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Dry Skin Brushing

It's been many years ago now, but a client introduced me to dry brushing and through the years, it's been a practice I've certainly encouraged as part of a client's care from time to time, most especially those with lymphatic stagnation or maybe they are a bit #disembodied and need to take notice of themselves. It's often mentioned in discussion surrounding #detoxification and exfoliation, and I am really only finding commentary in the literature rather than any scientific review, but it certainly makes sense that dry brushing would help boost circulation, as well as help purify the skin.

My thoughts though are maybe more simple; it can help those who are just too busy, too overwhelmed, those carrying a heavy mental load to really connect with their body, checking in on their own needs and paying mind. I talk about this a lot in my writings, but so many of us are very disembodied. Clients come in with concerns and when I ask them when they first noticed it, at first they think it was just a bit ago, maybe a few weeks, but then as they lay out their mental timeline, they realize it began many years ago. This is the first opportunity they've had to prioritize themselves or maybe the concern has simply gotten too concerning to ignore.

Why Should I Consider Dry Brushing?

Well, I think the better question might be, "Why not?" It's hard to come up with any potential harms in doing so. Dry brushing offers the body massage, rids the body of flaky skin, and it makes sense that it would increase circulation which helps to detoxify the body and supports optimal digestion. It seems it may also promote lymph drainage and unclog pores which promotes even further cleansing of toxins. The nervous system would also be stimulated by dry brushing.

Where hot showers and baths can reduce natural skin oils, ultimately drying the skin, dry brushing can exfoliate and increase blood circulation which certainly could lead to enhanced health and improved look of your skin. How much dry brushing might this require and in what fashion should this be done, no one really knows. I don't want to oversell dry brushing as the new heal all, but in a culture that struggles to find time to even brush their teeth or find any time on the mat to exercise, I am suggesting that as you start to correct your self-neglect, maybe consider dry brushing as part of your self-care routine. It really is very satisfying and as a clinician, I really appreciate the two minute body scan - when was the last time you really looked at yourself and noticed the sensations in various aspects of your body? Here's an opportunity to check-in as you work to better honor your needs.

Okay. Tell Me the Details.

Use a brush which is specifically designed for skin brushing and keep in mind, this is done while dry, so prior to your shower. There are many options, but this one is less than $10 and super cute (because aesthetics is part of the fun). There are professionals who offer this service too, but again, part of the benefit in my mind is that this practice makes you take notice.

A firm, dry brush should be used, preferably in the morning, before showering or bathing, but like anything else, if you find any moment is your schedule for "me time," that's the perfect time. While dry brushing, use sweeping motions, always moving the brush towards your heart. So if you're a massage therapist or body worker in anyway, this is the opposite of what we are taught. Generally people, and even cats, prefer to be rubbed in the direction the hair lays, or with the grain so-to-speak, but when we are dry brushing, the intent is to move what is stagnant back towards the heart for recirculation.

Move the brush from the feet and lower extremities up toward the heart. Start at the hands and move up the arm toward the shoulder and toward the heart. Use the long handle of the brush up the spine and sides, moving it up and over the shoulders toward the heart. Take turns dry brushing the harder to reach areas with your partner. Your skin may, at first, be sensitive and you may think you are scratching and hurting the skin. It's a lot of stimulation, so start with a softer brush. Many will find in time they want a more coarse or stiffer brush. Make sure you aren't damaging your skin; however, after a few days or or so of doing this, you will actually find that it feels good. Do not brush your face! These strokes should be light and intentional, as we don't want to irritate or damage the skin.

Some practitioners recommend dry brushing as your morning routine, including Ayurvedic practitioners, while others will recommend only once or twice a week. These recommendations stem more from beliefs about energy and encouraging that movement than evidence-based care so I can't really speak to that, and I will share that those in the beauty world might claim that dry brushing is excellent for minimizing cellulite. Again, there really isn't supportive evidence here, but again, seems little risk for potential big reward. Claims that it helps release #toxins, stimulate the lymphatic system, increase circulation, firms skin, aids in stress, improves digestion and kidney function are really just hopeful thinking at this point, but I am not mad about it; what if!?

Do be sure you clean your brush multiple times a month to ensure it is sanitary. Be mindful of mold growth if hanging it in your shower, or even in your bathroom. Shower post-brushing for this reason and to help rid your body of any exfoliated skin. If you have eczema, be mindful that some brushes may create micro-scratches on your skin, especially over the more tender areas of your body. However, those who have keratosis pilaris, or those little rough bumps on the back of their arms and thighs, may benefit from dry brushing.

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