On the surface, dry skin body brushing is an effective and quick addition to any self-care routine for smoother skin. But the effects can go deeper.

Dry skin body brushing, or garshana, is a cleansing ritual performed in Ayurveda, the natural healing system originating in ancient India. This holistic practice bases our physical, emotional and spiritual states as equally important aspects in overall wellbeing.

Skin is the largest organ in the human body. Caring for it with a cleansing, dry brush-out not only leaves the body feeling invigorated but can also refresh the mind.

Why Dry Skin Body Brush?

While there may be little scientific research to prove the benefits of dry skin body brushing, the wealth of anecdotal praise born from real experience says something.

We can theorise based on what we know about the nature of the body and its systems, and we can also incorporate the practice into our own rituals and add to the discussion. Read below for some incentives.

Exfoliate

The firm bristles of the brush exfoliate the skin as they unclog pores and sweep away dull, flaky and dead skin cells. This leaves skin feeling softer and smoother as well as encouraging cellular renewal.

De-clutter Body & Mind

As you brush away the dead skin cells that are no longer needed, imagine you are sweeping out old thoughts and beliefs that no longer serve you; declutter physically and mentally.

Engage with each brush stroke mindfully and try repeating some positive affirmations that are relevant to you to focus your intention further.

Dry brushing the skin stimulates the nervous system, helping to re-energize physical sensations of stagnancy. Channel this rejuvenation to a foggy mental state too.

Increase Circulation

The swift strokes of dry brushing stimulate blood flow and circulation. This is important for making sure skin cells receive the nutrients they need and regulating body temperature in general.
From a cosmetic viewpoint, good circulation encourages healthy, glowing skin and an even skin tone while discouraging premature aging and wrinkling of the skin.

Relax

The process of dry body brushing is pleasant in itself and leaves many feeling relaxed afterwards, a little like that post-massage tranquility you may have experienced. Your body knows it is centre-stage being taken care of, and that alone can bring a sense of calm and relaxation.

Set yourself up to enhance the relax-factor as part of a sensory experience; dim the lights, burn essential oils, light candles, play music… or whatever helps you to unwind.

Summary: Dry skin body brushing has physical benefits like exfoliation and increasing circulation. It can also help you to relax and clear the mind when done with intention.

Let’s Discuss the Myths

Brush for dry massage

Repeated words can soon snowball into widely accepted beliefs, or misbeliefs, depending on your stance.

Modern science questions the grounds of natural medicine systems and ancient wisdom with research, and validates them with facts.

Let’s put some popular dry skin body brushing claims under the microscope.

Lymphatic Stimulation?

The Lymphatic system is a clever disposal design that’s responsible for helping the body to fight infections. Lymph nodes are distributed throughout the body and help to filter toxins and waste from bodily tissues.

When we fall ill or are exposed to a lot of toxins, the system can get clogged up and this manifests as swollen lymph nodes – you’ll have likely experienced this with a common cold.

It is supposed that dry body brushing can encourage lymph fluids to circulate and increase lymphatic drainage, however there is little evidence to support this and logically the nodes would need more direct pressure to be stimulated.

Quick Body Detox?

Dry body brushing is also thought to stimulate and open up pores, to more effectively sweat out toxins from the body. In reality, internal organs like the liver and kidneys are the body’s primary toxin-removers.[1]

Similarly, the main function of sweating is to cool down the body rather than remove toxics from the bloodstream, and there’s very little research that credits dry skin body brushing as a method to detox the body.

This assumed benefit may also be linked to the idea that dry brushing stimulates the lymphatic system, which removes waste materials from the body, a.k.a ‘detoxes’ the body.

Smoothes Cellulite?

Another claim of dry skin body brushing is that it can smooth out the dimpled effects of cellulite.

Cellulite is made from fat and collagen-bands under the skin that, realistically, cannot be redistributed by brushing. The idea that it can, likely comes from the temporary plumping effect of the skin due to increased circulation.

Although this could provide a short-term change to the appearance of cellulite, it’s more effective and liberating to work on healing any self-negative feelings in the first place, and accept our amazing bodies as they are.

Summary: Some believe dry skin body brushing helps lymphatic drainage, detoxifies the body and smoothes out cellulite, however there is little supporting evidence.

How to Dry Brush Your Skin

Cropped view of young woman using dry massage brush

What You’ll Need

You’ll need a dry brush made from natural fibres and a body with dry skin. It’s important to be completely dry so as not to lose moisture as you exfoliate and increase circulation.

Brushes with a long handle can help to reach more out of the way areas of the body like the back. If you plan to treat your face it’s advised to buy a smaller, softer brush or even just use a dry washcloth.

As dry brushing has become a popular practice, it’s easy to find lots of brush options online or in health and wellness shops.

Brush Strokes

Some areas of the body, like the stomach and chest, are more sensitive than others so listen to yourself and vary the pressure as needed – keep in your mind that it should never hurt.

Treat it as a mindfulness exercise to get to know your sensitive spots, start out gentle and with more practice you might increase the pressure as you get used to it.

As a general rule of thumb use long, sweeping strokes on arms and legs, and circular strokes on your stomach and joints. A few swipes on each patch will be enough in order to not irritate or break the skin.

Work Up

Start at your feet and work with upwards strokes, moving up the body. Apply lighter pressure to areas of thin skin and firmer pressure to areas of thick skin like the soles of the feet.

After brushing your feet, legs and torso, move to the arms and brush towards the armpits.

Summary: When dry skin body brushing, start at the feet and move up; listen to yourself and vary the pressure on tougher/sensitive areas of skin. Move with long strokes on arms and legs, and circular strokes on the stomach and joints.

How Often

Daily dry skin body brushing is the ideal, but doing it 2-3 times a week will provide benefits. Each session should only take around 5 minutes.

If possible, brush before you shower to then wash off the dead skin cells you’ve dislodged for maximum smoothness.

Precautions

Be cautious with sensitive skin. If the bristles are just too much despite light pressure, swap to a washcloth following the same sequence and work up to a firmer pressure.

Be sure to never dry brush over any type of broken, irritated or inflamed skin. This includes scrapes, sunburn, infections and skin affected by conditions like eczema and psoriasis.

After-Care

You might like to follow up dry skin body brushing with a body balm or oil to ensure your skin is left with enough moisture. Olive oil and coconut oil are lovely natural choices.

If you can, create the time to lie down or sit and meditate in the mental and physical afterglow.

Summary: It’s safe to dry skin body brush daily – take extra care with sensitive skin and never brush on broken, irritated or inflamed skin. You can follow up the session with moisturing oils and a moment of quiet.

Conclusion

Dry body brushing is a simple, quick and enjoyable practice to include in daily cleansing rituals to exfoliate the skin, improve circulation and simultaneously invigorate and relax the body.

You can enhance the experience by setting up a relaxing space and bringing a mindful quality to your brush strokes. Cultivating the time to care for yourself in this way also brings a sense of mental calm and the sentiment of being taken care of.

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