Dry Brushing Benefits
Published on December 22, 2014
by Dr. Caitlin Gordon

Dry Brushing Benefits

Published on December 22, 2014 by Dr. Caitlin Gordon

woman touches top of feet on dry skin


Dry brushing is one of many trendy ways to detox, banish cellulite, lose 10 lbs, and have a hotter boyfriend. With the same skepticism I shine on things like oil pulling, ear candling, or eating only grass-fed beef and kale for the rest of your life, I wondered if there was any legitimacy to the dry brushing benefits.

Is dry brushing just another wellness gimmick, or is it worthy of adding to your beautifying routine? If I were attached to every potentially healthy habit I am not currently practicing, I would be crushed by guilt-stricken healthy-habit-FOMO (fear of missing out).


So, I set out to find out:

  • Is brushing my skin with a coarse loofah truly going to diminish the dimpled texture of my ass?
  • Will scrubbing my skin with a potato sack-textured device increase circulation and keep my toes and fingers warmer in the winter?
  • Will my skin feel softer, look smoother?
  • Does it cure back acne?
  • Will it prevent ingrown hairs?
  • Does it really promote lymphatic drainage, thus boosting immunity?
  • What does it feel like?

Before I dive into what I discovered…

What is Dry Brushing?

Dry brushing is using a coarse brush like this, to brush across your skin. It is best to start at your feet and brush in long even strokes towards your heart. Avoid broken or irritated skin, your face, your genitals and any varicose veins. Pressure should be firm but not harsh. Your skin will look pink afterward. If you look red or scratched, you have brushed too hard. It is recommended that you dry brush daily to experience the most dry brushing benefits.

Does Dry Brushing Work?

Dry brushing absolutely works to exfoliate your skin. Exfoliating your skin does lead to softer smoother skin, reduction in ingrown hairs, and improved circulation. Stimulating the surface of your skin with dry brushing will increase blood flow, which can help flush toxins out and bring fresh oxygen into cells. There is no magic to this technique though. Rubbing oil all over your body post-shower, jogging up the stairs, or sitting in a sauna all increase blood flow on the surface of your skin as well. Claims that dry brushing will free you of unwanted toxins is a bit misleading. Your liver is the organ most responsible for detoxifying your body, so if your goal is detox, your best bet is to look at your diet and the amount of chemicals your liver needs to process on a daily basis. Your skin does perform some detoxifying functions, like sweating. However, dry brushing is not going to have any effect on your ability to sweat.lymphatic system diagram

Dry brushing can be helpful for reducing acne, as you brush off dead skin cells and improve blood flow which increases skin cell turnover so that blemishes heal more quickly. Improved blood flow, especially on areas like your inner thighs or inner arms, where you might not get a lot of stimulation otherwise, can improve collagen production. More collagen=firmer looking skin and fewer wrinkles. From the perspective of Chinese medicine, dry brushing could be more broadly therapeutic due to stimulating particular organ channels. This, again, is due to blood circulation. Proper circulation is nothing to scoff at. Good circulation supports good health. Poor circulation leads to inflammation, pain, even kidney damage, stroke and other chronic health conditions. This being said, exercise also increases blood flow and is much more impactful for your overall health. If you’re going to choose between dry brushing twice a day for a month or going to the gym a few days a week… please, go to the gym. You will be much happier with your results.

Read more about circulation and your health here.

Dry Brushing Benefits: my experience

I dry brush before I shower. That means I dry brush somewhere between 4 and 7 days a week (no, I do not shower every single day, and there are good arguments for why this is healthy!). I spend 1-3 minutes doing it, it feels invigorating and it’s a nice opportunity to assess what is jiggling most on any given day.

One of the obvious dry brushing benefits is that it does effectively exfoliate my skin. My skin feels softer and smoother when I dry brush and moisturize regularly. I find it helpful for preventing ingrown bikini and armpit hairs. I chalk this up to the exfoliating aspect. Every other dry brushing benefit is so broad, there are too many variables to really narrow down how helpful dry-brushing has been. I tried to take before and after photos to gauge if it diminished the appearance of cellulite, but I just can’t tell. There is no scientific evidence to suggest it would.

Mirror with quote about beauty standardsThe only thing that I am certain reduces the appearance so cellulite (for me), is tons of water, regular exercise, a diet that is low in sugar and processed foods, and realizing that in the scope of things worth caring about, this should rank very low.  I find it has been liberating to release my thighs and glutes from the unrealistic expectation that they must be free of bumps and dimples, and accept them for who they are: large muscles which allow me to run, dance, ski, play, and many other enjoyable activities. I didn’t wear shorts in public from about age 18-24 because I was so worried about how my legs looked. I would not have dreamed of sporting a bikini bottom without a sarong. This is absurd! No more. If my imperfect thighs should offend someone on the beach or the hiker behind me on the trail, well bummer for them. This is not to say that I don’t lament the view in the mirror some days, but I make sure I reality check myself with a big fat: “I am very fortunate. I love my body. My worth is not tied to how I look”. And on with my day I go…

Dry Brushing Alternatives

If dry brushing sounds like a lot of work, you hate the way it feels, or you can’t remember to put your car keys in the same place let alone adopt a new daily habit, don’t despair. There are other ways to experience dry brushing benefits and help improve the texture of your skin, promote circulation and improve lymphatic drainage:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Exercise
  • Healthy Eating: particularly, consuming enough healthy fats. Your omega 3-6 ratio must be balanced, otherwise, your skin will suffer (as well as your heart, and other important stuff). Fats which promote a healthy ratio of omega 3-6 include grass-fed meats, grass-fed butter, coconut oil, avocado, walnuts, flaxseed, pastured eggs, and wild Alaskan salmon.

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