How to Dry Brush, According to Ayurveda
If you’ve heard about dry brushing, chances are it’s been via the lure of a headline that swears it’ll help “Get Rid of Your Cellulite, Fast!” This is (maybe, possibly) true! But there’s so much more to this centuries-old practice than cellulite removal — it’s also essential for detoxing your body, exfoliating your skin, boosting circulation, and increasing oxygen flow.
WHY TO DRY BRUSH
Dry brushing is pretty much what it sounds like: brushing your body with a firm-bristle brush while it’s dry, usually right before a shower. Though dry brushing has seen a boost in popularity lately, it’s actually an Ayurvedic practice that can be traced back nearly 5,000 years. One of the core beliefs of Ayurveda — the healing system of ancient India — is that a healthy lymphatic system is the key to a healthy life (including healthy skin). Dry brushing was originally intended to be a daily practice for lymph-stimulation and natural detox.
Here’s how it works: The lymphatic system collects excess fluid and waste from every single cell in the body, then filters that fluid. The good stuff is cycled back into the circulatory system, leaving the lymph nodes full of all the toxins they've removed. When the lymph isn’t draining properly — whether because of dehydration, inflammation, eating too much salt, or not getting enough exercise — those toxins stagnate under the skin. Dry brushing aids in lymphatic drainage to flush those toxins out of your system.
Some other benefits of lymphatic massage:
Helps with skin issues like eczema and rosacea
Reduces swelling from injuries or PMS
Aids in digestion
Promotes relaxation and sleep by calming the nervous system
Reduces stress and pain from muscle and bone disorders
(And it goes without saying that all of these benefits result in clearer skin, right?)
Dry brushing also gently sloughs off any dead skin cells that are sitting on the surface, clogging up your pores; boosts circulation; increases oxygen flow; and, yes, maybe even reduces the appearance of cellulite. (There’s not a lot of hard evidence out there for that last one, but I swear by it. I dry brushed religiously every day for months before my wedding and my cellulite was pretty much non-existent. I’ve been slacking lately and hello, cellulite!)
HOW TO DRY BRUSH
There’s some debate about where to start on your body, but the Ayurvedic method starts at the arms.
Take the dry brush to your arms, using gentle (but firm), long, upward strokes.
Next, brush your stomach and chest, using long strokes that move toward your heart (for circulation). Since the skin in these areas is more sensitive, use gentle pressure.
Dry brush your back, moving your strokes toward the heart center.
Next, go down to your feet and move up the legs, using the same long strokes in the direction of your heart.
WHEN TO DRY BRUSH
This part is really up to you. Ayurveda states to do it at night; most modern interpretations recommend starting your day with a dry brushing sesh. The one thing that everyone can agree on is that you should dry brush before showering, whenever that makes sense for you.
Personally, I dry brush in the morning before my shower. Then, I perform the Ayurvedic ritual of Abhyanga, which is basically self-oil massage. I massage warm sesame oil all over my body and hop into the shower. The warm water opens my pores, helping the oil sink in. Afterwards, I don’t need to apply lotion or anything. I’m exfoliated, moisturized, and glowing from chest-to-toe.
Since toxin levels increase when our bodies adjust to seasonal shifts, the autumnal equinox this week is basically begging you to take up dry brushing. What are you waiting for?