You brush your hair, your teeth and your dog or cat’s fur. But how about taking a stiff-bristled brush to your dry skin? It's called dry brushing — the practice of gently massaging and brushing your skin with a body brush made of stiff, natural bristles. And some people swear by it as an excellent way to exfoliate and more.
Ask Chrystal Byam, and she’ll tell you that she’s been dry brushing her skin once or twice a week for a few years. She’s a big believer in this add-on to her beauty regimen.
“I absolutely recommend it to other women,” says Byam. “It has helped reduce the appearance of cellulite on my upper thighs, and my skin has never been smoother.”
For Gina Van Luven, a wellness speaker, author and board-certified holistic health practitioner, dry brushing has worked wonders to help remove dead skin from her body.
“It’s an amazing tool,” she says. “I’ve been skin brushing for several years and saw a major improvement in the texture of my skin almost immediately.”
What the experts say
Dry brushing can have some subtle, mild benefits, says Dr. David Bank, a board-certified dermatologist, author of “Beautiful Skin: Every Woman's Guide to Looking Her Best at Any Age” and founder and director of The Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic and Laser Surgery in Mount Kisco, New York.
“It can help improve skin exfoliation which can lead to smoother, softer skin,” he says. “It may also be invigorating for the skin.”
Dry brushing can also improve circulation and stimulate the nervous system, which can help you feel invigorated, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
However, dry brushing has not been proven to stimulate lymphatics or eliminate metabolic waste, though it is often purported to serve this purpose, Bank says. And the Cleveland Clinic says there’s no scientific evidence to support the claim that dry brushing reduces the appearance of cellulite. “It’s likely that what people interpret as cellulite reduction is really just a temporary plumping up of the skin from increased blood circulation,” writes Jamie Starkey, lead acupuncturist at the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Integrative Medicine.
“I’m not aware of any published, peer-reviewed literature to document these claims,” Bank says. “This is not to say that these claims are false, but they have not been substantiated as of now.”
How to do it
Invest in a natural stiff-bristled bath or shower brush with a long handle. (Just how stiff the bristles should be depends on your skin’s sensitivity.)
With your brush in hand, start dry brushing by doing long strokes moving upward on your body. Always begin brushing your feet first and then brush your legs one at a time. Next, move the brush upwards to your torso and end by dry brushing with your hands, fingers and arms.
The best time to dry brush your skin is before a shower because you can hop in and let the warm water wash away the dead skin. A few brushes over each area of your body is enough, the Cleveland Clinic says, because if you overdo it, you could cause irritation or breaks in your skin. And if you have a cut, rash or cracked or broken skin, don't brush it until it heals.
“Unless you’re overly aggressive when you dry brush, which can lead to skin trauma, it would seem to be an innocuous thing to do,” Bank says. “So, if it feels good on the skin, enjoy it but have realistic expectations as to how much it is truly doing for your skin.”