What is Dry Brushing and Why Does the Internet Keep Telling You to Do It?
Dry brushing is one of those trends that pops up at regular intervals on the internet promising a range of astonishing benefits and inspiring devotion among celebs and hardcore holistics. It’s been around for centuries as a beauty and wellness practice, but is it really the cure-all, glow-intensifier it’s claimed to be? If you’ve wondered what dry brushing is and why everyone keeps telling you to do it, here’s everything you need to know about this ancient ritual of abrasion.
What is dry brushing?
A typical three- to four-minute dry brush session consists of rubbing a soft, but firm, dry brush over your body in vigorous circular motions (starting at the feet and moving upward, always toward the heart). For many proponents, dry brushing is a daily practice.
What is the purpose of dry brushing?
The purported benefits of dry brushing are many. It’s said to detoxify the body, stimulate the lymphatic and nervous systems, increase circulation, exfoliate dull, dead skin, eliminate cellulite, improve digestion, strengthen the immune system, and increase your electromagnetic energy.
If you’ve already shelled out $50 for your dry brush kit, we apologize in advance for the news we’re about to deliver. With the exception of the exfoliating and increased circulation, there’s little to no evidence that dry brushing does any of the magical things ascribed to it.
Rubbing your skin with a bristly brush will temporarily rev up blood flow, which is not a bad thing. Increased blood flow means more nutrients to skin cells. And, like a light massage, the pressure and motion of dry brushing may have some positive effect on the lymphatic system. But if you are using enough force to really stimulate the lymphatic system, you are likely creating irritation.
Banishing cellulite? If only. Cellulite is caused by fat deposits pressing against connective fibers under the skin to create a dimpled appearance. If a difference is noted after dry brushing, it is just a temporary realignment and shifting of the fat deposits, not a reduction.
We’re not going to weigh in on your electromagnetic field.
The best part about dry brushing is the exfoliation. Unfortunately, the worst part of dry brushing is also the exfoliation. While we one hundred percent endorse exfoliation for clearing cellular debris and encouraging cell renewal—it’s critical for healthy, smooth skin—there are better ways to do it. The dry brushing method causes friction that can compromise the skin’s protective barrier leading to dryness, inflammation, redness, and irritation. It can also cause micro-cuts, which can leave skin vulnerable to infection. And if you have body acne or keratosis pilaris, you can count on further inflaming those conditions.
One Redditor summed her experience like this: “Last week, I decided to take up dry brushing. On Sunday night, I noticed my arms itching and saw a wild-looking keratosis pilaris rash all up and down my upper arms that extended some down my forearms but looked milder past my elbows. On further inspection, the rash also goes up around my shoulders and upper back where I had been brushing.”
What should you do instead?
An exfoliating body scrub is a much more effective and non-irritating way to give your skin an exfoliating polish, and at the same time, get some hydration and additional benefits from ingredients like antioxidants, brighteners, acids, or acne fighters.
Mandelic Acid 3-in-1 Exfoliating Cleanser is our favorite body scrub for a bright, smooth complexion without drying or irritating. It’s the perfect hybrid of exfoliating muscle and restraint. Bio-degradable, luxfoliating microbeads clear cellular debris and stimulate cell turnover. Plus, mandelic acid’s antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties help strengthen the skin barrier and guard against body acne or keratosis pilaris.
Because of its larger molecular structure, mandelic acid is absorbed more slowly by the skin making it less likely to irritate the way some alpha hydroxy acids can. If you have issues with irregular pigmentation or age spots, mandelic acid will help with that as well. It has melanin-inhibiting properties to promote a consistent, even tone.
Smooth rough patches like elbows, knees, and heels with Vivant’s Clear Body Therapy a potent lotion formula you can apply to the body. The lactic acid and vitamin A cream breaks down the proteins that bind dead skin cells together to slough off dull skin and callouses and regenerate soft, healthy skin. It’s also excellent for clearing body acne or keratosis pilaris.
To reap some of the non-exfoliating benefits attributed to dry brushing, your money is probably better spent on a relaxing massage and some herbal tea.