Beauty & The Body Brush: The Health Benefits of Dry Brushing
Happy Spring (Almost) Everyone! Sure doesn't feel like spring here in northern, coastal Maine . . . brrr! The ground is white, thickly covered with crusty snow, and the wind is brisk! I'm thinking spring, though! I don't know about you, but by the time the end of winter rolls around, the skin on my legs, arms, and back is displaying signs of dryness - feels tight and itchy at times, too. All that dehydrating, warm, indoor heated air and exposure to the outdoor cold, arid environment is enough to suck the life out of my skin, especially if I've neglected to give it proper care throughout the cold season.
Today, I want to talk to you about how to get the skin on your body in tip-top shape by adopting a traditional body-brushing technique. And, if you perform this routine several times per week, I can almost guarantee that you'll never suffer from dry skin again!
As a licensed holistic esthetician, one of my favorite health-promoting rituals, which I encourage my clients to follow at least three times per week, and one that I enjoy nearly every morning, just prior to showering, is body brushing or skin brushing (sometimes also referred to as dry brushing because it's performed on dry skin).
Over the course of an average day, your skin eliminates more than a pound of waste, including perspiration. In fact, about one third of all the body's impurities are excreted this way. If your skin is not carrying out normal elimination due to basic neglect of hygiene; illness; dry skin buildup; medication side effects; repeated application of mineral oil-based, pore-clogging body lotions or waterproof chemical-based sunscreens; or nutritional deficiencies; then your kidneys, large intestine, liver, and lungs may be operating on a sub-par level.
Dry brushing - a health-enhancing, age-old tradition undergoing a renaissance in today's wellness spas - takes only about five minutes before showering or bathing. It works by stimulating the sebaceous glands, thereby encouraging natural lubrication of your skin; removing the top layer of dead cells, leading to significant exfoliation and skin that's polished and silky; improving circulation and increasing blood flow to the surface of the body; and activating the entire lymphatic system, thereby aiding in natural detoxification.
Another benefit that I've noticed is improved tone in the "jiggle-prone" parts of my body: upper arms and inner thighs. In addition, my complexion is rosier, body lotions and oils penetrate more easily; and - a bonus I didn't expect - it doesn't take me 30 minutes to wake up in the morning, like it used to! For me, dry brushing is equivalent to a shot of espresso. Not bad for a five-minute beauty treatment!
Though you can indulge yourself at a high-end spa and sign up for their luxurious dry brushing treatment, the benefits will be short-lived. Why? Because ideally you need to perform this treatment daily, or at least three times per week - the benefits are cumulative. You'll simply feel better and your skin will function better the more frequently you dry brush at home.
If you have my best-selling book, Organic Body Care Recipes (Storey Publishing 2007), the procedure will be outlined on pages 36-38, and you can also find it in my soon-to-be-published book, Pure Skin (Storey Publishing, September 2018) - available for pre-order now through www.amazon.com. But, for those of you who don't own a copy of "Organic Body Care Recipes", I will detail the procedure for you below. Here's a photo of what a good body brush looks like, and you should be able to find one at a bath and body shop, better health food store, or whole food grocer.
Dry Brushing 101
It will take your skin a while to get used to being brushed. Here's how to do it: Using a medium-soft, natural-fiber brush the size of your palm, preferably with an 8" to 10" handle, simply brush your entire body - don't skip any areas except your face, crotch (and breasts, if you're a woman) - for five minutes or so, depending on body size. Do not brush hard - you'll have to start very gently at first (even more so if you have very sensitive skin) and work your way up to more vigorous brushing. Never scrub, however, your skin is NOT the tub! Always remember to brush toward your heart as much as possible.
Begin by brushing your hands, including the "webs" or area between the fingers, then work upward to your arms, underarms, neck, chest, and upper back. Next move on to each leg, beginning with the feet and working upward toward the groin (but not actually brushing your delicate private areas), buttocks, lower back, and sides. End at your stomach, using a spiral motion radiating from your right to your left to brush this area. That's it!
You'll feel wonderfully invigorated when you're finished, and your skin will glow. If you're just beginning, your skin may be a bit red immediately afterward, but as it adjusts and becomes more acclimated to the treatment, only a pinkish tinge (depending on your pigmentation) will remain for about five minutes until circulation calms. If your skin remains red or pink for a longer period, or feels irritated, then either the brush bristles are too firm or you're brushing way too hard. Note: Avoid dry brushing altogether if your skin is sunburned, windburned, rashy, or otherwise irritated.
As a final step, jump in the tub or shower and bathe as usual. All of the dead skin you just loosened will be rinsed away. Afterward, be sure to pat - not rub - your skin until it's almost dry, and then apply your favorite body oil or moisturizer - it will sink right in because there's no layer of dead, dry skin to block it's beneficial nourishment! It's a good idea to wash your body brush with mild soap and water every week or so to keep it free of odor and skin debris. I hope you'll try dry brushing, it'll make you feel oh-so-good!