You’re Brushing What?!
By: Tobi Ash
If you were to ask me what daily wellness and beauty ritual is non-negotiable, I would say brushing. Hair brushing, teeth brushing and dry skin brushing are 3 rituals that I do daily for optimal health. I’m sure most of us agree with hair and teeth brushing, but what is skin brushing?
If you have ever watched animals grooming, they relax completely. This relaxation happens even when they are groomed by non-natural means, such as a human brushing them. Following the animal example, I decided to try dry skin brushing during a very stressful time in my life. Now, I find that when I don’t do it, I miss it, and the serenity it provides.
Our skin is the largest organ of our bodies. Our skin works tirelessly to protect our precious insides, eliminate toxins, and keep our temperature stable. Our skin receives a third of our entire blood supply. How do I show my skin some love? By dry brushing my body.
If you google dry skin brushing, you will find that some claim that it prevents or improves cellulite. This has never been proven in rigorous studies, though there is anecdotal evidence that it may work. Others claim that it improves lymphatic drainage. The lymphatic system is part of the body’s immune system, and most lymph vessels lay just under the skin. People who dry brush say that even light dry skin brushing speeds the movement of lymph through the nodes, ducts and vessels, enhancing the immune system, though this has not been proven either.
A proven benefit is softer, smoother skin, because dry brushing loosens and removes dead skin cells. This exfoliation also cleans out pores, making them appear smaller. You can use a softer, smaller brush for the face—battery powered facial brushes are available for this very purpose. Most people who dry brush daily get the boost of energy from this ritual by stimulating the nerves in the skin. It could be that this careful attention to the entire body, and the movement of the brush, stimulates natural endorphins. I also find that this practice helps me to have a healthy relationship with my body. By giving it daily attention, I notice lumps and bumps and soreness that may never have been seen otherwise. It also sends a message that I am worthy of self-care. It is such a valuable ritual for full body care that takes less than 5 minutes, and the benefits last all day.
Dry brushing is exactly what it sounds like. You use a natural bristle (not synthetic or nylon) skin brush on dry skin, usually before showering. Start with gentle pressure and a soft-bristled skin brush. Always brush towards to your heart. I begin with my feet and work my way upward, with long and smooth strokes up my legs. Then I do my arms, starting on my palms and the back of my hands, working my way up towards the shoulders. Then I do my stomach area, using small circular strokes. Then I do my chest and décolletage area, taking extra care to be gentle, as the skin is much thinner there. Then I do my back, using a long handled brush, working my way from the shoulders downward. My skin flushes a light pink, and then I jump into the shower. I keep lotion in the shower so that when I switch off the shower, while my skin is still wet and I haven’t even stepped out, I moisturize all the areas I brushed.
I wash my brushes about once a month to remove the dead skin cells and replace them about once a year.
A caveat: if you have eczema, acne, sensitive skin or a sunburn, do not dry brush your body. You don’t want itchiness, redness, or any discomfort or pain. Dry skin brushing should feel good. You can try it yourself to see if it works for you.
When I went for my annual skin body-check, the dermatologist kept saying, "Wow the skin on your body is great! What are you doing?” When I told her dry brushing, she said that it is something I should definitely keep up. Dry brushing improves your skin’s appearance, helps to relax and de-stress you and is a beautifying self-care ritual. Add this third brushing to your day!
RN, BSN, MBA is completing her PhD. For more than 25 years, Tobi has been teaching, mentoring, researching and helping women and girls with healthcare issues with competent, compassionate care.