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Dry Brushing 101: Everything You Need to Know for Glowing Skin

Dry brushing

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We tend to take note of anything perpetually glowy-skinned supermodels like Miranda Kerr and Molly Sims swear by, even if it's something as enigmatic as dry brushing. Chances are that you've heard at least a little about this centuries-old beauty ritual, which has been a celebrity favorite for years. But the question remains: Is dry brushing the key to unlocking beaming, beautiful skin? Can it actually improve your overall health? And what are the legitimacies of all of the dry brush benefits we so often hear? Instead of blindly grabbing the first brush we could find and scrubbing away, we enlisted the help of esthetician Gary Dickman and dermatologist Jeanine Downie to fill us in on how to dry brush, if it's worth enduring, and of course, whether or not it can actually get us Miranda Kerr's effortless, natural glow.

Meet the Expert

  • Gary Dickman is the former lead esthetician at Ole Henriksen Spa in Los Angeles.
  • Jeanine Downie is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in cosmetic dermatology, laser, and dermatologic surgery. 

Below, we share our tips on how to dry brush and how it can benefit your skin.

What is Dry Brushing?

Dry brushing is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You take a body brush (look for one with firm, natural bristles) and use it to gently massage your body in an upward motion. Dickman says this process brightens the skin and also makes your moisturizer more effective, as it sloughs off dead skin. And as the name implies, the brush and your skin should be—you guessed it—dry while you do it.

The Benefits of Dry Brushing

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While dry brushing isn't the be-all end-all for attaining perfect skin, it does have its own set of benefits, from plumping to exfoliating.

  • Boosts circulation: If you've noticed that your skin is red after dry brushing, it's not just a result of irritation, and it actually isn't a cause for concern. The redness, which is just a bit of inflammation, is the result of increased circulation in the areas you've been dry brushing. Your body is simply pushing more blood to those areas.
  • Aids with lymphatic drainage: Aside from leaving you with glowing skin, Dickman notes that dry brushing can encourage lymphatic drainage. All blood carries lymph fluid, which filters through the lymph nodes. Dry brushing speeds up the rate of blood pumping, which helps get the lymph through the body, therefore removing toxins and pathogens more quickly.
  • Exfoliates dead skin: As with all methods of exfoliating, dry brushing gets rid of the day's dirt and oil as well as dead skin cells. The result is increased cell turnover and more radiant, smooth skin.
  • Plumps the skin: Many swear their cellulite is less noticeable after dry brushing, due to the plumping effect it has on the skin. Downie notes that it can even help with the appearance of sun damage.

Dry Brushing Steps

There's a method to dry brushing and it doesn't involve randomly scrubbing a brush all over your body. Here are the proper steps to take note of:

  1. To dry-brush properly, first make sure your skin is completely dry.
  2. Starting at your ankle, Dickman recommends moving your brush over your skin in long, circular motions that go in the direction of your heart.
  3. Maintain a slightly firm pressure as you dry brush.

You can dry-brush at any time of day, but Downie recommends doing it right before you shower. After you rinse off, slather on a moisturizer to seal in all of your hard work.

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How Often Should You Dry Brush?

Since dry brushing can leave your skin feeling a little, shall we say, raw (it is total-body exfoliation, after all), it's up to you (and the strength of your skin) to decide how often to do it. As a general rule of thumb, though, Downie recommends dry brushing no more than one to two times per week. And don't forget to wash your brush with baby shampoo at least twice a month to get rid of all of that dead skin buildup.

If you have ultra-sensitive skin, try dry brushing once every couple of weeks. If you build up a tolerance to it successfully, then transition to one to two times a week.

Are There Risks to Dry Brushing?

Dry Brushing - How to Exfoliate
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In general, exfoliation should be done with caution. If your skin skews extra sensitive or you're struggling with eczema, psoriasis, or other serous skin conditions, steer clear of dry brushing as it can exacerbate your issues and cause further irritation. Also, brushing too hard, too often can lead to irritated skin. While you'll notice your skin will redden after dry brushing, skin abrasions aren't the results to expect. Lastly, if you have an open wound on your skin, avoid this area to avoid introducing bacteria and infection.

The Aftercare

Post-dry brushing, be sure to take a shower to rinse off all the dead skin cells. And if you plan on heading out for the day, Downie advises to use sunscreen, as the process can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.

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