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The Truth About Dry Brushing and What It Does for You

Get tips for doing it correctly from a dermatologist

Skin care tools like a dry brush and exfoliating pads sit in a white tray atop a bathroom vanity

If you’re wondering about the best way to exfoliate and rejuvenate your skin, dry brushing is an option that offers many benefits. But before you grab a brush and start going to town on your skin, it’s important to know how to do it correctly and which areas should be avoided during the process.

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What is dry brushing?

If you’re not sure what dry brushing your skin is, it’s a daily body massage with a dry, stiff-bristled brush that’s said to help get rid of flaky skin, increase circulation, detoxify, help digestion – and even improve the appearance of cellulite.

But are these claims true?

“Some are true, but definitely not all,” says dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal, MD. Keep reading to discover some helpful dry brushing tips and watch-outs for working on sensitive skin.

Benefits of dry brushing

Dry brushing has gained traction for a reason. The list of benefits include:

Detoxifying the skin

The mechanical action of dry brushing is excellent for exfoliating rough, dry skin, she says. “Dry brushing unclogs pores in the exfoliation process. It also helps detoxify your skin by increasing blood circulation and promoting lymph flow/drainage,” says Dr. Khetarpal. Also, by unclogging pores, it’s easier for the body to sweat and eliminate toxins in your system.

Stimulating the nervous system

Dry brushing can make you feel good since it has the additional benefit of stimulating your nervous system. It can also leave you feeling invigorated like a massage often does.

Giving your skin a more radiant glow

Removing dead skin cells can help make your skin smoother and softer. It can also give your skin a brighter appearance temporarily.

Gentler on your skin than scrubbing in the shower

Hot water inflames your skin and even strips away oils, fats, and proteins that keep your skin healthy. This can cause redness and itching. Brushing your skin while it is dry allows you to exfoliate and increase blood circulation without robbing it of moisture the way the hot water in your shower can.

What brush should I use to dry brush?

To get the benefits of dry brushing you’ll want to use a natural stiff-bristled bath or shower brush, preferably one with a long handle. Some bristles are stiffer than others, and it depends on your skin’s sensitivity and preference. The long handle is helpful for tough-to-reach areas like your back.

Can I dry brush with sensitive skin or other skin conditions?

It’s possible to use a dry brush if you have sensitive skin. For dry brushing to be fully effective, the bristles must generally be pretty firm. But if your skin is too sensitive, you can use a plain, dry washcloth. If you notice redness, swelling or inflammation while brushing, stop right away.

Also, never dry brush over moles, warts, or raised bumps among many other things. See your dermatologist if you have questions.

“Do not use dry brush or cloth on skin that’s broken. This includes cuts, scrapes, lesions, sores or burned skin, including sunburns,” she adds. “Don’t ever brush over areas of infection, redness or general irritation, inflammation, cellulitis or skin cancer. Stop dry brushing if skin becomes irritated or inflamed.”

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Dr. Khetarpal also points out to avoid using a dry brush on your face since the skin is more sensitive than on the rest of your body. “If you want to exfoliate your face, use more gentle products and methods that are designed for specifically for it,” she says.

When should I dry brush?

The best time to dry brush is just before a shower. Then you can wash off any dead skin cells and flaky skin. Be sure to apply lotion afterward to put moisture back into your skin.

How do I dry brush my skin?

If you’re new to dry brushing or not sure if you’ve been doing it correctly, Dr. Khetarpal offers these tips:

  1. Using a natural bristled brush, start from the feet or ankles and work your way upward in long, fluid strokes on limbs.
  2. Next, move the brush in a circular motion on your torso and back.
  3. Since this process can be a little too much for sensitive areas like the abdomen, breasts and neck, lighten up the pressure as needed.
  4. A few overlapping swipes per area is all you need. If you go over the same area for too long, you can cause irritation or bleeding.
  5. Dry brush once a day and shower immediately afterward.

Can dry brushing get rid of cellulite?

There is no proof dry brushing your skin reduces cellulite or the appearance of cellulite — this claim isn’t supported by any scientific evidence.

“It’s likely that what people interpret as cellulite reduction is really just a temporary plumping up of the skin from increased blood circulation,” Dr. Khetarpal says.

“Remember, make sure you begin the process by getting to know your skin first and giving it a look to see if there are any areas to avoid,” she emphasizes. “If you notice any concerning changes in your skin make an appointment with your dermatologist, especially before you begin any change in your skincare routine.”​

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