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All-Over Exfoliation: The Basics of Body Brushing

Skin brushing sounds bizarre, but the act of vigorously scrubbing our skin has long been practiced across the world by hundreds of cultures. Body brushing more recently came into acclaim when it became a huge fad — part of the era of juice cleanses and colonics. It drew fans and popularity because of its promise to exfoliate, detoxify, aid digestion, and reduce the appearance of cellulite. So, is the hype too good to be true or should you start body brushing immediately?

Let’s start with the basics. What the heck is body brushing?

Body brushing, also known as skin brushing, is the process of using a coarse, bristled brush (usually made of natural hairs or fibers) on dry skin. When you use short, heavy strokes to brush dry skin, the body gets all the benefits of exfoliation and increased blood circulation without being stripped it of moisture, which is what happens in the hot water of a shower or bath.

Most spas offer body scrub or wrap services that include a body brushing — the invigorating nature of someone else brushing your skin is great, but you can (for the most part) replicate the same feeling at home.

Why does everyone say body brushing is so amazing?

Two main things: Getting rid of dry skin and helping to increase circulation and detoxify the body.

Body brushing can be a great way to slough off dry skin. Again, because you’re exfoliating without exposing your skin to extra hot water, you’re protecting your skin from losing moisture. Pre-shower exfoliating can also help to remove some of the daily dirt that builds up on the skin — a bonus for dry-skinned people everywhere. You still want to make sure to moisturize post-shower, though, to restore that moisture to your skin.

Dry brushing can also increase circulation, which in turn can help to detoxify the body by aiding in lymphatic drainage. This boost in circulation is also why many people who regularly body brush say it makes them feel invigorated.

Does body brushing get rid of cellulite and aid digestion?

Unfortunately, body brushing is not the skin care panacea that many beauty blogs proclaim it to be. There is no direct evidence that dry brushing can or will reduce the appearance of cellulite or aid in digestion. So then why is everyone evangelizing about the merits of body brushing for the elimination of cellulite? It all traces back to the lymphatic system.

The lymphatic system is a part of your body’s immune system. It’s the category your lymph nodes fall into. You know, those little bumps that you can feel in different parts of your body like your neck, lymph channels, spleen, thymus, as well as your tonsils and adenoids.

A 2011 study showed that a specific method of cervical and manual stimulation, the Godoy and Godoy method, could increase lymphatic drainage in a way that has a proven affect on the appearance of cellulite. However, there is no proof that body brushing’s effects on the lymphatic system will affect cellulite in the same way.

As for aiding digestion, there’s no proof of that claim either. These claims probably originated from the idea that stomach brushing may have similar effects to abdominal massage, which can actually aid the digestive system and alleviate constipation.

Okay so, why do we need to body brush?

Even though body brushing isn’t going to fix everything (let this serve as yet another helpful reminder that we should probably stop expecting our beauty habits to be cure-alls!), it is an awesome way to exfoliate that will leave your skin feeling buttery smooth.

Can I give myself a body brushing?

You sure can! All you need is a bristled brush made of natural hairs that you can gently (or vigorously, depending on your tolerance!) stroke over your skin. You can use the brush by itself or spritz a bit of your favorite body oil on the brush. You want to start at your feet and brush upwards, towards the heart. When you reach your arms, you again want to brush towards the heart, so begin at your hands and work upwards to the shoulders. Most methods recommend brushing the stomach in a counterclockwise circle to mimic the methods of abdominal massage. The whole process kind of makes you feel like a really well cared for horse… in the best way possible, of course!

If you have extra sensitive skin, you don’t have to miss out on the exfoliating fun. Instead, swap out the body brush for a washcloth and go to town!

  1. At age 67 going on 68 I am having to get reacquainted with my skin. It has lost elasticity, is very dry and I can see very fine wrinkles and sun damage on my face. Also, new little bumps (milia?). I would love to use the SLMD line but I live in Canada. Please consider a Pretty Pimple about the care and feeding of aging skin. I, at least, would appreciate your take on this. Thanks!

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