Dry Skin Brushing How-Tos
You’ve likely heard the question “What’s the largest organ in the human body?” paired with its somewhat surprising answer: the skin! Not only is it the largest organ, it’s one of the major detox organs. Our skin is constantly secreting wastes that our body wants to get rid of, and it also contains vessels of the lymphatic system. Lymph is a fluid composed of immune system cells and the molecules they make to both communicate with the rest of the immune system and to cause inflammation. The vessels of the lymph system do not have their own pumping mechanism, rather, they rely on the movement of our bodies and gravity to help move and circulate this lymph fluid.
Skin brushing is a method that is quick, accessible, cheap, yet luxurious, that you can perform before bathing to exfoliate your skin, improve blood flow, and promote lymph circulation. Not convinced yet? Below is an expanded list of the benefits of skin brushing!
Assists skin exfoliation and removal of waste
Removal of dead skin cells and stimulation of the skin surface opens pores, allowing for more efficient removal of waste products.
Balance the bacteria on the skin surface
Bacteria are normally present on the skin surface. However, layers of dead skin provide a protected habitat for them to flourish, perhaps too well, resulting in an abnormal skin microbiome and potentially putting you at risk for pesky infections if the skin barrier is broken.
Enhances lymphatic drainage
The lymph system removes waste fluids and is an important component in both the immune and circulatory systems. Skin brushing encourages lymphatic drainage, thereby increasing its effectiveness in eliminating waste.
Enhances and supports venous system
Skin brushing not only stimulates the lymphatic vessels in the skin, but it also affects the small veins located in our skin. This can help blood return from the extremities to the heart.
Improves the movement of nutrients and oxygen into the skin
By enhancing the lymphatic and venous drainage, skin brushing improves the movement of nutrients and oxygenated blood into the skin.
Improves skin tone, especially in aging skin
By removing dead skin cells, stimulating the surface oil and sweat glands, and enhancing circulation of all kinds, the skin is better able to maintain important structural components such as collagen and elastic tissue. This supports the tone and suppleness of the skin.
What you’ll need:
1. Dry skin
Perform immediately before getting in the shower or bath. Even better, do it before a cold shower–this will enhance your skin’s invigoration.
2. Dry skin brush
There are natural vegan and non-vegan dry brush options. Vegan dry brushes are made with natural vegetable bristles, while non-vegan dry brushes can be made with horse or boar hair. Any of the natural dry brush options, vegan or non-vegan, are best, and can be found in most health food stores or through online retailers. A loofa brush or a baby’s hairbrush can also be used.
Dry brushes with longer handles are ideal for being able to reach your legs without bending over, or to reach your back.
3. About 5-7 minutes
Dry brushing your entire body before a shower will take between 5 to 7 minutes because each area will get 7 strokes or circular motions. Once this practice becomes a habit, you will likely become faster and more efficient at it. Or if you’re targeting one area in particular, dry brushing can take less than a minute!
General dos and don’ts:
Brush your left side before your right side. Most of the lymph from the entire body drains from an exit on the left side of the body. By brushing your left side first, you essentially clear out the exit channels to minimize lymph back-up.
Brush toward the heart. The lymph nodes that drain an area are usually closer to the heart than the part you are targeting. For example, the lymph nodes that drain the ankle will be higher up on the leg, such as your knee or thigh. The lymph nodes that drain the armpit will be close to the breast bone/chest plate.
Use light pressure. The dry brush bristles should be in contact with your skin, but not pressing hard enough to drag the skin or even indent into the skin. When finished, your skin will tingle, but do not brush so hard that your skin is bright red.
Stick to 7 strokes or circular motions per region.
Over open wounds
Your face. The skin on your face is very delicate, but you can brush over your neck using extremely light pressure.
Areas of skin that are easily damaged (face, lips, eyelids, cuticles, around the nipples, etc.)
Areas of known skin malignancies or lymphatic malignancies
Open and weeping rashes
Let’s get started! Remember, 7 strokes or circular motions per area and always start on the left side! We've provided the steps in both list form and infographic form.
7 small circular brush strokes on the sole of your foot. Make sure that you are stable, either balancing on the other foot while lifting the foot you will be brushing. You can also lean on something or simply perform while seated.
7 strokes from the tops of your toes to your ankle.
7 times around your ankle, starting and ending at the Achilles’ tendon (back of the ankle).
7 times from ankle to knee, making sure to get the front, back, and both sides within those 7 strokes.
7 times from knee to hip, making sure to get the front, back, and both sides within those 7 strokes.
7 times from buttocks to groin.
7 circular strokes in the groin region.
TRUNK (belly and back)
Starting at the right of the belly button, use small clockwise circles tight to the belly button and gradually make these clockwise circles further away from the belly button until you’ve brushed the entire abdominal region.
7 times upward from each buttock to your low back.
If you are able to reach higher, brush 7 times from the top of your buttock to the bottom of your shoulder blade. Dry brushes with longer handles are ideal for this.
For your upper back, brush 7 times from the spine to the shoulder blade and armpit.
7 times from waist to armpit.
CHEST AND ARMPIT REGION
7 counterclockwise circular strokes in the armpit region. This should not be directly in the crease of the armpit, but rather 5-6 inches lower. Now perform 7 clockwise circular strokes in the same area.
Below the breast, 7 times from midline, arcing under the breast to the armpit.
Above the breast, 7 times towards the armpit.
HANDS AND ARMS
Brush your palms using 7 firmer circular strokes.
7 times from fingertips to wrist, making sure to get the front, back, and both sides within those 7 strokes.
7 circular strokes around the wrist.
7 times from wrist to elbow, making sure to get the front, back, and both sides within those 7 strokes.
7 times from elbow to shoulder, making sure to get the front, back, and both sides within those 7 strokes.
7 strokes downward from top of neck (underneath the jaw/base of the skull), making sure to get the front, back, and both sides within those 7 strokes.
The first time you dry brush your skin, it might seem overly detailed and take too much time, but the more you do it, the quicker it’ll take and the more you’ll enjoy the process! Make it your own–take extra care in areas that you find the most benefit in or could use some more movement and invigoration.
Dr. Olivia Froehlich ND