Wednesday Woo: Dry Brushing

I’m a bit into woo. Not the “woo” of drunk girls at a bar on a Saturday night, the woo of those who are into more crunchy or alternative techniques for health, wellness, and relaxation. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about modern medicine and a huge supporter of vaccines. However, I love to also try out different ways to improve sleep, health, and focus on top of using tried and true scientific methods. I am not a doctor or an expert, and especially now it’s important to adhere to what medical professionals suggest for our safety and health. However, we all have a bit more time and a bit more stress and maybe some of my favorite “woo” methods may be an enjoyable addition to your routine. I’ll have a post on Wednesdays called Wednesday Woo.

Today's Woo is about Dry Brushing

I've been writing about the benefits of dry brushing for many years (here's a post about dry brushing from 2016). It was 2014, I was on disability, feeling sorry for myself and decided to give myself a sunless tan to feel cute. Researching ways to prevent streaks, several articles I found recommended dry brushing to exfoliate the skin before applying sunless tanner.  I don't know how I completely forgot about how awesome dry brushing is!  In a past life, I was a trainer for the retailer The Body Shop.  My job required me to try and become familiar with every product the company carried which included their body brush.  I sold many of those brushes and educated managers up and down the East Coast about the benefits of exfoliation and body detoxification with a simple product used for just a few minutes each morning. However, after leaving that company I also left the routine of dry brushing.  But over a decade later and a decade older full of painkillers and chemicals from surgeries, the detoxification and skin improving properties of dry brushing sounded mighty appealing.

Doing more internet research on dry brushing, I came across the eBook The 10-Day Skin Brushing Detox.  Back in 2014, I bought the eBook on Amazon, but in 2020 the book is available at AbeBooks, Apple Books, and the paperback can be bought on eBay.  The book isn't necessary, but it really helped me understand the benefits and the method for brushing the body.  I bought a body brush that is no longer available; however, The Body Shop still sells the one I originally used in the '90s. Many companies carry body brushes with shorter handles; I find the long handle necessary to get the back and all parts of the body.  And to truly get the benefits from dry brushing, you need to be able to brush your entire body.

I start with my left leg, brushing from the tips of my toes up to my hips, the side, and then my rear. Then the other side. I then do my arms from tips, to shoulders, putting focus on my elbows which get dry. I then brush my neck from face down, circles from the middle of my breastbone out to my arms, light brushing over the breasts, brushing from below the breasts to the abdomen, counter-clockwise on the abdomen, then from the pubic bone up. I then try to brush my back, with no specific direction since it's not that easy to access.  When I started dry brushing, I used a light touch, finding the brush rough and scratchy and the whole experience uncomfortable.  But with time I came to love the feeling and was able to add pressure.  I am on my third body brush since 2014 as they soften with washings and you really come to fall in love with the rough brush experience each morning.   

The Benefits of Dry Brushing

  • The external benefits: Your skin needs less moisturizer – if you forget to lotion up after a shower it’s not as noticeable. Your skin will look tauter; I notice this most on my thighs, hips, and upper arms. You will have a glow, thanks to better circulation, and that glow lasts all day. Fewer ingrown hairs and if you have Keratosis Pilaris it can help reduce it without inflammation. Since dry brushing increases circulation, it also increases collagen production, offering better looking and stronger skin. Many find their appearance of cellulite is reduced.  Dry brushing also supposedly helps prevent spider and varicose veins. And yes, dry brushing really helps with an even application of sunless tanner. 
  • The internal benefits (AKA the woo): Dry brushing is a traditional ayurvedic practice to promote lymphatic cleansing and detoxification.  Many say this is bunk, but this is the kind of centuries-old woo that it won't hurt to try and has proven non-woo benefits.  Dry brushing has been proven to improve circulation, improve skin tone and texture, and I find I get a boost of energy from it.  If I don't dry brush in the morning I feel as though I only drank half my cup of coffee at breakfast.  Also if you're someone who is always cold, dry brushing is a great way to warm up when you wake up; I always feel a bit electrified after a good dry brushing session.  This also feels amazing the day after a hard workout or extra-long hike.

Some dry brush after a shower with a bit of oil on their brush.  I find the best way to ensure I make it a daily habit is to do it in the morning without any fanfare.  Use the toilet, strip, dry brush, and then go on with my morning routine.  Totally fine to do it just before a shower or bath, or not.  Seriously, it's one of the cheapest and easiest woo things out there. Do not dry brush if you have irritated skin, a rash, sunburn, or sores.  I think this is the only woo I have stuck with, and after six years of woo-ing it with the dry brush I can't imagine not having it part of my day! 

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24 Comments

  1. April 22, 2020 / 10:41 pm

    I’ve been meaning to try this. I wondered if I could use my shower brush to dry brush and then also use it in the shower… will research. Thanks for the reminder!

    • April 24, 2020 / 9:31 am

      You can try, as long as it is clean as it can cause small scratches on the skin.

  2. Katarina
    April 22, 2020 / 6:40 pm

    Great tip, thank you! I’ve always meant to try it but never got around to. Can one use any body bath brush out there or are some made with specific bristles for dry brushing? I have two brushes I use for decoration in my bathroom as I think I re dived them as gifts or possible bought one at Cost Plus World Market a really long time ago, both have long handles; how would I know the bristles are safe to use for dry brushing?

    • April 24, 2020 / 9:32 am

      They should be safe, they are likely made of sisal or some sort of natural material. I would wash them first so they’re free of dust, etc. and once fully dry, try on your lower leg where the skin is strong and see how it feels! It should be scratchy feeling but not actually cause scratch marks on the skin.

      • Katarina
        April 24, 2020 / 6:48 pm

        Ok thanks!

  3. Lisa
    April 22, 2020 / 3:41 pm

    Thanks for this post. I agree it’s a woo. I drybrush in the morning before I shower. I’ve got lymphedema and therapist once recommended it for the lymphatic drainage. I notice a difference when I don’t use it I also noticed that it keeps my ankles from being puffy.

    • April 24, 2020 / 9:33 am

      I too have noticed the ankle puffiness reduction!

  4. Anamarie
    April 22, 2020 / 8:55 am

    I’m so glad you re-posted this! I have been meaning to look up your dry brushing technique. I bought a brush a couple of months ago and have been haphazardly brushing. All I remembered was to brush upwards, toward the heart. It’s now a daily habit that I look forward to. Thanks, Allie!

    • Shelly
      April 22, 2020 / 9:02 am

      Great post! I’m going to give it a try on my 60-year-old dry skin!

      • April 24, 2020 / 9:33 am

        Let me know how it works out for you!

  5. Kristin Kane
    September 26, 2014 / 8:13 am

    Thanks for reminding me about dry brushing. I was doing this last summer but got out of the habit. I don’t know why…my skin did feel great and I love that little burst of energy it gives you in the morning!!

  6. Galena
    September 22, 2014 / 10:56 am

    Does it matter what time of day you do it? Is it best to do in the morning, or could I do it in the evening as part of my shower routine (I shower at night)? I am not a morning person and get up at the last possible minute, so my trying to incorporate dry brushing in the morning is probably doomed to fail. But I could easily do it in the evening!

    • September 22, 2014 / 11:02 am

      I recommend doing more research than just my blog post if you want to start, but from what I’ve read doing it at night can affect your sleep because it stimulates your body and increases blood flow. Definitely don’t do the bottoms of your feet because that can really charge up your body, but the book I mention suggests a gentle night brushing in addition to morning.

      • Galena
        September 22, 2014 / 11:05 am

        Thanks for the tip! I bet even just incorporating dry brushing on weekend mornings (when I’m not rushed and can actually see myself doing it) will provide an improvement! And I definitely don’t want to chance having it affect my sleep schedule.

  7. Saniel
    September 21, 2014 / 10:14 am

    Is it necessary to have a different brush for each family member? When your brushing is it on the bath mat, floor-clean up process? Vacuum,sweep. Is it then necessary to use a sugar scrub exfoliate in the shower if doing dry brushing?

    • September 21, 2014 / 7:24 pm

      Yes, each family member should have his own brush. I haven’t seen much come off from the brushing so I haven’t put down a towel or vacuumed more than usual. I don’t use a scrub in the shower but I’d try for a week and see if you may be able to stop it; I know I now can miss a day of lotion and can hardly tell and my skin glows!

  8. Aimee
    September 19, 2014 / 7:51 pm

    I tried it years ago and liked it but stopped at some point. You’ve reminded me about it and it’s on my list of things to get! It really does feel great.

  9. Susan
    September 19, 2014 / 4:24 pm

    I bought a dry brush and I think it was way too soft – it didn’t feel like it did anything. I’m going to have to try it again.

  10. kaijsa
    September 19, 2014 / 2:19 pm

    I have a separate dry brush for my face that’s smaller and softer than my body brush. It squicks me out to think of rubbing my face with a brush that was on my rear and feet, but also I worry about sensitive facial skin. So far I’m getting into a groove of dry brushing after a summer of doing it. I totally agree with Ali that it’s energizing!

    • September 19, 2014 / 2:21 pm

      Good point, hence me hardly ever doing it! Pretty much only when it’s been cleaned, and though they encourage it, I never dry brush the bottom of my feet, I don’t want my feet on the rest of my bod 🙂

  11. September 19, 2014 / 2:09 pm

    I want to try this but my skin is so sensitive. Did you read anything about if people with sensitive skin and eczema are recommended to dry brush?

    • September 19, 2014 / 2:19 pm

      I read that it’s good for it, but that’s via Google, and I wouldn’t trust that alone. Do some research, consult your dermatologist, but many find it helps things like eczema and KP because it gently exfoliates and increases blood flow. Good luck!

  12. Kathryn B
    September 19, 2014 / 1:24 pm

    i’ve tried it once or twice but i’ve not really gotten into the habit. i definitely think i’ll give it another shot now, thanks for all the info!!!

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