Dry Brushing: Exfoliation and Beyond Benefits
Skincare is an industry that has led to several products and fads that vary in their viability and reliability. Some treatments have withstood the test of time and remain used today, though there will always be skeptics. Others have faded away due to poor results or controversies that made them unsuitable for use. If you have used skincare products, you might have encountered a few of these routines that might not have been effective.
Encountering a supposed quick fix for skincare and having it fail can discourage you from employing other techniques for fear that they are equally ineffective. Unfortunately, this can have the unintended consequence of preventing you from using a treatment that is actually viable for your skin. The challenge is determining which new treatments work and which overpriced fads have been sensationalized.
Some of the most successful skincare treatments originated in ancient cultures and societies. While this might seem strange, it makes more sense than you might think since, in the old days, ancient cultures had to rely on what worked. There were no artificial treatments or resources to generate a placebo effect. This brings us to a skincare technique that has recently seen renewed interest from the public.
You might have heard of dry brushing before, especially in the context of exfoliation, but you might not have tried it. If you have a troubled history with skincare fads, it is understandable that you might have avoided it. Therefore, the question of the hour is: What benefits (if any) does dry brushing provide?
What is Exfoliation?
If you are well-versed in skincare, you likely already know what exfoliation is. If you are only starting to get into a regular skincare regimen, you might be curious about the exact meaning of this term. Exfoliation is a process that removes dead skin cells and dirt from the skin to cleanse it.
Doing so opens the pores and keeps the skin clean, reducing the risk of acne breakouts and other skin conditions that affect health and appearance. Exfoliation has been around for thousands of years and has proven effective, though the method you use to accomplish it can impact the success rate.
Exfoliation is a standard practice in modern skincare, with almost every regimen employing exfoliating treatments and products. Keeping the skin clean enough for the rest of your skincare products to work is very important, so exfoliation is not a step you should skip.
While several methods exist to exfoliate the skin, there have been claims that dry brushing is equally effective. That said, you might need some background information before we can confirm dry brushing's exfoliating effect.
What is Dry Brushing?
If you are among the people who have never heard of dry brushing or have only heard of it in passing, you might be curious about what it is. You would be correct if you thought that dry brushing is what it sounds like. It is a skincare treatment that involves taking a dry brush and using it to massage your skin, though there are a few extra details to consider.
While this might sound like a fad, dry brushing has existed for thousands of years and originates from ancient Egypt. Strange as it might sound, the ancient Egyptians pioneered beauty rituals and created several still used today. Dry brushing is allegedly one of the rituals they created, though it has also been recorded in the Ayurvedic, Roman, and Chinese cultures. Despite being thousands of years old, it has gained a large following among modern skincare enthusiasts.
Dry brushing was originally created as a primitive exfoliating treatment, and modern techniques have made it easier to practice. It is also a treatment that requires few supplies since the only tool required is a brush. That said, the brush needs to meet certain criteria to be effective for the treatment since the wrong type of brush can lead to poor results.
The main requirement is that the bristles must be made with natural fibers since synthetic ones are rougher on the skin. Otherwise, you might want to invest in one with a long handle so it is easier to reach the rest of your body, but that is more a recommendation than a hard requirement. The brush should be easy to acquire and not overly expensive, but once you have it, you need to know how to administer the treatment. Fortunately, this is straightforward and should not present a challenge.
How to Perform Dry Brushing
Dry brushing is a relatively straightforward treatment, but it can be difficult for first-time users to perform it alone. This is why using a brush with a long handle is recommended since it will enable you to reach the furthest body parts. Fortunately, you should be able to perform the treatment yourself if you follow these instructions:
- Start by brushing your feet and working your way up the rest of your body. Starting from your feet is easier and will eliminate the hardest part of the treatment at the very beginning. The most important part of this step is to brush your arms after you brush your feet, legs, and torso.
- When brushing, use wide, circular, clockwise motions to ensure an even spread.
- When brushing areas of your body covered by thin skin (i.e., your genitals), use light pressure. When brushing areas of your body covered by thick skin (i.e., the soles of your feet), use harder pressure.
- After brushing your entire body, take a cool shower to rinse off dry skin that might be stuck to your body.
- Dry off. If you like, you can apply a natural plant oil (i.e., coconut oil) to your skin to moisturize it (which we recommend).
You should always start light if you are new to dry brushing since your skin might not be used to it yet. If you are uncomfortable performing the treatment on yourself, there are spas that offer it as a regular service. While this is more expensive, it can be more effective for individuals who struggle with brushing their bodies according to the above instructions.
Once you are accustomed to the treatment, you can begin applying more pressure, but you should never apply the treatment to areas of the skin that are damaged or sensitive. Do not apply the treatment to any skin where you have:
Doing so could result in dangerous side effects that exacerbate the conditions and cause pain. Finally, avoid brushing your face with the brush you use for your body. The bristles on a body brush are too rough for the skin on your face, so you should invest in a second brush that is softer than the body brush if you want to use the treatment on your face.
Finally, the last major consideration is maintaining your brush so as not to compromise your skin. After every treatment, rinse your brush and let it dry in an open, sunny environment to stave off mildew. Once a week, clean your brush thoroughly using soap and water, and do not share your brush with anyone (even family or a significant other).
Following these steps will ensure you do not risk developing an infection from a dirty brush. That said, understanding how to perform the treatment differs from understanding its benefits.
What Are the Benefits of Dry Brushing?
As mentioned, dry brushing was primarily created as a tool for exfoliation, which is important for maintaining healthy skin. The bristles on the brush are meant to remove dry skin cells and leave your skin smooth and soft. Unfortunately, no scientific evidence supports this claim, and all the evidence of dry brushing's exfoliating effect is anecdotal.
One board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Carolyn Jacobs, claims that dry brushing does exfoliate, but the treatment should be used too vigorously. Unfortunately, the lack of scientific evidence renders dry brushing less than ideal.
There are other purported benefits of dry brushing, including:
- Toxin Removal: Dry brushing is thought to clear the sweat glands and enable us to purge toxins through them. This also has the added effect of keeping our lymphatic system healthy since toxins can cause the system to clog. Unfortunately, this benefit has no scientific evidence to corroborate it, making it another anecdotal effect.
- Relaxation: Dry brushing is technically a form of massage treatment and, when performed correctly, can be very relaxing. Once again, there is no scientific evidence for this benefit, and even the anecdotal evidence is circumspect. The enjoyment of massage treatments is subjective, and not everyone will enjoy the sensation of the same treatment.
- Cellulite Removal: Cellulite can be unsightly to some and can be caused by a few things, but there is evidence suggesting that massage therapy can reduce the concentration of cellulite in the body. The problem is that dry brushing is not a recognized massage, and no data supports that it shares this effect. Massage therapy is ineffective if the cellulite is formed because of fat or collagen bands.
Unfortunately, dry brushing's ancient origins do not mean it is automatically a viable skincare treatment. Even ancient cultures could fall victim to the placebo effect and see changes where none exist. In fact, dry brushing carries more risks than benefits since certain people should avoid the treatment altogether.
What Are the Risks of Dry Brushing?
As mentioned, dry brushing requires a brush with fairly firm bristles to be "effective" for treating your skin. As a result, the brush can be a little rough on the skin, so you should always take things slowly when using the treatment for the first time. Natural bristles are less damaging than synthetic ones, but both are capable of causing serious damage if used improperly.
Applying too much pressure with your brush can inflame or tear the skin, causing injuries or rashes. While these side effects are not overly dangerous, repeated damage to your skin can cause complications or leave permanent scars on your skin. Unfortunately, there are more potential risks for individuals who struggle with chronic skin conditions. We mentioned certain times you should avoid brushing the skin outright, but we did not clarify why.
Inflammation is a common issue since it is triggered by a natural response from our bodies when we are injured. Unfortunately, inflamed skin is particularly sensitive, and running a brush over it can exacerbate the damage. Individuals with eczema or psoriasis are especially vulnerable to chronic inflammation and should always avoid brushing the skin with active inflammation.
Furthermore, anyone with an open wound should never brush the affected area since running a brush over an open wound can spread bacteria. This causes the risk of an infection to skyrocket and could cause serious health complications.
The risks of dry brushing will not kill you unless you allow an infection to go untreated. Ultimately, the risk associated with the treatment is remarkably low, while the benefits are almost negligible. Therefore, it might be in your best interest to find an alternative method for exfoliation since dry brushing appears to be a poor choice. The problem is that finding an exfoliating product in an oversaturated market can be a hassle.
Finding the Right Blend
Despite its ancient origins, dry brushing appears to be one of the oldest duds in skincare, yet it remains popular with several people. While dry brushing might offer minor soothing effects due to its connection with massage therapy, it does little else. If you want to exfoliate (or otherwise enhance) your skin, you might want to consider alternatives. If you are insistent on finding a natural method, your biggest challenge will be finding a vendor specializing in natural skincare.
We at Teami are a longstanding advocate of natural skincare and healthcare and have made it our mission to provide the resources necessary to treat your skin. Our catalog has a wide assortment of skincare products made from natural ingredients and has a product for every important step. Exfoliation is no exception and can be accomplished with our Smooth Exfoliating Body Polish, made from natural compounds that synergize with human biology. We encourage you to visit our website and try our products firsthand. After all, finding the right blend is a Teami effort.
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