With advocates as big as Miranda Kerr and Molly Sims, dry brushing has made quite a name for itself in the past few years. If you’re not familiar with the term, dry brushing is the process of taking a stiff brush and firmly brushing your whole body while you and the brush are completely dry. It is typically done every day before you shower to allow your dead skin cells to rinse away. The process has to be done in a particular way however: starting from your hands and feet, you should brush in long strokes towards the heart, and your stomach area should be brushed in circles.
“Why would I incorporate another extra step into my beauty regime?” I hear you ask. Well, the purported benefits of dry brushing are astounding.
Fans of dry brushing swear by the method and cite a range of different benefits such as improving the softness of skin, reducing the appearance of cellulite, adding a healthy glow to the skin, improving circulation and even contributing to lymphatic drainage. This last benefit would help to remove puffiness but also to encourage the passing of toxins in the body. Dry brushing is also said to stimulate your oil glands (in the second layer of skin) which will improve the skin’s health and elasticity.
Wow! Sign me up, right? And dry brushing is no new trend- the practice has been found as long ago as in Ancient Egypt. Dry brushing is also used in Ayurvedic practices (India’s ancient holistic health system), and the traditional Chinese would dry brush using a loofah, or dried silk squash fruits. With its origin in such ancient healing practices, it is amazing that dry brushing is still a common beauty ritual!
But does it really work, and is it actually that good for me?
Skin softness and elasticity
Many of dry brushing’s touted health benefits are difficult to prove, and they have not yet been supported by clinical data. Although people claim that their skin feels more elastic and supple, it is difficult to separate the placebo from reality. One thing is for certain though, if you are exfoliating your skin, be it via dry brushing or less aggressive methods such as chemical exfoliants, it is bound to feel softer. It is extremely important however that after you dry brush and jump in the shower you moisturize with a good moisturizer!
For appropriate dry brushing, you are meant to brush firmly which is likely to cause irritation and over-exfoliation. From a skin-health point of view, this can trigger skin conditions such as eczema and rosacea, but from a visual point of view, over-exfoliation can increase skin aging, hyperpigmentation, and skin dryness, contrary to its reported benefit of encouraging the skin’s natural oil production. Even if dry brushing wasn’t drying to the skin, you should not be relying on the practice to be your skin’s sole moisturizer. Although physical exfoliants feel good, chemical exfoliants such as lactic acid and glycolic acid are far gentler to the skin. Don’t be afraid to use products designed for the face on your body: if they’re safe for your delicate facial skin, they’re safe for use on the body! For more information on chemical exfoliants check out this blog post.
A reduction in cellulite is one of the dry brushing’s commonly cited benefits. While brushing the skin will help to exfoliate, contributing to overall smoothness, it is unclear whether dry brushing can improve the appearance of cellulite. If you are being gentle, there is little harm in trying, but bear in mind that any improvement will be temporary, and you will need to dry brush regularly to keep those results. For now, the most effective known way of reducing the appearance of cellulite is to tone the muscles affected by cellulite as it makes it less visible. Or, if you’re extremely bothered by cellulite, you can get dermal fillers in the area to make it look smoother.
‘Detoxing’ had become a popular topic in health and beauty in recent years. Detoxing refers to removing toxins from the body, something the body is constantly doing naturally. A popular reported outcome of dry brushing is that it will improve lymphatic flow through the body, thus encouraging the body to expel its toxins. However, the liver and kidneys do not necessarily require additional help in detoxifying, and so dry brushing may have little benefit. Besides, dry brushing cannot reach the lymphatic vessels as they are deep under the skin’s surface. At this moment, the only known method to improve lymphatic flow is to exercise (I’m sorry, exercise again).
It is not easy to say whether dry brushing is just a fad or whether it could be the secret to healthy, elastic and radiant skin, as not enough empirical research has been conducted on it yet. For now, it all theoretical, but the fact that it was evident in cultures as far back as Ancient Egypt is most certainly interesting! What it is possible to say though, is that the exfoliation provided by dry brushing will slough off the older, dead skin cells, revealing softer skin. Also, the physical act of stimulating your skin with the brush will bring blood to the surface, giving that well-loved plump and glowing skin, even if it’s just a temporary effect. At a minimum, dry brushing is a good way to incorporate body exfoliation into your beauty regime, especially when followed up by a moisturizer. As long as you avoid your face and areas with rashes or wounds, what’s the most harm it can do? Skincare is ultimate to make us feel good, and if dry brushing does that for you, then brush away!