You can brush your hair, and you can brush your teeth, but did you know you can brush your skin? Dry brushing involves lightly brushing your skin with a bristled brush. But what does dry brushing actually do? With the help of a derm, allow us to explain.
“Dry brushing is a method of using a brush with stiff bristles against the skin to exfoliate dead cells from the surface layers of the skin and enhance blood flow,” says Dr. Stacy Chimento, board certified dermatologist with Riverchase Dermatology in Miami, Florida.
“Typically, the brushes that are used have natural, long bristles that provide firm resistance against the skin and long handles so they can reach areas like the back.”
So, nope, your regular old hairbrush won’t do — you’ll need a legit dry brush!
Some brands claim you can use their dry brushes during a shower, like a bath brush. But obviously, that defeats the purpose of, um, dry brushing. Adding water to the mix also nixes any benefits.
Now, for the million-dollar question — does dry brushing actually do anything for your skin? The internet will tell you it’s the best-kept health secret, but in reality, there are many myths around the practice. Let’s bust (and prove) some dry brushing myths.
Myth 1: It exfoliates skin for a glow
“Exfoliating this way can help brighten the skin,” says Chimento. “Lightly brushing the skin is a form of physical exfoliation, meaning it can polish away dead skin, leaving a smoother and sleeker look.”
It’s a little icky to think about dead skin just chillin’ on your epidermis. Dead skin won’t harm you in any way — you shower regularly, right? But exfoliating your skin with dry brushing could help prevent clogged pores on your body that may lead to blemishes.
Myth 2: It helps drain your lymphatic system
False, but it helps increase circulation.
A lot of brands claim that dry brushing stimulates your lymphatic system. But according to Chimento, this isn’t accurate.
“Many think that one of the resulting benefits of dry brushing is the increased drainage of lymphatic fluids,” she says. “This causes people to believe dry brushing can thereby flush toxins from the body.”
“There’s not much truth to this concept,” she explains. “One reason is that our bodies handle their own detoxification process, which is handled by your liver and kidney functions.”
But dry brushing “does stimulate blood flood temporarily,” Chimento says. So, it’ll give your skin a nice flush, but that’s about it.
Myth 3: Helps reduce appearance of cellulite
False, it’s all an illusion.
Cellulite is when fat cells are visible under your skin, usually with a bumpy or orange peel-like appearance. Researchers aren’t entirely sure what causes cellulite, and there’s no reason to be ashamed if you have it. Almost everybody does! (Thanks, genetics!)
Popular claims say that dry brushing is “anti-cellulite” and that it breaks up fat cells. Too bad these claims aren’t true. Dry brushing “does not have any effect, positive or negative, on cellulite,” says Chimento. (And she would know. She’s a derm.)
If your cellulite does look different after dry brushing, it could just be from increased blood circulation in the area. “If you hear anyone claim that dry brushing reduced their cellulite, it’s probably this trick of light reflection at play through brighter looking skin,” Chimento notes.
Dry brushing is pretty easy, but there’s a method to the madness:
- Select your natural bristle brush.
- Start on one of your extremities — that means either at your hands or your feet. Gently, but firmly, brush your skin in long strokes toward your heart. (Avoid your breasts and nipples!)
- Pass over each area two or three times. Imagine you’re doing reps like in a workout.
- To complete dry brushing, brush in a clockwise motion at your abdomen.
- After dry brushing, you can take a cool shower or a bath to cleanse off your just-exfoliated skin. Feel free to apply lotion or oil to your skin once you towel off.
Also, don’t forget to clean your dry brush once a week with soap and water. Let it dry in a sunlit area to prevent mildew from joining the party.
Can you dry brush if you have sensitive skin?
Chimento recommends that you skip dry brushing if you have sensitive skin or inflammatory skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis.
Dry brushing extremely dry or delicate skin can just aggravate things more.
What about dry brushing with keratosis pilaris?
“Theoretically, the exfoliation of dry brushing could help improve keratosis pilaris,” Chimento says. “Of course, proper caution as to frequency and harshness still apply.”
Dry brushing over sunburned or broken skin?
Don’t even think about it. Avoid dry brushing any sensitive areas such as rashes, wounds, cuts, or infections. Areas with poison oak, poison ivy, or psoriasis are also off-limits.