Dry Skin Brushing for a Body Detox
You brush your teeth and hair every day, so why not your skin? Advocates of something called dry skin brushing — literally taking brush bristles to your birthday suit — enthusiastically say you should. “Dry skin brushing is a simple but effective way of not only improving health, but also beauty,” says Tracy Piper, founder and owner of the Piper Center for Internal Wellness, a holistic health care facility in New York City.
Dry skin brushing tones the skin, reduces the appearance of cellulite, opens pores to release toxins, gets rid of dead skin cells, and aids in the circulation of blood, Piper says.
Beyond healthy skin, “dry brushing stimulates the lymphatic system, which is also known as the broom of the body,” explains Jovanka Ciares, a holistic wellness coach and nutrition consultant practicing in New York City. “One of the lymphatic system’s primary functions is to clean toxins and debris out of your blood and help your body run more efficiently. It also helps your body absorb nutrients better, eliminate residues from the outer skin layers, help redistribute fat deposits, and push toxic matter into the colon” — a claim that has not been substantiated by research.
How to Dry Skin Brush
You’ll need a dry natural bristle brush or loofah for dry skin brushing. Make sure you are dry, too. There’s no single way to do it, but you’ll always want to brush toward the heart, says Piper. She uses this technique:
- Before using the brush, use your fingertips to pump 3 times on the terminus, which is the indentation between the collarbone and the neck, to start the flow of lymph. Then use your fingertips to pump in your armpits 3 times, then 3 times where your ribcage meets in the center of your body, and 3 times in your groin area.
- Step Two: Brush down the neck into the terminus and from each breast outward toward the armpits (avoid the nipples). Brush the arms upward toward the heart.
- Step Three: Brush the abdominal area above the navel diagonally up and out toward the armpits.
- Step Four: Brush the abdominal area below the navel down toward the groin.
- Step Five: Brush the legs up toward the groin. Your palms and the soles of your feet can be brushed in small circles.
When to Do Dry Skin Brushing
To get all the benefits of dry skin brushing, Piper suggests doing it twice daily — in the morning and again in the evening. If you can only do it once a day, do it at night; this will kick-start the lymph system and help your body detox while you’re sleeping, she advises.
On a personal note, Piper says she finds dry brushing “quite calming, especially when I do it before bed,” and “the softness of my skin is very soothing and motivating to continue doing it.”
Dry skin brushing is also a skin and beauty regimen that might benefit the millions who spend hours in front of a computer screen. Stiffness in the shoulders, lower back, and hip area are very common among people who work in offices, says Ciares, and “dry skin brushing once a day for a few weeks will help you increase oxygenated blood flow in those areas and feel energized.”
Dry Skin Brushing: Evaluating the Claims
“I am a big proponent of exfoliation in all its forms, dry brushing included,” says Alicia Zalka, MD, a dermatologist in private practice in Connecticut. “By helping the skin’s built-in mechanism of cell renewal, the act of sloughing spent cells by brushing enhances the process. This is particularly helpful on lower legs, feet, and upper arms and elbows, where dry, dull skin can linger.”
Dennis Gross, MD, a dermatologist and dermatological surgeon practicing in New York City, is less enthusiastic, however. “For exfoliation purposes, one must be careful not to over-exfoliate, and my preference is for chemical exfoliation over mechanical exfoliation, which can be too harsh on the skin.”
So can dry skin brushing detox your body? “The bottom line is that dry skin brushing can improve circulation,” says Dr. Gross. “One could theorize that increased circulation can eliminate toxins, but that is a stretch. Skin does not regularly suffer from a lack of circulation.”
Although Dr. Zalka does not believe that dry skin brushing can eliminate cellulite, she says it could temporarily improve the look of it. If you want to try dry skin brushing, “make sure the brush is cleaned or replaced regularly,” she advises. “Start gently and see how your skin tolerates it. Always apply oil or moisturizing cream to follow, or else the skin could be irritated. Do not do it if you suffer a skin condition such as psoriasis, eczema, or impetigo.”
There are claims on the Internet that dry skin brushing can prevent breast cancer. The American Cancer Society, however, says it has “no opinion” on the technique. “We have no credible evidence or research that concludes this treatment reduces the risk of breast cancer,” says Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, deputy chief medical officer of the cancer society.
In fact, there are no studies of any kind to support any of the various health claims about dry skin brushing, so it’s important to take the possibility of benefits like detox with a healthy dose of skepticism. If you want to make your outer layer shine, dry skin brushing may be worth a try though. Just make sure you use a gentle touch.