The ancient practice of dry brushing has found a new fan base among modern wellness practitioners and everyday beauty enthusiasts. All of a sudden, spas are offering the treatment, which is said to exfoliate skin, support the lymphatic system and much more. Women from Los Angeles to Lahore are stocking up on natural bristle brushes that get the job done (and can target those hard-to-reach areas on your back).
Curious about dry brushing, but not sure where to start–or whether it even really works? Annet King, senior director of global education at Dermalogica and the International Dermal Institute, says dry brushing is recognized for numerous health benefits including detoxification, skin exfoliation, increased lymphatic flow, and increased energy. “Not only does body brushing help with the exfoliation process, it also aids in the detoxification process. Blood plasma containing waste is transported into the lymph vessels where it is carried to lymph nodes. Here, macrophages and lymphocytes deal with unwanted bacteria and toxins. The cleansed fluid is then returned to the blood supply. Our bodies contain far more lymph than blood and yet the lymph is dependent upon outside forces for its circulation around the body; the lymph has no heart to pump it. Therefore, it is prone to being sluggish. Stagnant lymph needs to be moved. Dry body brushing prompts the cells to release its toxic deposits into the lymph, while simultaneously cleansing the lymph itself,” King explains.
When looking for a dry brush, King recommends purchasing one with hard bristles, not soft nylon, cactus or vegetable derived bristles. “Care for it by spraying the brush with pure tea tree oil before using and soak in an antibacterial wash and hot water to keep it hygienically clean,” she says. “Find a brush with a detachable handle for reaching your back and a strap to keep it comfortably in the palm of your hand.”
As for technique, King advises brushing in long upward strokes followed by the palm of your hand to soothe the skin. It should take no longer than a few minutes and is best done in the morning as it wakes and warms you up. She provides seven steps to dry brushing with success:
1. Starting at the toes, work up the foot in light, sweeping, one-directional movements and follow the brush with your free hand, to the popliteal lymphatic node behind the knee.
2. Move up to the back of the thigh, working in long strokes out towards the buttocks.
3. Repeat on the other leg.
4. Brush lightly on your stomach from waist to navel on alternate sides. Then brush across the chest and around the breasts.
5. Brush the front of the arms in long strokes towards the axillary lymphatic node situated under the arm.
6. Jump in the shower.
7. Apply your favorite essential oil massage blend, treatment products or body moisturizer post-shower.
The many advocates for dry brushing wouldn’t dream of going a day without stimulating their skin, but it should be noted that there are skeptics who agree it feels great and can benefit the skin, but that there is no proof it can do more than that.
“Dry brushing the skin can have some subtle, mild benefits,” says Dr. David E. Bank, founder of The Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery. “At a minimum, it can help improve skin exfoliation which can lead to smoother, softer skin. It may also be ‘invigorating’ for the skin. I am not aware, however, of any published, peer-reviewed literature to document claims that dry brushing can go beyond exfoliating the skin such as to stimulate lymphatics, improve circulation or eliminate metabolic waste. Unless one is overly aggressive leading to skin trauma, it would seem to be an innocuous procedure. So, if it feels good on the skin, enjoy it, but have realistic expectations as to how much it is truly doing for your overall health.”
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