Illustration by Danielle Moalem


What’s The Deal With Dry Brushing?

We chat with experts about what you should know

Not a lot of imagination went into coining the term "dry brushing." It’s exactly what you think it is: brushing your skin while it's dry. While at first, the act might seem like a particularly masochistic way of torturing yourself, have we not done far more painful things in the name of beauty? Yes. Yes, we have. And very few of those have had as many unexpectedly beneficial aspects as dry brushing.

Beyond merely exfoliating and sloughing off dead skin, dry brushing is good for stimulating the lymphatic and circulatory systems, says Megan Linney, spa director at The Spa at Red Rock by Well & Being. She adds: “It’s really great for detoxification. It’s great for [reducing] the appearance of cellulite. It’s great for the general restoration of blood flow and circulatory stimulation, and it helps with the digestive system.”

But why is it so important that we brush while dry? It turns out, that if you brush while in the shower, you’ll do a great job of smoothing out your skin, but that’s about it.

“Superficially, sure, it’s great, but that’s called a scrub, and there’s a million billion wonderful ones out there,” Linney says. “Dry brushing is really the dry interaction, letting the bristles do the work, and then a light movement towards heart so that the lymphatic and circulatory systems, which are more delicate, can be stimulated.” The key is to do it right before showering and, preferably, in the morning, says Linney.

The manner in which you’re brushing is also of utmost importance. Linney suggests using circular clockwise brush strokes around the joints (ankles, knees, elbows, wrists). And then using long brush strokes up toward the heart for the rest of the body. Starting at your feet and working your way up is a good technique, says RealSelf contributor Dr. Sejal Shah. “Be sure not to use too much pressure or too stiff a brush; there should never be any skin pain, breakage, or redness,” she says. 

Speaking of brushes, you want one that’s firm but not too abrasive. If you’re dry brushing and it hurts, then you’re either pressing too hard or you have too strong of a bristle, Linney says. (Some good options are this one and this one.) But the brush you use really comes down to personal preference and how it feels in your hand. “Grab the handle of the brush. If it’s a paddle brush, slip your hand into the strap. Does it feel comfortable? Does it feel right in your hand? If it does, then you’re more likely to use it, and I think that’s just as important as the bristle, as opposed to the brand.”

Another factor that helps with results: consistency. “Doing it daily is the number one way to actually see the benefits,” Linney says. “If you’re doing it once every 10 days or a couple times a month because you just remembered it’s good for you, you’re probably not going to see any real benefits.” 

That said, Dr. Shah recommends gauging how much your skin can handle before incorporating it into your everyday shower routine. “Brushing too frequently or aggressively or using a brush that it too rough or stiff can cause micro-injury that can lead to infection as well as irritation and dryness,” she says. If you’re using other exfoliating products, she also says to be careful doing both too often.

Linney puts out her own disclaimer on who should and shouldn’t be taking on the method: “It’s not really to be done on any skin that’s sunburned, or has abrasions, cuts, eczema, rashes, psoriasis, or anything like that.”

After 30 days of incorporating dry brushing into your routine, Linney says, you can expect to feel more energized and perhaps even stave off common ailments like colds more easily. Your skin should also feel softer and, Linney claims, you might notice a diminished appearance of cellulite.

Oh! Just don't forget the ever-important, post-shower moisturizing step. It’s especially key after giving your skin a rub down. Now, go forth and dry brush. Your mornings—and, like, your everything else—will be all the better for it.