Dry body brushing is a method of body exfoliation that has been practiced for centuries in many cultures, but is having a resurgence as of late thanks to the booming wellness movement. The treatment is done at home or in a spa by a professional by buffing dry skin with a special exfoliating brush to slough off the top layer of dead skin cells, smoothing its texture.
But is it worth trying (and swapping out your body scrub), safe for your skin, and even a so-called miracle cure for cellulite? “There are many touted benefits of dry body brushing, but not all have real scientific data to support them,” says Shari Marchbein, M.D., a dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at NYU School of Medicine in New York City. Here’s what you need to know:
What are the benefits of dry body brushing?
Dry body brushing is said to energize the body, increases circulation and blood flow, and stimulates drainage from the lymphatic system to smooth skin’s surface, sweep away flakes and dry patches, and even out lumps and bumps, including cellulite. Any type of exfoliation can usually help to prevent ingrown hairs as well, by clearing dead skin cells that can trap hair under skin’s surface.
“The buildup of dead skin cells can make skin look dull and lackluster,” Dr. Marchbein explains. “Sloughing them off using a brush, which is a physical exfoliator, can reveal softer, smoother and more luminous skin.” Similar to how exfoliators work for the face, “dry body brushing also allows the skin to more effectively absorb moisturizers applied afterward,” she says.
Does body brushing reduce cellulite?
It’s no miracle cure for cellulite or “detoxifying” skin after all. “There is no scientific data to support claims like increased lymphatic drainage, removal of toxins from skin, or lasting changes to the appearance of cellulite,” Dr. Marchbein says.
“Cellulite occurs when fat protrudes through the fibrous connective tissue bands underneath the skin, and although dry brushing may cause the skin to swell, temporarily reducing cellulite’s appearance, this technique won’t produce any permanent changes to it.”
Is dry body brushing safe for everyone?
Anyone with skin sensitivity. “I do not recommend dry brushing for those with very sensitive skin or eczema,” Dr. Marchbein explains, “as it may cause significant irritation, redness, and worsening of these conditions.”
For a gentler body exfoliation method, try a body scrub with small exfoliating particles in a cream formula, like the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab and Dr. Marchbein’s pick, Dove Exfoliating Body Polish.
How many times a week should you dry brush your skin?
“As long as it’s not causing skin irritation, it’s safe to do daily if desired,” Dr. Marchbein says. “Though I personally recommend exfoliating no more than three times per week, and once per week is even sufficient for most people.”
The best way to dry brush is to glide the body brush over dry skin using “gentle pressure and long, sweeping motions, moving toward the heart (feet up to thighs, hands up to underarms, etc.),” Dr. Marchbein recommends, rather than circular motions. “Be very careful around more sensitive, thinner-skinned body parts such as the breasts.” To clean your body brush, rinse with water, then hang to dry.
Do I have to shower after dry body brushing?
No, you don’t have to shower after dry body brushing unless you’d like to, so you can do it any time of day. That said, it’s likely easiest to incorporate into your routine before a shower or bath, or when you’re changing in the morning or evening. Dry body brushing does have an invigorating feeling on skin, an effect that can help wake up your senses in the morning.
How to choose the best dry body brush
Body brushes can be constructed with materials like wood and synthetic or natural bristles made from plant fibers like sisal (derived from agave). Choose a bristle brush with a long handle to help reach areas like the back; a round shape without a handle can be easier to grip. See the GH Beauty Lab’s dry body brush picks below for options of different designs, including wooden brushes and long-handled versions, at a variety of price points.