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Skin Brushing With A Dry Brush: Why And How, Step By Step


Robyn Openshaw, MSW - Aug 05, 2019 - This Post May Contain Affiliate Links


Photo of person dry brushing, from

 

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 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!):

Photo of older woman's beautiful, healthy skin from

Healthier, softer skin is a benefit of dry brushing

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.

Boosts Energy

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]

Photo of energized woman with glowing skin running, from

Skin brushing can heighten your energy, detoxify your body, and stimulate the lymphatic system

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.

Download your free, printable illustrated skin brushing chart.

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

Photo of person holding dry brush to leg, from

Proper technique and skin preparation are the safest dry brushing methods

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:

  1. Left armpit: Alternate brushing clockwise, then counterclockwise in a circular motion.Illustration of step 1 from
  2. 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. Illustration of step 2-3 from
  3. Left side: Brush from waist to armpit.
  4. 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.Illustration of step 4 from
  5. 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.Illustration of step 5 from
  6. Left jaw: Brush along the base of your skull, along your jawline and then down over the collarbone.Illustration of step 6 from
  7. 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.Illustration of step 7 from
  8. 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.Illustration of step 8 from
  9. 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.Illustration of step 9 from
  10. 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.Illustration of step 10 from
  11. 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.Illustration of step 11 from
  12. 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.Illustration of step 12 from
  13. 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.Illustration of step 13 from
  14. 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.Illustration of step 13 from
  15. Repeat each of these steps (except the lower back and abdomen, which are complete) on the right side of each body part.

Download your free, printable illustrated skin brushing chart now!

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!

Read next: Sun Exposure, Sunburn Prevention, & 5 Effective Natural Sunburn Treatments

Photograph of Robyn Openshaw, founder of Green Smoothie GirlRobyn 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.

Skin brushing kit, from

 

Sources

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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

Disclaimer: This article may contain affiliate links, which allow you to support our mission without costing you extra.

Posted in: Detox, Tools & Products, Videos

27 thoughts on “Skin Brushing With A Dry Brush: Why And How, Step By Step”

Leave a Comment
  1. Zouvik says:

    I never knew that the toxic goes through the skin pores thank you for this very helpful skills

    1. kristie says:

      Iotion, soap, perfume, air,it al goes in through our pours,goes into our blood stream ,goes through whole body.same with breathing, smoke air freshners,bug sprays

  2. Chic Rementeria says:

    I have an incomplete lymph system on the right side from lymph and thyroid removal from cancer. Also wearing undermines for years (not anymore) has hardened the lymph nodes under my breasts..is brushing still an option or am I jamming things up more so..

    1. Robyn says:

      you need this habit more than most, then, Chic! (don’t wear underwire! stay tuned, i’m doing a facebook live sometime this week about 10 things every woman should know about breast cancer prevention and treatment)

  3. Joi de vivre says:

    The “waist to armpit” demonstration looks like abdomen to waist.

  4. Ron says:

    So many of the comments seem like they are directed toward females.. Dies this apply to men also?

    1. Nikki says:

      Skin brushing is for men as well as women.

  5. Sonya says:

    Should this done naked or with clothes on?

    1. Nikki says:

      Without clothes, so the brush is directly on the skin.

  6. Kathy says:

    How often should the dry skin brushing be done?

  7. Susan says:

    Is it ok to do this when you have varocos veins??

  8. Sophie says:

    What about brushing on your face? If it doesn’t help with the lymph, it would at least help exfoliating right? Is there a certain way to do it?

  9. Enid says:

    I have psoriasis all over my body. Can I do the skin brushing?

  10. Marcia says:

    I did not receive the 1001 free instructional on my email so I could download it.
    I do appreciate the gift, please help.

  11. Guest says:

    Hi Robyn,
    Thank you very much for the instructions. I’ve always had this question – how will pushing around the lymph help get the wast _out_ of the body? Wont it simply be moving it back to the heart (or wherever the lymph is supposed to be pushed – I said “heart” because many people say that we need to brush “towards the heart”)?
    Or if the waste is going to be passed automatically from the lymph to the outside of the skin, how does pushing it around (instead of helping it move in the other direction – outside through the skin) help? It would be really great if you could clear this doubt when you get time to reply.
    Have a great day!
    (PS: I’m sorry if I ended up posting the same comment repeatedly – had some browser issue)

    1. Donald Robinson says:

      Its now 2019 and no one has answered your query so I will give it a go. Your blood circulates by your heart pumping and pushing the blood. Your blood does not rush back between beats as you have valves that close like a door that only opens one way – open, shut – open, shut – and back to the heart to start all over again.
      Your Lymph operates on a different curcuit but has no heart to pump it. It is moved by muscles contracting and sqeezing the lymphatic fluid forward. Your lymphatic system also has valves. The lymphatic system drains its end and is processed by your liver, and excreted with bile in your poop. Thats what I understand and It may not be completely correct. If you cant brush, exercise. If you cant exercise, jump gently up and down a few times. If you cant do that , shake your arm and fingers and stretch your body gently! This will move your lymphatic fluid and dump the toxins though the skin or in the bathroom.

  12. Margaret Barnett says:

    Will this help detoxify an arm where the axxillary lymph nodes have been removed because of breast cancer?

    1. Rose Butler GSG says:

      Yes Margaret, it is a gentle way of moving the lymph fluids.

  13. Debra says:

    I liked the details of brushing and information on it.

  14. Back door Debbie Bolwerk says:

    Why is it always recommended to brush the skin while it’s dry ?

    Wouldn’t there be a stimulation of the lymph nodes in a whirlpool which is also beneficial and therapeutic?

    1. Rose Butler GSG says:

      Hi Debbie, yes there are many ways to move the lymph fluid, one gentle way is through dry brushing. Dry brushing is generally more effective than wet brushing because the exfoliating process helps with additional lymph stimulation.

  15. Gina E says:

    I tried skin brushing recently but the advice i followed said to brush toward your heart starting at the feet. When I did my legs I ended up with a swollen lymph node in my right groin area. I kept massaging the area until it went away. After researching a little I found a video that started at the top of the arms and legs, still brushing toward the heart but doing the top first then the lower part and then the hands and feet. I have not had trouble since then. Any thoughts about why this happened?

    1. Rose Butler GSG says:

      Hi Gina, not sure why that happened but as you continue to dry brush, the lymph that became swollen may release the toxins over time. It’s often recommended to start at the bottom to move that lymph fluid up. It tends to pool at the bottom especially for those that are more sedentary. Either way, do what works for you!!

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