It is common to cleanse and scrub the skin with a washcloth or loofah and a rich foamy lather when bathing. But have you heard about dry brushing? In a nutshell, this skin-pampering regimen involves sweeping the skin with a dry brush to exfoliate and promote a number of other benefits.
Incorporating this simple step into your bathing regime can make a big difference. It’s incredibly gentle, soothing, and easy to do. In this post we will discuss the history and benefits of dry brushing as well as how to do-it-yourself at home.
More than anything else, dry brushing helps to exfoliate the skin. Exfoliation has been practiced for hundreds of centuries by different cultures, which include the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, East Indians, Native Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Russians, Turks, and Scandinavians. This was mainly achieved by mechanical exfoliation. Some of the tools used by our ancestors include corn cobs, crushed seashells, and sand.
Skin brushing has been around since time immemorial. The Egyptians were said to have used dry brushing techniques thousands of years back as well as exfoliating in sour milk and wine.
The ancient Ayurvedic practice of Gharsana (which means friction by rubbing in Sanskrit) also involves dry brushing and massaging certain points in the body. In Ayurvedic principles, Gharsana is believed to reduce “ama” (undigested food or emotions that manifest into a toxic and sticky substance that can extend to the gastrointestinal system and other parts of the body). Gharsana can stimulate movement in the lymphatic system, which can help increase the rate of detoxification. It is also believed that Gharsana revitalized the modern-day concept of dry brushing.
In a Holistic Health Report by Matthew Scott B.Ac, MA, he reinforces the Chinese perspective on dry brushing and the health benefits it can bring. Historically, the Chinese used dried fruit and vegetable (such as squash) fibers and fashioned them into sponges. He notes that regular dry brushing can help the body eliminate waste, which can be as much as one kilogram or two pounds per day. Dry brushing also assists the body’s cleansing process by activating the sweat glands and opening the pores further. It can also help relax tense muscles, especially a stiff neck, back, or shoulders.
The Japanese used loofahs to brush their skin before taking a hot bath to clear their skin of dead skin cells and grime. The Greeks used strigil, a sort of metal scraper, to remove dirt from the skin after they performed robust physical activities.
In modern times, dry brushing continues to be part of women’s beauty routines and is gaining popularity once again. Celebrities and supermodels such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Elle McPherson and Miranda Kerr have tried dry brushing to help keep their skin and bodies in excellent condition. Luxury spas have also incorporated dry brushing in their overall pampering sessions.
Benefits of dry brushing
Here are some of the top benefits of dry brushing the body:
1. Improves the lymphatic system’s overall condition
The lymphatic system is where the body flushes out toxins, waste, and other unwanted debris. The lymphatic system circulates through the body and carries white blood cells that fight infections.
Dry brushing is said to help stimulate the lymphatic system and enhance the detoxification process. There are about 600 to 700 lymph nodes that are positioned in different parts of the body, some of them near the lungs and heart, while others are close to the surface of the skin, for example near the armpits and groin. These nodes function as filters for the lymph and are where the production and storage of white blood cells occur.
When the lymphatic system fails to function properly, waste and toxins remain trapped in the body, which can make a person sick and vulnerable to diseases. Some severe medical conditions that can affect the lymphatic system include lymphedema, where the lymph nodes are blocked and begin to swell, and lymphoma, which is cancer of the lymph caused by the excess production of lymphocytes.
2. Minimize the appearance of cellulite
Cellulite can give the skin a dimpled and lumpy appearance reminiscent of an orange peel and is most commonly located on the thighs and buttocks. It is more common in women than men since the layers of fat, muscle and connective tissues are different in both genders. In women, the skin and connective tissues are thinner while the fat layer is thicker. On the other hand, in men the skin layer is thicker. The thighs and buttocks are usually the areas where fat is stored in women, while for men it is stored in the abdomen. Cellulite is perfectly normal and nothing to be ashamed of. It occurs in women of all sizes and fitness levels.
For those looking to address cellulite, dry brushing can help prevent the formation of cellulite and can help the skin become tighter and increase blood flow and cell renewal. While there are no scientific studies to prove or refute this claim, many find a reduction in the appearance of cellulite when dry brushing on a daily basis.
Dry brushing can help remove dead skin cells. Desquamation is the skin’s biological process of shedding the outermost layer (called the Stratum Corneum). New cells positioned in the deeper layers of the skin push these old cells out which are then sloughed off. A cell known as the desmosome functions as an adhesive for the skin cells. The desmosome’s stickiness weakens as the skin cells are pushed to the Stratum Corneum. Old age, hormones, and environmental factors can affect the desmosome’s process, and can result in the build-up of dead cell layers. Exfoliation is vital at this stage to help eliminate the buildup of dead tissue.
Exfoliation can be done two different ways: mechanical and chemical. Mechanical methods (including dry brushing) involve removing the dead skin tissues with the use of motion and abrasives. On the other hand, chemical methods use acids and solutions (toners, cleansers, peels, etc.) to dissolve dead skin cells.
Dry brushing is a gentler, easier and more affordable way to incorporate regular exfoliation into your daily routine. If the idea of using chemical peels is intimidating, dry brushing can be a great alternative. It can be done anytime and anywhere, whether you’re at home or traveling. You really only need to invest in a dry brush once since it does not run out like chemical solutions.
4. Aids in circulation
Not only is dry brushing good for the integumentary system, but it’s also great for the circulatory system. The latter is the body’s vital transport system for blood, oxygen, and nutrients. Dry brushing can help improve poor blood circulation by stimulating circulation which helps keep the blood flowing.
Other benefits of dry brushing include:
Opens the pores;
Develops muscle tone;
Relaxes muscle tension;
Refreshes the nervous system;
Helps in digestion; and
How to dry brush
Finding a dry brush
First, you will need to buy a dry brush. Choose one that is made of soft natural bristles, such as plant fibers, animal hair, or copper. Synthetic bristles such as plastic will be too stiff and harsh for your skin. They may even cause cuts and small wounds on your skin that could become infected.
Types of handles
There are several varieties of handles you can choose. The most common type is a handheld brush with a strap across it allowing you to grip the brush. This allows you to easily and thoroughly access hard-to-reach spots in your body, like the back of your knees, elbows, and shoulders. It also gives you more control over the pressure you exert on the brush.
Another variety comes with short and long handles. Handle measurements can range from 9 to 17 inches. Brushes with a long handle can be great for targeting the back; however, often the handles can break or detach. Overall, we recommend a high-quality handheld brush with a strap to help keep the brush in place.
Before starting to brush, remove any clothing and accessories. It’s best to do this in your bathroom completely naked and just before showering or bathing.
- It is suggested that you always brush towards the heart. Start at your feet and brush upwards towards the legs. This is believed to help stimulate the lymphatic system. Strokes ideally should be done 7 to 14 times on each portion of the skin.
- Next, move on to your hands and make upward sweeping strokes to your arms.
- Next target the neck area. Working on one side of the jawline, start from the earlobe and sweep all the way to the chin. Repeat on the opposite side.
- From the base of the back of the neck, sweep all the way to the collarbone. Start with one side, and afterwards work on the other.
- Targeting your breast area, brush with light strokes towards the heart starting from the collarbone. The pressure should be very light.
- Move to your belly and brush up towards the heart.
- Move on to your armpits and with your arm extended overhead, brush down and towards the chest.
- Next, start from your hips and sweep upwards to your armpits. Start with one side and repeat on the other side afterwards.
- Moving to your back, start from the tailbone sweeping up towards your head. Have someone help with the back for the places you can’t reach.
- Stop dry brushing if you experience pain, skin irritation, or broken skin.
- Do not dry brush areas on your skin that have wounds or infections.
- Always dry brush on dry skin. Never wet your brush or brush wet skin during a shower.
- Don’t store your brush in areas where it is humid otherwise moisture can accumulate. If the brush has copper bristles, the humidity can compromise the bristles. If the brush has natural bristles, the humidity can cause bacteria to grow on the brush.
Cleaning your dry brush
- Copper is naturally anti-bacterial, so there is no need to clean your ionic body brush in the same manner as you might clean an ordinary brush.
- Dead skin will accumulate in the brush, so we recommend rubbing the bristles several times with a dry cloth, or tapping the brush with the bristles pointed down on a washable surface, such as a sink basin, in order to remove any skin particles. We suggest that you do this after every each use.
- Please make sure never to wash your ionic body brush with water or soap.