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I’m surprised I didn’t talk about dry brushing a few years ago! Gwyneth Paltrow herself was raving about the benefits of dry brushing the skin all the way back in 2016, and many sources since then have been touting skin brushing as the secret to achieving the body of a celeb.
I don’t know about you, but when the founder of Goop tells me I ought to try something I immediately go out and… do some research. Let’s face it, I’m as far from the crunchy granola holistic type as a beauty blogger can get.
While I am quite skeptical, I’m also open-minded, so I didn’t write off dry brushing right away, and I’m happy I didn’t. While some benefits might be way overblown, the fact of the matter is that body brushing might have its place in your beauty routine!
I’ve collected the 5 best dry brushing tools you can try, so you can get the jump on giving yourself this unique treatment. Then I explain exactly what body brushing is, and get into its benefits.
This article is not without criticism, however, as I do get into the drawbacks of dry brushing and the hype around it. To finish things off, I’ve included a guide on how to dry brush effectively, including a few tips and tricks to keep your skin smooth and glowing.
Your Guide to Dry Brushing: Contents
- 5 Best Dry Brushing Tools to Try
- What Is Dry Brushing and What Does It Do to Your Skin?
- Dry Brushing Benefits for Skin
- Are There Drawbacks to Dry Brushing Skin?
- How to Dry Brush Your Skin Effectively?
- Other Body Brushing Tips to Know
For that thorough body exfoliation, here you have the best dry brushes to try skin brushing!
1. Aromatherapy Associates Polishing Body Brush
This lovely little brush is vegan, made from rounded agave cactus bristles that will slough off dead skin without scratching or hurting. It is quite firm so it gives a thorough exfoliation, though it’s easy to hold so you can also control it to avoid overdoing the brushing. It is well worth the price since it is super well-made and won’t shed bristles or fall apart. Order it online from Amazon!
2. Elemis Skin Brush
Body brushing with this cactus-bristle brush from Elemis will really make you feel like you’re taking care of yourself. This vegan brush is perfectly made to exfoliate the skin without being too rough or irritating. It comes with a 14-inch handle that you can use for dry brushing the harder-to-reach spots, but it can be removed for brushing the skin easily elsewhere. Buy it from Nordstrom!
3. The Organic Pharmacy Skin Brush
This is another durable and long-lasting dry brush worth investing in. It comes with a detachable handle, so it’s definitely ideal for scrubbing the back or behind, but just be careful that it doesn’t fall off. Like many other options on this list, it is vegan. The bristles themselves are fairly gentle, but still avoid going too rough. It is available through Dermstore.
4. Skin Gym Dry Body Brush
This brush is shaped a little different from the others on this list, but it is still exceptional. Made of vegan cactus fibers, it gives a wonderful exfoliation. The brush handle on it is not detachable, but it’s also not overly long so you’ll definitely find it easy to use. You can get it at Nordstrom.
5. Mio Body Brush
Don’t let the lower price fool you – this is still an excellent option for body brushing. This brush is made with boar bristles, which do shed a bit, but it also has little rubber nodes that give a nice little massage to the skin. It’s a great option if you need a second brush for traveling or taking to the gym, since it comes without a bulky handle. It’s sold online through Amazon.
Dry brushing is pretty self-explanatory. Body brushing refers to the practice of massaging or rubbing the skin with a dry, short-bristled brush. The brushing is done to the whole body, with the exception of the face and neck, to exfoliate the skin and stimulate blood circulation.
In Ayurveda, the practice is called garshana and it usually utilizes abrasive silk gloves, though it can also feature a brush. It’s a simple process of massage and exfoliation, though many sources make it sound as though it’s much more complex or beneficial than it truly is.
There are other benefits often touted for body brushing, like reduction in cellulite, improved lymphatic drainage, and detoxification. There is little to no evidence that dry brushing can actually have such effects, but I go into more detail about that later on.
Despite my reservations and annoyance with some of the claims around body brushing, it is undeniable that this practice has some valuable skin benefits!
Exfoliation (i.e. the removal of dead skin cells from the top layer of skin) is the main purpose of dry brushing, and it has its own host of benefits to the skin. Now, you can certainly exfoliate the skin with all manner of body scrubs or acid-based lotions, but dry scrubbing does stand out as a uniquely thorough body exfoliation method.
Since the skin is dry when it brushed, the abrasion ends up being a little bit stronger than it would be with an in-shower scrub, so more dead skin can be removed. This is a double-edged sword, since this also means that you can easily over-exfoliate your skin with dry brushing. If you have very rough skin or months of dead skin build-up, then you should definitely consider giving dry brushing a try.
The benefits of regular exfoliation are plentiful, since shedding dead skin is an integral part of optimal skin functioning. Skin that is regularly exfoliated is smoother and more luminous. It does a better job of absorbing body moisturizers and creams, so it is less dry and dehydrated.
Those with keratosis pilaris or who are prone to getting ingrown hairs will especially benefit from regular exfoliation with a dry brush.
● Invigorating Massage
The slight pressure of the brush against the skin during skin brushing also has some benefits. It gives the skin a sort of massage that encourages blood to flow under the skin and is also reported to have an invigorating effect. This is not going to magically transform your skin or allow you to skip that cup of coffee, but will certainly have a short-term skin-boosting and energizing effect.
● Self-Care Ritual
Even those of us who are diligent with our facial care routine may occasionally forget to pay attention to our body, so starting a regular dry brushing routine can be a great way of practicing self-care and not neglecting the body. Beyond the practical benefits to the skin, there are some ritual elements to dry brushing, like the idea of always starting at the feet and working towards the heart that can definitely be considered meditative and spiritual. Through dry brushing you can connect a bit with your body.
After talking about some pretty benefits of routine dry brushing, I want to talk about a super practical one. If you use self-tanner, you know the conflicted suggestions that you must apply it to recently exfoliated yet dry skin, with only dry areas like elbows and knees moisturized.
However, there aren’t a lot of ways of exfoliating the skin without getting it wet or using body oils – dry brushing, however, is the exception. Try using a dry brush right before applying self-tanner, for the smoothest, most even faux tan possible.
● Eco- and Budget-Friendly
Most of the skin benefits of dry brushing also apply to other types of body scrubs, but where dry brushes stand out is their non-disposable nature. Dry brushes are very durable (especially the ones we recommend), and as long as you take proper care of your brush you will only have to replace it every couple of years.
This is much better than having to buy a new bottle or jar of body scrub every few months! That being said, if you make your own body scrub at home, then you are reducing the amount of waste you create and the amount of money you spend. I suspect that the two exfoliation methods are about on par, and I’m happy to recommend both!
I think the greatest drawback to dry brushing the skin would be the discovery that it’s not actually as magical as some sources suggest. There is nothing about dry brushing that makes it more effective than any other physical exfoliant for the body. It’s not going to get rid of your cellulite or drain your lymph nodes, but then again, I can assure you that neither will some Australian coffee scrub.
I take personal offense to all of the pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo that is often associated with skin brushing, which is an otherwise beneficial practice. The dry brushing trend is inadvertently contributing to some serious misinformation about how our bodies function.
Dry brushing is said to help “detoxify” the body or skin, which is totally ridiculous since the only way in which our bodies detoxify through the skin is via sweating, and even that’s pretty minor. Our kidneys and liver are the organs responsible for clearing toxins, and dry brushing isn’t going to impact them at all.
This kind of talk also contributes to the rampant misuse of the term “toxin,” which refers to biologically-produced poisons and not any old chemical that some random beauty blogger has been convinced is harmful.
Beyond that, dry brushing can definitely irritate sensitive or delicate skin if done too frequently or too aggressively. That is why we recommend you only do it two or three times a week, and that you make sure to be gentle and not use too much force.
However, if your skin is extremely delicate and this is still too rough, then you can skip dry brushing altogether and opt for gentler exfoliation methods.
● Most sources suggest dry brushing in the morning, but we don’t think it matters too much. It does seem like doing it right before a shower is the best time.
● For most people, body brushing three times a week is the perfect amount. If your skin is on the thicker side you might be able to dry brush more often, while if your skin is delicate or sensitive you will want to do it less frequently.
● Go about dry brushing methodically, starting at the feet and working your way upwards.
● The common suggestion is that you brush upwards towards your heart. While it definitely sounds romantic, it’s also practical! By brushing upwards, you are also lifting up the hairs on your body and getting under them, ensuring a more thorough exfoliation.
● Pull the brush upward and go over the skin with short slightly overlapping brush strokes, working your way up and not forgetting the back parts.
● Apply just a little bit of pressure while brushing; enough so that you can feel the abrasion, but not so much that it scratches or hurts your skin.
● You might find that you have to adjust your pressure depending on which part of your body you are brushing. The arms and legs can usually tolerate more pressure, while the stomach or chest are more sensitive and require gentle treatment.
● If you hit a spot on your body where you have a lot of dead skin build-up, you can go over it a few more times in circular motions, in order to get a more thorough exfoliation.
● Once you are done dry brushing, you can take a shower, preferably with lukewarm or cool water, as hot water might damage or sting your freshly scrubbed skin.
● After your shower, while your skin is still damp, apply a healthy layer of moisturizer or body oil. This will help lock all of the moisture from the shower into your skin and will also help fortify your skin after the exfoliation. The moisturizer should sink in easily, leaving your skin super soft, thanks to the dry brushing.
● The best place to do your skin brushing is the shower. You can expect a lot of dead skin to fall off during your first-time skin brushing, so by doing so in the shower or tub you can ensure easy clean-up.
● If your skin is a little sensitive and you find dry brushing too abrasive, you don’t have to give up on it just yet. Try adding a few drops of oil to your brush or skin before brushing. This will allow for an easier, gentler glide.
● Don’t forget to clean your dry brush! Since you use it dry it’s not going to hold on to a lot of bacteria, but you still want to keep it clean. Give it a rinse with warm water and some soap at least once every two weeks or so (and more frequently if you’re using it with oil). Allow it to dry by placing it bristles down on a towel.
Photos via @juorchid, @alina.anisenko, @marta.frankov, @alexandrarepa, @iamliluu