Dry Skin Brushing
You brush your hair and you brush your teeth. And now you brush your…skin?!
A foreign concept to many, dry skin brushing is an excellent practice to improve overall health.
Particularly, dry skin brushing is beneficial to an often overlooked system in the body: the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system comprises the lymph (a bodily fluid), the lymph nodes (including the ones found where your jaw meets your neck that get swollen and sore when you’re sick), and the lymphoid organs (the tonsils, the thymus and the spleen among others).
The lymph is a fluid that circulates throughout our body and picks up pathogens (viruses, bacteria, and other unwanted foreign invaders) and transports it to our lymph nodes and lymphoid organs to identify and process. The lymph nodes and organs house white blood cells, which are the cells that identify and kill harmful invaders.
As mentioned, one of the main goals of skin brushing is to encourage the flow of the lymph.
Unlike the cardiovascular system, the lymph does not have its own pump, so it relies on the movement of the muscular system to be circulated. If a person is chronically sedentary, bacteria and viruses have a better chance of infecting the tissues because they are not being circulated to the lymph nodes and organs to be dealt with.
Of course, movement and exercise are essential for reasons other than lymph circulation, so should still be performed daily. However, skin brushing is an alternative tool to help the lymph system (and therefore the immune system) moving and working effectively, particularly if regular physical movement is not happening for whatever reason.
To enrich the practice, incorporate essential oils! Add rosemary, cypress, yarrow, or grapefruit essential oil to your dry brush. These essential oils penetrate the skin, reducing lymphatic stagnation and encouraging circulation.
The type of brush you use is important too. Don’t use a hairbrush, silly! The bristles are too stiff and coarse. Instead, use a brush specifically designed for body brushing. Look for ones made with natural bristles. My brush has a long handle which I like because it helps me reach my back. Other people prefer handle-free paddle brushes. Choose what you feel comfortable with.
How To Do It
Ideally you want to perform dry skin brushing when your skin is dry, before a shower. If using essential oils, place one drop of essential oil of choice to the palm of your hand and slide the dry brush over your palm so the bristles pick up the essential oil.
Always start brushing the lower portion of the body, with upward brush strokes. Always brush towards the direction of the heart. Start at your feet and work your way up your legs, your buttocks, your lower back, and your abdomen. Then move to the hands and brush up the arm (remember, always toward the heart!) toward the shoulder. Continue with the neck, brushing down towards the chest and upper back.
Use gentle, light brush strokes. The skin should turn lightly pink, not red and irritated. This whole cycle should take about 3 minutes, although you can perform a slower ritual and take up to 20 minutes.
Dry skin brushing can be a wonderful, meditative and health promoting practice you can incorporate into your morning or evening ritual. Benefits can include softer and more glowing skin, less puffiness and water retention, and improved energy.
Do you brush your skin? What benefits have you noticed?
Alex Picot-Annand, BA (Psych), Registered Holistic Nutritionist & Certified Life Coach