Recently, ancient wellness techniques have been making a comeback: gua sha, honey masks, cupping- and now: dry brushing.
Dry brushing is a praised practice in Ancient Ayurveda while Scandinavian countries have incorporated it into their daily routine for decades. So maybe it never entirely left the wellness scene-but dry brushing is one wellness ritual that has been getting a lot of recent attention.
In this article, I am going to explain what dry brushing is and why it’s taking the wellness world by storm. I’ll discuss the top five reasons to make it part of your regular self-care routine and offer a tutorial to get you started.
What is Dry Brushing?
Dry brushing is a simple technique that involves brushing a dry, coarse brush made from natural fibers over your body in the direction your lymphatic system flows, towards your heart.
Your lymphatic system (the network of organs and tissues that carries lymph throughout the body) is a vital part of your immune system that fights infections and carries away toxins and waste.
5 Reasons to Start Dry Brushing Today
1. Improve Lymphatic Drainage and Detox
As you know, the lymphatic system is a network of organs and tissues that help flush out waste and toxins. Lymph is a fluid that contains white blood cells- the cells that fight infections- and the transportation of lymph is what helps clear out all the junk in our bodies. All great, right?
Sort of. We love our lymphatic system, but sometimes it can become sluggish and clogged with toxins. And this is where dry brushing comes in.
Dry brushing may help with this by stimulating lymph movement and opening up your pores for toxin release. This daily or weekly detox can be extremely beneficial and the best part? It only takes a few minutes.
2. Improve Skin Health
Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and scientists are only just beginning to understand how important your skin’s health is to your overall health.
Not only do we absorb sensory input and chemical input, including toxins, from the world around us, but we excrete toxins from our skin through sweat. Keeping our skin in excellent health helps to keep the rest of our body in excellent health, as well.
While you should never brush so hard that you irritate your skin, dry brushing will slough off the top layer of dead skin from your body. You’ll likely notice a big difference the first time you try dry brushing, especially if you don’t usually exfoliate. This natural, gentle exfoliation improves the surface texture and appearance of your skin both by unclogging your pores and by stimulating the growth of new, healthy, fresh skin.
If you often struggle with dry skin, especially during the winter, exfoliation via dry brushing can prep your skin well for moisturizing oils and lotions.
3. Decrease Stress
Stress has a tremendous impact on all of us, whether we think of ourselves as stressed or not. Some doctors believe most of our modern day illnesses are directly related to stress. Fortunately, dry brushing may be able to help!
Dry brushing is a type of self-massage, and it’s soothing, tactile, sensory input may help to lower stress hormones (1). You can think of a day dry brushing routine in much the same way as you might think of a daily meditation routine; even a few minutes a day can have a grounding, focusing impact on the brain and help you better regulate cortisol, the stress hormone.
Since stress leads to weight gain and water retention, there’s a chance that even dry brushing and weight loss might be linked (2). Natural endocrinologist Dr. Alan Christianson believes dry brushing may help your skin better assimilate vitamin D due to its ability to help you de-stress and better regulate the stress hormone cortisol (1). And of course, lowered levels of stress means less inflammation throughout the body (2).
4. Improve Energy Levels
Many people report dry brushing to be a refreshing, energizing experience (3). That’s why it’s a great idea to dry brush first thing in the morning as a natural mood lifter! There’s no hard science behind this, but it makes sense that getting your lymph and circulatory system moving can help boost your mood and your energy.
5. Decrease Cellulite and Stretch Marks
Does dry brushing stretch marks away work? Many dermatologists say no, but many pregnant women swear by this easy technique (4)! There’s also no evidence that dry brushing can decrease cellulite appearance, but (again) there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence stating that it helps improve the overall appearance of the skin and helps reduce the appearance of cellulite.
Some (including legendary holistic expert Dr. Mercola) believe that the extra lymph movement may help remove the toxins that are contributing to the formation or appearance of cellulite (5). Does dry brushing cellulite away work? Only you can decide!
Why You Might Not Want to Try Dry Brushing (or be very careful):
If you have sensitive skin, you should be very careful when trying dry brushing. Consider using it only once a week or so, or you might want to opt out altogether, especially if you have a skin condition like psoriasis or eczema.
If you have a bacterial infection on your skin, an open wound, or sunburn, wait to try dry brushing until you’ve healed.
How to Dry Brush
Spending two minutes twice a day brushing your teeth is a no-brainer, and that’s how you should think of dry brushing! The great thing about dry brushing is that it feels good, and it’s an easy habit to incorporate into your routine. It won’t be long before you can’t start your day without it.
When Should I Dry Brush?
You can dry brush at any time of the day, but most people find it refreshing, it makes sense to do it in the morning.
Using Essential Oils to Enhance the Effects of Dry Brushing
Some people also opt to take dry brushing to the next level by using essential oils. Using essential oils can be an incredible way to enhance the benefits of dry brushing, whether you’re looking to relieve stress and anxiety, clear your skin, or restore your skin’s natural glow.
You can use a single oil mixed with a carrier oil like olive oil or sweet almond oil, or you can create your own essential oil dry brushing blend by combining 8-10 drops of essential oils with approximately an ounce of carrier oil and then shake well to combine.
When you’re ready to dry brush, use a dropper to add a teaspoon or so of a nourishing oil (jojoba or olive) and 1 or 2 drops of essential oil for extra detox benefits.
Best Essential Oils for Dry Brushing
- Lavender is one of the best all-purpose essential oils, and it smells incredible. It is excellent for sensitive, dry skin and has potent antimicrobial properties.
- Lemon will help double up on your skin’s detox
- Sandalwood is highly moisturizing and creates a beautiful glow.
- Patchouli oil is known for smoothing and tightening skin, useful if your goal is to improve the appearance of your skin.
5 Quick Steps to Dry Brushing
- If you’re using essential oils, pour a few teaspoons into your hand, and then run the bristles over your brush through your hand, so that the oil transfers to your brush.
- Brush your skin firmly yet gently in smooth, even strokes. You can brush 5-10 times each time, letting sections overlap. Be very careful around sensitive areas.
- Start from the bottom of your feet and work your way towards your heart in the direction your lymph system is moving. When you get to your chest and stomach, brush in circular, clockwise motions.
- You can use a long-handled brush to get areas that are hard to reach, like your back, and you can use an extra soft brush for places like your face.
- Once you’ve completed dry brushing, rinse off in the shower and then use a high quality, organic or natural lotion or your essential oil blend to hydrate your skin from head to toe.
My Favorite Brushes for Dry Brushing
Dry brushes are usually inexpensive. Look for one that has natural coarse bristles that aren’t too harsh. You might want to start with a soft brush and work your way gradually to a stiffer brush. You can also use a small hand brush or a brush with a long handle to help you get your back and other places that are hard to reach.
Goop’s G.Tox Ultimate Brush is made from pure natural sisal and the perfect size for traveling.
This set is my personal favorite because it comes with a long handled brush (ideal for hard to reach spots) and a small brush (perfect for the face)!
Dry brushing is an age-old tradition that still deserves a place in our daily routines. Why do you want to start dry brushing?
- Christianson, Alan. Dry Brushing and Lotion. Retrieved from: https://drchristianson.com/dry-brushing-and-lotion/
- Oliver, Kyra. (2017). Start Dry Brushing to Reduce Cellulite + Toxins. Retrieved from: https://draxe.com/dry-brushing/
- Dry Brushing–How to Dry Brush. Retrieved from: https://goop.com/beauty/skin/how-to-dry-brush-and-why-its-so-potent/
- Wells, Katie. (2019). Dry Brushing for Skin: Benefits & How to Do it the Right Way. Retrieved from: https://wellnessmama.com/26717/dry-brushing-skin/
- Mercola. (2017) Can Dry Brushing Help Your Lymphatic System? https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/09/11/dry-brushing-skin.aspx