You brush your hair, you brush your teeth, you may even brush your brows or beard. But there’s a rather conspicuous area that may be missing out on the benefit of bristles: your entire body.
Dry brushing, as it’s typically called (some aptly call it body brushing), is a favorite treatment of wellness-worshipping celebrities like Miranda Kerr and Gwyneth Paltrow — Goop has sold its own dry brush for years — thanks to its ability to physically exfoliate skin into a smoother state. It may even stimulate lymphatic drainage, according to board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara.
Dry brushing is met with equal amounts of skepticism and enthusiasm by those in skin-care circles. The beauty ritual goes way back, so the fact that it’s still a staple at so many spas after all these years lends to its veracity, but a lack of scientifically proven results leaves some dermatologists less than impressed. Here, experts break down what exactly dry brushing is and does, and whether or not it’s worth your time.
What exactly is dry brushing?
The act of dry brushing is more or less exactly what it sounds like. To put it simply, “Dry brushing is using a coarse brush against the skin,” explains Connecticut-based, board-certified dermatologist Deanne Mraz Robinson, who says the practice stimulates blood flow — and other than some light exfoliation, that’s pretty much it.
According to board-certified Santa Monica dermatologist Karyn Grossman, you shouldn’t expect miracles from dry brushing. Despite some brands’ and spas’ claims, the practice has not been shown to reduce the appearance of cellulite.
Go easy on yourself.
In addition to a soft, natural-bristle brush — you’ll find options made with boar bristles, goat hair, sisal, and more — all you really need is a little self-control. “When you give people brushes of all sorts, they think it’s a scrub brush — like you’re cleaning pots and pans,” Grossman says. “But this is your skin, and you need to be gentle. You’re not supposed to be red or scratched after.”
She recommends rubbing in a light, circular motion before hopping into the shower, taking it easy on your chest and avoiding your face completely. “You can use your Clarisonic for that, which isn’t as aggressive,” says Grossman. “You can be a little tougher on your knees, elbows, ankles, and the tops of your feet, where the skin is thicker.”
What should you do after dry brushing?
When you’re ready to shower, Grossman recommends cleansing with a mild body wash like the Allure Best of Beauty Award-winning Dove Deep Moisture Body Wash. Follow up with an equally mild body moisturizer, like Neutrogena Hydro Boost Body Gel Cream (another Best of Beauty winner). However, you may want to skip any other means of exfoliation, like a body scrub or anti-acne wash, as Grossman warns it may leave your skin stinging. “You’re removing that surface layer, which temporarily makes your skin more sensitive,” she says.
Who shouldn’t try dry brushing?
As Grossman mentioned, dry brushing can make skin more sensitive, so skin that’s already sensitive to begin with may want to avoid the treatment. This includes those with eczema or psoriasis, Mraz says. “People who have conditions such as psoriasis which can koebnerize, which means injury can cause the skin condition to worsen,” she explains.
Mraz actually wouldn’t recommend dry brushing to anyone, for that matter. “It really does nothing besides bringing temporary blood flow and swelling to the skin,” she says, calling it a waste of money. “If it is part of a spa process, it can help exfoliate dead skin cells, but otherwise I’d say skip it.”
That said, if you enjoy how it feels, have realistic expectations about what it can and can’t do, and don’t scrub too hard or have an easily-irritated skin condition, there’s no harm in dry brushing every now and then.
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