In my never ending quest to lead a healthier lifestyle, I’ve done a lot of research about this Ayurvedic self-care ritual (both by experimenting on myself and lots and lots of reading)! And while the jury is still out on whether it’s as healthy for you as its biggest fans claim, today I’d like to share why I consider dry brushing worthy of a space in my daily health care routine.
For those who might not be familiar with dry brushing, it involves brushing your body with a dry, stiff-bristled brush. Its benefits are said to include: exfoliating flaky winter (or any time of year) skin, stimulating detoxification by encouraging lymph drainage, increasing circulation and energy, aiding digestion, and fans say it can improve the appearance of cellulite. But are these claims backed up by science? In this post, I want to talk a little bit about what has been proven, what hasn’t, and why I will continue this lovely self care ritual either way.
Let’s start with the claim that dry brushing can help clear flaky (winter) skin. According to this source, “the mechanical action of dry brushing is wonderful for exfoliating dry winter skin.” Another source talks about the benefits of physical exfoliation, and how the stiff bristles of a dry brush, can “manually sweep away dull, rough, flaky skin cells.” My personal opinion and experience? Dry brushing is a wonderful exfoliant, and makes my skin feel softer, smoother, and generally more radiant!
Detoxification & Lymph Support
Okay, so what about the claims that dry brushing can help to detoxify by improving circulation and encouraging lymph drainage? On the one hand, sources such as this one claim there’s no proof that dry brushing improves the lymphatic system. But other reliable sources tell a different story… Wellness Mama, a fellow mama and healthy lifestyle aficionado (and one I really admire!) says it like this: “The lymphatic system is a major part of the body’s immune system. It is made up of organs and lymph nodes, ducts, and vessels that transport lymph throughout the body. Many of these lymph vessels run just below the skin. Proponents of dry brushing claim that brushing the skin regularly helps stimulate the normal lymph flow within the body and helps the body detoxify itself naturally.” So. my verdict on the claim regarding circulation and lymph flow? While sources disagree about the science, I find dry brushing invigorating. Furthermore, it seems logical that, if the “lymph runs just below the skin,” that stimulating the body through physical exfoliation could encourage lymph flow!
Increased Energy Levels
Speaking of which, another of its many touted benefits is the ability for dry brushing to increase energy levels. Going along with the idea that dry brushing can stimulate the nervous system, it would make sense that it might bring about increased energy levels. Personally, I love it. I always feel a sense of rejuvenation after dry brushing. That’s incentive enough for me to want to do it every day! You can read more about it here.
Okay, so what about digestion? Is it true that dry brushing can help improve our gastrointestinal system? Some sources claim that massaging the lymph nodes can help the body eliminate water and toxins, so in that regard, dry brushing might be linked to improved digestion. Though, other sources discuss how there are better methods for dealing with digestion than dry brushing.
Reduce Appearance of Cellulite
Last but certainly not least: cellulite. Is it seriously possible that dry brushing can improve (at least the appearance of) cellulite?? Some sources say that by stimulating circulation via dry brushing, the skin will temporarily become smoother looking. Okay, so there’s that. Many other sources say similar things about this “temporary” improvement to the skin. But, here’s my opinion: dry brushing makes me feel great and makes my skin feel tingly and happy. While I’m definitely convinced that regular exercise does a better job of ultimately helping with any dimply areas, the evidence certainly doesn’t suggest that dry brushing could hurt anything.
A Few Things to Consider:
- I LOVE to add a few drops of juniper berry and/or grapefruit to my dry brush. Both oils are loaded with skin and aromatherapy benefits, making the experience that much more spa-like.
- It is always recommended to dry brush in the direction of your heart. I personally start at my feet and do about 10 strokes in each section as I work my way up my legs. Then I do the same thing with my arms and chest, always brushing in the direction of my heart.
- Because of the increased energy and stimulated nervous system, it’s recommended to dry brush earlier in the day, and preferably first thing in the morning.
- PRO TIP: try dry brushing while standing in the shower or bath, before you turn your water on. The idea is you will wash off those dead skin cells and get a more thorough exfoliation.
- Be extra cautious when brushing on sensitive skin areas, such as your breasts or face. I personally do not dry brush my face. I have sensitive skin and I use a milder exfoliant for my sensitive face, such as a gentle sugar scrub.
- Keep in mind that dry brushing isn’t meant to be an actual medical treatment (source).
- Because dry brushing hasn’t been extensively researched (by way of specific scientific studies), “[m]uch of the evidence…is anecdotal.” (source)