The Whys and Hows of Dry Brushing (At Last!)
Many a Morning Routine has mentioned it, and several readers have been left wondering: “What is this dry brushing thing all about?” So here goes.
There are many sources of information on dry brushing out there, like Spirit Beauty Lounge’s blog, Indigo+Canary, and the one that got me started – Evan Healy’s blog. I’ve seen many claims about the benefits of dry brushing, from exfoliation to detox to reduction of cellulite. There are also some “official” ways it ought to be done, including techniques, how long to brush, etc. My aim here is to cover my personal reasons for doing it and the method that works well for me.*
Along with some of the helpful information I’ve read about dry brushing, I’ve seen dubious claims of the benefits, and some misleading information about how the body works, but I do think there are real benefits to the practice. Plus it just feels really good. I typically spend 5 minutes a day brushing, mostly right before showering. Overall, I think my dryish skin is healthier. I don’t have flakiness anymore, or need to use body moisturizer on a regular basis, and I see far fewer blemishes on my back. Brushing works much better for me than loofahs or exfoliating gloves. Those are just too harsh on my sensitive skin – they leave me drier and with more irritation. Sorry to disappoint, but after two years of brushing quite consistently, I have not seen any changes in cellulite. I guess it hasn’t gotten any worse, though. I do feel like brushing helps to get the body fluids moving if I feel bloated or puffy.
The general recommendation is that natural bristle brushes should be used for dry brushing. The brushes I use are vegan, although there are boar bristle brushes that are likely to say “natural bristle” on the label, so read carefully if that matters to you. My favorite brush by Hydrea London has a hand loop but no handle, and I use it for most of my body. To get my upper back I switch to this one, which I buy at Whole Foods. There are also brushes with a hand loop plus a removable handle, and firmer bristled ones too. The brushing should feel pleasant and invigorating, and while you should feel energized and have a bit of a glow afterward, the skin should not be inflamed – if it is, your brush is too firm. I’ve seen recommendations to wash the brush every week or two, but I am terrible about washing, and I’ll often let it go for a several weeks or a few months (sorry if I’m grossing you out). By then my soft bristled brushes are often too soft, and I buy a new one. I’ve gone through a few brushes!
When brushing, use however many strokes it takes based on your body size, size of the brush, and what feels good. Honestly, there are only two things I think are of great consequence in regard to technique:
1. Brush toward the heart, to help your body fluids move in the right direction.
2. Use a brush that’s stimulating but doesn’t leave you red and inflamed.
This is the pattern I prefer, starting with the hand-loop brush:
- elbow to shoulder
- hand to elbow
- hand to shoulder
- same on other arm
- along collar bones down toward breasts
- from shoulder, around bottom of breast and up to mid-chest, circling a few times
- same on other side
- belly, starting at belly button and make ever widening circles in the same direction your intestines coil (right to left)
- upper thigh/hip up over butt toward waist, both sides
- continuing with upward strokes, from waist as far up back as I can reach
- (switch to handled brush) up back to shoulders and neck
- (switch back to hand-loop brush) knee to hip
- foot to knee
- foot to hip
- same on other side
So that’s it! Do you dry brush? What’s your technique?
*your mileage may vary