Four or five years ago, dry brushing cropped up as a natural beauty supertrend touting several benefits: accelerated skin cell turnover, increased circulation, improved skin texture, weight loss, de-bloating, fat redistribution, and perhaps most importantly, it's a way to actually help your body cleanse lymph. You don't need to tell me twice! I was convinced it'd be a part of my routine forever—it almost sounded too good to be true.
And it was, to an extent. The actual brushing was invigorating, but I didn't feel the other benefits. Pondering this in the context of a recent yoga training where ayurveda was being discussed, I concluded it was due to my lack of consistency. So I decided to try an experiment (shocker): I dry brushed every single day for a full 30 days. After seeing what my muslin cloth could do to smooth my complexion, dry brushing on the daily must be nothing short of a miracle skin fix.
As with any real-life experiment, there were a few caveats. I didn't have my dry brush available when traveling or showering at the gym, so in those situations I used the bristliest towel I could find or a hairbrush. I tried to remember to brush before showering because I hear that's better, but I'm not perfect. It happened post-shower on a handful of days.
Why do people dry brush?
I'm personally fascinated by the lymphatic system. Lymph is the (totally underrated) circulatory system that works in tandem with our blood. We often hear of it in a negative way, in the context of spreading cancer or a tick bite, but it's always flowing through a healthy system. Lymph is a clear fluid that is separate from blood but contains white blood cells and flows along with it. The lymphatic system is a separate series of vessels that cleans and transports lymph to different parts of the body, and the purpose of dry brushing is to scooch the lymph along, stimulating the vessels to pump it toward the heart for filtering. When lymph flows freely, it is said to boost our immunity and is a sign of good health. We're actually moving our lymph around all the time. Simply breathing moves lymph, as does bouncing on a trampoline, laughing, and other types of exercise.
How to dry brush.
The main rule is to make sure you're brushing toward your heart everywhere except your back. On the back, brush downward toward your kidneys and liver. The idea is to move the lymph along to major organs like the liver and heart, where it will be detoxified, oxygenated, or otherwise rejuvenated. I like starting with my inner feet and brushing in medium-pressure, short, overlapping strokes up toward the core, moving to the inner calves and especially the inner thighs. For the belly, I moved the brush in circular motions both ways in addition to the upward motion. On days when I was feeling a little extra, I'd do my scalp too.
At first, this felt almost too rough—in fact, it would turn red for a few minutes—but it was never uncomfortable for more than a second. Plus, I got used to it.
Here's what happened after 30 days of dry brushing.
If I'm being honest, I still didn't notice a huge difference! My cellulite hasn't budged, my skin texture remains the same, I haven't lost any weight, nor have I noticed feeling any less bloated. I'll admit that most of the aforementioned benefits are internal and unrecognizable, so yes, it's possible that my lymph is cleaner and my body's detox pathways are better supported. In fact, when several friends and colleagues fell ill with stomach flus and sore throats two weeks ago, I escaped unscathed. Was it the dry brushing? I'm keeping up the practice for at least another 30 days to find out if I can avoid the common cold, too.
Want more? Here are nine ways to reset the lymph and reduce bloating.