Have you ever heard someone rave about dry brushing and wondered exactly what it is? Beloved by the likes of Miranda Kerr and Molly Sims, this centuries-old beauty ritual is majorly trending in the world of body exfoliation, and it just may be the key to unlocking glowing, healthy skin. But are its benefits legit, and how do you ensure you’re getting the most out of this practice? Ahead, we spoke to esthetician Gary Dickman and dermatologist Jeanine Downie to learn all about dry brushing, from what it is to the potential benefits and whether it’s worth it.
Meet the Expert
- Gary Dickman is the former lead esthetician at Ole Henriksen Spa in Los Angeles.
- Jeanine Downie, MD is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in cosmetic dermatology, laser, and dermatologic surgery.
What Is Dry Brushing?
Dry brushing is exactly what it sounds like: an exfoliation method that involves using a body brush to gently massage your skin, which Dickman says helps with radiance, removing dead skin, and increasing the effectiveness of your moisturizer. You'll want to find a body brush with firm, natural bristles and gently massage your body in upward, circular motions—see more detailed instructions below. As the name implies, the brush and your skin should be—you guessed it—dry while you do it.
How to Dry Brush Properly
Dry brushing doesn't mean randomly scrubbing a brush all over your body. Instead, follow the below tips to ensure the practice benefits your skin:
- As mentioned above, the best time for dry brushing is before taking a shower, as you'll be sloughing off dead skin cells that you'll want to rinse away afterwards. You may consider standing in the shower as well for easy cleanup.
- Make sure your skin (and brush) is completely dry. If you don't yet have a brush, one to try is the Joanna Vargas Ritual Brush ($30), although many good options are available with various designs and price points.
- Apply medium pressure—you want your strokes to be firm enough to effectively help with exfoliation, circulation, and drainage, but not abrasive to your skin.
- Dickman recommends starting at your ankle and moving in long, circular motions. A delicate, rhythmic touch is key to getting the most of the benefits. Switch to shorter, quicker movements around your joints.
- Dickman says to move in the direction towards your heart, working your way through each area of the body. Take your time with this—dry brushing is supposed to be a relaxing, rejuvenating part of your body care routine.
- Proceed with your normal shower routine, making sure to take advantage of applying hydrating products, such as Aveeno's Daily Moisturizing Lotion ($13). Following all that exfoliation, your skin will be in prime position to absorb the benefits.
The Benefits of Dry Brushing
While dry brushing isn't the be-all, end-all for attaining perfect skin, and there isn't much research, it may 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 usually isn't a cause for concern. The redness, which is just a bit of inflammation, signals increased circulation—a.k.a. better blood flow—in the areas you've been dry brushing.
- 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 spread 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 temporary plumping effect it has on the skin. Downie notes that the practice can even help reduce the appearance of sun damage.
How Often to Dry Brush
Since dry brushing can leave your skin feeling a little raw (it is full-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. 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 you can transition to one to two times a week.
Risks of Dry Brushing
In general, practice dry brushing (and all exfoliation) with caution, as overdoing it can cause irritation. If your skin skews extra sensitive or you have eczema, psoriasis, or other serious skin conditions, steer clear of dry brushing, as it can exacerbate your issues. Also, brushing too hard, too often can lead to irritated skin. While some redness is normal after dry brushing, skin abrasions aren't the results to expect, so look out for any signs of these. Lastly, if you have an open wound on your skin, avoid the area to avoid introducing bacteria and infection.
Post-dry brushing, be sure to take a shower to rinse off all the dead skin cells. And before heading out for the day, Downie advises using sunscreen—a good option is the La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra Light Sunscreen Spray Lotion ($27)—as the process can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
Who should avoid dry brushing?
Overdoing it with dry brushing can lead to redness, peeling, sensitivity, and even abrasions—especially if you have a condition like eczema, chronically dry skin, or psoriasis, according to Shadoh Punnapuzha, founder of Ayurvedic beauty brand Taïla.
When should 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 let your freshly exfoliated skin absorb maximum nourishment.
Does dry brushing tighten loose skin?
As board-certified dermatologist Michele Green, MD, told us, dry brushing can help your skin appear tighter—but ultimately, it's all temporary. “Having increased circulation from dry brushing will cause vasodilation (that’s when your capillaries widen, causing an increased amount of blood flow in the area),” she explains. “This will cause a temporary plumping up of the skin, making your cellulite appear less visible.”
Cleveland Clinic. The truth about dry brushing and what it does for you.