It’s easy to do, only needs a 5$ tool and is purported to do everything from cleansing the lymphatic system, strengthening the immune system and reducing the signs of aging to removing cellulite. So why isn’t everyone “dry brushing”?
Because it’s nuts, that’s why. I am not a Pretty Pony. (Not for lack of trying when I was younger…)
But is it really? It’s been on my radar for awhile, mentally filed under Slightly Kooky But Not Harmful Things Health Nuts Do Sometimes (right next to Neti pots and lion breathing), but I honestly hadn’t given it much serious thought until I was chatting with Jen Sinkler, the fitness editor for one of my fave mags ever Experience Life (note: if you are not reading this, you should be – it’s one of the best researched, most diverse and well-written publications in the health sphere) this past weekend. During our conversation we ranged from the horrors of cooking with plastic in the microwave (You might as well lick a plutonium popsicle*) to how we would be great dinner companions because when I ask the waiter if the ham is nitrate-free she not only won’t kick me under the table but will even ask him first. So when I brought up dry brushing (why not?) I figured we’d both chuckle and perhaps make a crack about dirty hippies and move on.
Not so. “It’s supposed to be really good for you,” she said. “Good for your immune system, detoxification and exfoliation and all that. After all, your skin is the largest organ in your body.”
My brain made that funny screeching noise you only hear in cartoons (and in my head) as I did a 180. So of course I spent all weekend researching dry brushing.
What is Dry Brushing?
Dry brushing, so named because you use a stiff brush or loofah to brush your skin, is either a centuries-old or decades-old technique, depending on who you ask. It’s been used for big things like helping cancer patients recover faster to cosmetic things like tightening up loose skin after pregnancy or weight loss. It’s even touted as a cure for cellulite. When I tossed that one to Jen, she just nodded and said that while she had no first hand knowledge of it, she could see how it might help improve the look of subcutaneous fat because of how we store toxins in our fat. I also remembered that Teresa Tapp of T-Tapp – another Experiment I was sure was kooky nonsense that actually turned out to be really interesting and enlightening – was a big fan of dry brushing.
While I am not personally bothered by my cellulite, I don’t love it either and if it went away I certainly wouldn’t be heartbroken. But the real appeal to me was the loose skin cure. Five babies in seven years was not kind to my tummy and while I’m plenty fit and at a healthy weight, I still have a bunch of loose skin as skin elasticity is not in my genes, apparently. (Also, because I know someone’s going to bring this up, my body fat percentage is quite low – I know a lot of trainers like to tell clients that if they just get their body fat low enough the skin will tighten up on its own. I’m living proof that this is not true.)
According to one handout I got from the Life Spa at Lifetime Fitness – they recommend dry brushing to all their clients – other benefits include: removal of dead skin, stimulates hormone producing glands, prevents premature aging, tones the muscles, improves your nervous system and helps digestion.
Other websites say you can use anything from a loofah to a special type of Japanese washcloth as long as it’s made from natural fibers – but that would require more effort than I was willing to put into this mini-experiment so I went with cheap-n-easy. Plus the handle detaches from the brush so I can use the stick part for things like rescuing Matchbox cars from under the refrigerator.
Next, you simply brush your skin. It doesn’t matter where you start but they advise always stroking towards your heart, working in small circular motions until you’ve brushed your whole body. They recommend doing it first thing in the morning and/or before your shower so you can wash off all the dead skin you rake up. That’s it!