I never understood what the deal with dry brushing was. It perplexed me. I was simultaneously confused and disinterested by the idea, so much so I elected not to even google the darn thing. I'd hear references to it in mainstream media, and this was, more or less, my thought process: What are you (any of you) talking about? Why would someone take a dry brush and brush their body? I can't. Mentions of lymph nodes and circulation just sounded esoteric and, frankly, false. I was firmly in camp "never trying dry brushing because no/why."
But hey, as I've learned over and over again, you really can never say never—especially as a beauty editor. When I discovered that one of dry brushing's biggest claims to fame is reducing cellulite, I had to put it to the test. Because I'd tried a lot worse than dry brushing in the name of less cellulite. So does it work?
I ordered a dry brush off Amazon, but you can purchase one at a local health food store or even Whole Foods. The ones with handles are supposed to be long so that you can flop it over your back and get hard-to-reach places, which I quickly learned you very much need. However, a palm brush works well too, depending on your flexibility. Experts say you can dry brush either before or after the shower, just that either way, your skin has to be dry. Not a lick of moisture, or the dry brushing isn't going to be effective.
I worked off a little pamphlet that a friend gave me, with instructions on how and where you're supposed to dry brush. I did it for the first time after a shower, at night, when my skin was fully and completely dry. Here is what I did.
• I brushed the entire foot area, from toes toward ankle, including the sides, the soles, and inner and outer ankles, three times. I alternated sides, so left, then right, three times.
• Then I brushed upward from ankle to knee on all sides (three times each side).
• From the knee upward to the top of the thigh, inner thigh, front, outer, and back (three times each side).
• Then I brushed the inner groin fold in circular motions on each side (three times each).
• Then my abdomen, starting with the right groin, moving in big clockwise circles toward the heart (three times).
• My lower back toward my upper back in upward strokes right to left (three times).
• Each side, and under and over each breast in motions toward the heart (three times).
• From fingertips to wrist, wrist to elbow, and elbow to shoulder (on either side three times).
• Under each armpit in circular motions (three times each side).
• My upper back area, from the center toward the outer shoulder (three times, each side).
• The front of my neck in clockwise circles (three times).
And that was that. It took about 10 minutes start to finish, and I was confused from the very beginning by how unpleasant the experience was. Dry brushing hurts! My body skin isn't super-sensitive, but those bristles are tough, and I cannot say I enjoyed it. My skin got red, and I began wondering if I was going to regret dry brushing—I would've been upset if my skin was going to be itchy and irritated the rest of the night. Luckily that didn't happen; there were no lingering effects of the dry brushing.
General recommended guidance is starting out at one to two times a week, so that's just what I did. After two weeks, I increased to three times a week and tried alternating before the shower and in the morning.
That brings us to the end of my experiment. After a month of dry brushing, I have unfortunate news: I am sad to report this, but I cannot say I noticed a single visible improvement in the cellulite on my outer thighs. I wish I could say otherwise, but dry brushing didn't do a thing for the unfortunate affliction that is cellulite. That said, I came to quite enjoy the routine, and perhaps it was psychological, but I did feel like I was doing something genuinely good for my body—something almost therapeutic and healthy, like stretching, meditating, or exercising.
Even in the morning, it felt like energizing me for the day ahead; at night it felt like I was brushing away the toxins and stress of the day. Ultimately, I don't see any real downside to dry brushing other than maybe the time it takes. However, I certainly am not its most passionate fan.