at how dry brushing comes into play here.
Stimulates Lymph and Helps Detoxify the Body
Dry brushing stimulates and improves circulation in the lymphatic system3 of the body. Think of it this way: Your blood brings in the groceries (nutrients, oxygen), and your lymph takes out the trash! Your lymphatic system is absolutely vital to detoxify, heal injuries, maintain a strong immune system4, support proper digestion, and prevent disease.
Since lymph travels close to the skin, stimulating the skin with a dry brush helps keep that lymph moving. Unlike blood, lymph doesn’t have a pump to move it around to do its job (even though you have twice as much lymph in your body as blood!). Lymph moves in the body slowly, through a series of valves, gathering and eliminating toxins along the way. Sluggish or clogged lymph leads to a variety of conditions, from cellulite (yes, cellulite!) to low energy to infections to cancer.
The combination of improved lymph circulation, detoxification, and stimulating the largest organ in your body all adds up to a nice energy boost. Dry brushing your skin at the beginning of the day, before you shower, can help you feel invigorated!
[Related: The Best Breakfast Smoothies For Energy]
What Kind of Dry Brush Is Best For Skin Brushing?
The best tool for dry-brushing has medium firm natural (not synthetic or plastic) bristles that maintain contact with the skin during brushing (instead of simply folding under themselves), but don’t hurt or irritate the skin. You can scout out a good dry brush at places like Ulta Beauty or Bed Bath and Beyond, or check out my favorite one here.
You’ll want to opt for a long-handled skin brush to reach your back more easily and complete each motion properly and comfortably as you dry brush (more on proper method, next!)
Like the name implies, a dry (never wet) brush on dry skin is the ticket. Once a week, wash your dry brush with warm soap water, then rinse and air dry.
Proper Method for Dry Brushing the Skin
Lymph travels just beneath the skin in very specific directional patterns. That means the order and direction of skin brushings is not just important to success – it’s crucial.
In other words, don’t start brushing until you know how! Read the instructions below, and check out my free dry brushing video tutorial (at the beginning of this post) to make sure your technique is correct.
Correct Dry Brushing Technique and Skin Preparation
Before you dive in to brushing your skin, take a moment to learn proper dry brushing technique and preparation:
- Start with dry skin, preferably right before you shower. I prefer to actually stand in the shower while I brush, so I can rinse those dead cells right down the drain when I’m done.
- With each stroke, you should brush firmly but not hard enough to break or irritate the skin. Avoid any sores, varicose veins, or eczema on your body.
- You’ll want to start with the left side of your body and complete each brushing step. Then switch to the right side of your body and complete each brushing step.
- Repeat your dry brushing routine 2-7 days a week for the most benefits.
- Get ready to moisturize like crazy (coconut oil is my favorite go-to) afterward. Your exfoliated skin will be thirsty!
Correct Order of Steps for Dry Brushing the Skin
Remember, these steps should be followed in the same order each time you brush, to correctly follow the pattern of lymph moving beneath your skin (don’t forget to download this free illustrated guide so you don’t have to pull out the video to visualize these steps more easily!).
You’ll want to complete six brushstrokes on each area of your body:
- Left armpit: Alternate brushing clockwise, then counterclockwise in a circular motion.
- Left side of chest: Brush above breastbone, moving from breastbone to armpit until you have completed six strokes. Then, brush below the breast from sternum to armpit.
- Left side: Brush from waist to armpit.
- Left side of back: Reach over your shoulder and brush from the middle of your spine until you reach the top of your shoulder blade.
- Left side of neck: Start at the base of the back of your neck. Brush up and over your shoulder, along the base of your neck until you reach the base of your throat.
- Left jaw: Brush along the base of your skull, along your jawline and then down over the collarbone.
- Left hand: Brush each finger from side to side. Then brush your palm in a circular motion. Brush the back of your hand from fingertips to wrist. Brush all the way around your wrist in both directions.
- Left arm: Brush from wrist to elbow on the front, back, inside, and outside of your arm. Then brush from elbow to shoulder on the front, back, inside, and outside of your arm.
- Left side of lower body: Using small, circular strokes moving away from the center of your body, brush the area between the hip and pubic bone.
- Abdomen: Start at your belly button and move the brush clockwise in a widening circle until you have reached your entire stomach. Then reverse directions and move back inward until you reach your belly button.
- Left side of buttocks: Start brushing where your buttocks meet the top of your thigh, and brush up and over the hip to your groin.
- Lower back: Brush from the bottom of the spine up to the bottom of the shoulder blades, as high as you can reach. Repeat for the center and right side of the back.
- Left foot: Brush in small, circular strokes on the bottom of the foot from heel to toe. Brush the top of the foot from toe to ankle on the top, left, and right sides. Then brush back and forth around the ankle.
- Left leg: Brush from ankle to knee on all sides of your leg. Then brush from the knee to the top of the thigh on all sides.
- Repeat each of these steps (except the lower back and abdomen, which are complete) on the right side of each body part.
Any Negative Side Effects from Dry Brushing?
For the vast majority of people, dry brushing skin has zero side effects. However, like any healthcare routine or treatment, dry brushing can cause problems if you do it too often, or too vigorously—particularly if you have very sensitive skin.
Dry brushing should never hurt, so if your skin feels red and irritated after you dry brush, scale down on the intensity of your strokes! And if you have any areas of broken skin or eczema, just avoid those areas.
Is There Scientific Evidence for Dry Brushing?
There haven’t yet been any specific scientific studies about the effectiveness of dry brushing. But don’t let that discourage you. There’s not a lot of money to be made in proving or disproving holistic health claims (which generally rely on non-proprietary treatments and inexpensive materials!)
Do your own research, and give dry brushing a try to find out for yourself whether this treatment is right for you. Since it’s inexpensive and easy, there’s very little reason not to try it out!
I can personally vouch that dry brushing has made a difference in my energy levels, skin health, and overall wellness.
Conclusions About Dry Brushing
There’s a reason it feels amazing when somebody scratches your back or gives you a massage. Our bodies crave touch that stimulates our circulatory and lymphatic systems and gets rid of old skin cells. While there isn’t (and probably won’t be) a body of research dedicated to dry brushing, the anecdotal evidence and principles behind this easy, cost-effective at-home treatment are worth a second glance.
Not only can dry brushing help you get prettier, healthier skin by exfoliating skin and de-gunking your pores, but it can help your lymphatic system circulate more effectively to remove waste and detox your body.
For easy-to-follow instructions, download and print out our FREE illustrated skin brushing chart to keep handy while you learn!
Robyn Openshaw, MSW, is the bestselling author of The Green Smoothies Diet, 12 Steps to Whole Foods, and 2017’s #1 Amazon Bestseller and USA Today Bestseller, Vibe. Learn more about how to make the journey painless, from the nutrient-scarce Standard American Diet, to a whole-foods diet, in her free video masterclass 12 Steps to Whole Foods.
- Gallo RL. Human Skin Is the Largest Epithelial Surface for Interaction with Microbes. J Invest Dermatol. 2017;137(6):1213–1214. doi:10.1016/j.jid.2016.11.045
- La Merrill M, Emond C, Kim MJ, et al. Toxicological function of adipose tissue: focus on persistent organic pollutants. Environ Health Perspect. 2013;121(2):162–169. doi:10.1289/ehp.1205485
- Randolph GJ, Ivanov S, Zinselmeyer BH, Scallan JP. The Lymphatic System: Integral Roles in Immunity. Annu Rev Immunol. 2017;35:31–52. doi:10.1146/annurev-immunol-041015-055354
- Cueni LN, Detmar M. The lymphatic system in health and disease. Lymphat Res Biol. 2008;6(3-4):109–122. doi:10.1089/lrb.2008.1008
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