Why is it that some of the healthiest habits make us look kind of ridiculous? (See: oil pulling, yoga, turmeric masks.) Dry brushing is no exception, but just like sloshing oil in our mouths, hanging out in downward dog, and slathering our faces with neon-yellow paste, it’s totally worth it. Need a few reasons why? Here goes:
7 Benefits of Dry Brushing
It helps remove waste.
The idea behind dry brushing is to get your lymphatic system moving, which helps your body metabolize and get rid of toxins lingering inside. Lymph congestion is a major factor leading to inflammation and disease, and massaging those lymph nodes helps the body shed excess water and toxins.
It improves blood flow.
No surprise, skin brushing gets the blood flowing. That circulation boost is important for delivering oxygen and nutrients to your cells and also carrying off metabolic waste. Poor circulation can lead to swelling, pain and varicose veins.
It helps smooth out cellulite.
Dry skin brushing can help to soften fat deposits below the skin (which, when coupled with other lifestyle changes and home remedies) can minimize the appearance of cellulite. That’s the theory, at least. Anecdotally, it has helped my lumpy spots, but there’s no research to back this up and anti-cellulite road tests have had mixed results. Some find dry brushing helps ‘smooth away less-than-perfect spots’ on legs while others see no cellulite improvement.
It exfoliates the skin.
A dry-brush routine is great for skin exfoliation too, as you’ll be sloughing off dead skin and unclogging pores from top to bottom. That not only gives you softer skin, but also makes it easier for your body to sweat out toxins.
It wakes up the nervous system.
Dry brushing helps wake up the nervous system by stimulating nerve endings in the skin. Brushing is often described as ‘invigorating’ because provides a good energy jolt if you’re sluggish.
It improves skin tone.
Stimulating the nervous system also stimulates muscle fibers, which builds muscle tone that helps counteract sagging skin.
It eases anxiety.
Dry brushing can be a soothing, stress-relieving ritual that eases tension in the body. Dr. Leslie Korn recommends dry brush therapy to patients with depression and anxiety. She writes that dry brushing is a ‘safe self-care activity that can be done daily as a way to check in and connect with feelings, sensations, and the boundaries and self-image of the body.’
Not too shabby for a super-easy practice that takes about two minutes—and costs about $5! Ready to give it a try? Read on.
12 Things You Need to Know About Dry Brushing
1. Pick a brush that has natural, not synthetic, bristles.
It doesn’t have to be expensive, but make sure you’re using a natural bristle brush. I use this $5 one from Target, although there are fancier ones on the market. Longer handles can make it easier to reach down to your feet and around to your back.
2. Make sure your skin is dry.
The optimal time to dry brush is right before you bathe or shower when your skin is still dry. Brushing dry skin gives you a full body exfoliation without removing the skin’s natural oils. Then hop in the shower to rinse off dry skin cells and impurities.
3. It’s a great way to wake yourself up.
Most people recommend skin brushing in the morning because they feel it energizes them. After brushing, your blood is moving, your nervous system is firing, and you’re ready to tackle the day.
But there’s no ‘wrong’ time to dry brush. You can dry brush at night or both in the morning and at night. I usually shower at night, so I’ve just worked it into my shower routine. It’s totally up to you when you want to schedule your date with the dry brush. :)
4. Follow the lymph.
The lymph flows towards the heart, so it’s important to brush in the same direction. Start at one of your feet and brush up the front of the leg to the thigh. Reach to the back of the leg and brush up the back of the leg all the way to the lower back. Repeat brushing each area three times and then move to the other leg.
Then move up to your arms. Lift one arm over your head and brush down from the wrist, moving down the inner arm and gently passing over the underarm and the outer breast tissue (avoid the aureole). Then brush down the back of the arm to the shoulders and neck. Repeat three times then do the other arm.
When you reach the stomach, some recommend gently brushing in small circles. That doesn’t feel great to me so I brush down from the neck over the chest and sternum and then up and over the abdomen.
To be honest, learning how to dry brush took a little practice to make me not feel totally weird. Just go with the flow and make sure you’re getting your entire body, front and back (avoid your face, though).
Here’s a quick video tutorial:
5. Use gentle pressure.
Yes, you can dry brush too hard. This is different for everyone, but medium pressure is about as intense as you should get. Think of it as a light sweeping of your skin versus scrubbing. Your skin may be slightly pink after brushing, but it should never be red or inflamed.
Dry brushing should feel good! It’s not meant to be painful or harsh enough to break the skin. Be cautious of softer and sensitive skin around the chest, and never brush over inflamed or sunburned skin.
6. Add essential oils.
Add cellulite-fighting essential oils to your dry brush to help the body release fluid and tone the skin. Rosemary, grapefruit and cypress are good picks if you’re working to repair sagging skin and give it a smoother appearance. Fennel, juniper berry, and geranium bring down puffiness. To make dry brushing more invigorating, try a stimulating oil like coffee or black pepper.
To use with dry brushing, add 3-5 drops of cellulite body oil to the palm of your hand. Glide the bristles of a dry brush across your palm, saturating the bristles with the essential oil blend.
7. Aim for at least 2 minutes.
It’s easy to speed through dry brushing to cross if off the to-do list so force yourself to slow down. The whole process might take two minutes, or it could take 20 if you’re going slowly and focusing. Just make sure you’re not rushing yourself.
Some people like to make dry brushing a meditative practice. After you finish, take a few seconds to close your eyes and check in with your body.
8. Make sure to get your armpits and inner thighs.
These are prime lymphatic drainage spots, so dry brushing will be extra helpful here in releasing toxins from your body. I have a bad habit of crossing my ankles at my desk (which I know is bad for my circulation), so I try to spend more time there, too.
9. You might feel tingly or itchy afterward.
If that doesn’t feel good, use less pressure next time. If it feels like you’re shedding a lot of dead skin and your circulation is improving, keep doing what you’re doing! The first time I did it, I was extremely itchy afterwards, but the more I tried it the less I had that feeling. After you shower, follow up with a little coconut oil to nourish and moisturize the skin.
10. It’s okay to dry brush after showering.
Dry brushing is incredibly easy to add to your wellness routine, but like a lot of habits, you may want to dry brush … and then totally forget to do it. I’ve found that leaving my dry brush right outside the shower – or even in the shower – greatly increases my chances of remembering. A sticky note on the bathroom mirror or shower door can be a helpful reminder. Make an effort to dry brush every day for at least a week or two to help ingrain the habit and retrain your brain.
But if you remember dry brushing about 5 minutes into showering (hopefully that’s not just me!), it’s okay to dry brush afterward. In fact, if you’re adding oil to your brush, it’s better to brush after your shower to keep the moisturizer on the skin.
11. Wash your brush.
Cleanse the brush every couple of weeks with soap and warm water. Let it air dry.
12. Make sure you’re supporting your skin brushing with other detox practices.
Dry brushing will only do so much if you’re not eating right, drinking water, getting enough sleep, exercising and taking care of yourself. We’ve got all sorts of detox recipes, guides and how-to’s to help you do just that!
Dry Brushing Essentials
Ready to make dry brushing a daily habit? Check out our favorite dry brushing essentials. Let us know your favorite brush!