Dry Brushing Benefits for the Skin, How to Do It and Risks - Dr. Axe

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Start Dry Brushing for Better Skin


Dry brushing - Dr. Axe

Can you imagine a daily routine that only takes five minutes, has amazing wellness benefits, is practically free, makes your skin glow and feels really good? Dry brushing has been around for a long time, but this often easy-to-do natural skin care routine is barely practiced today.

Dry brushing helps unclog pores and excrete toxins that get trapped beneath the skin.

Did you know that our skin is considered an organ? It’s true, and as such, it’s the largest organ in the human body.

Since one-third of the body’s toxins are excreted through the skin, this super-large organ needs daily attention.

The skin also has the job of producing antibacterial substances to protect you from infection, and when exposed to the sun, the skin helps your body produce the much-needed vitamin D.

What Is Dry Brushing?

It seems that dry brushing has been used for centuries by Scandinavians and Russians. More than 30 years ago, a Finnish doctor by the name of Paavo Airola prescribed this technique for his patients to detoxify, exfoliate and stimulate the skin.

It’s considered part of Ayurvedic medicine and works by exfoliating the skin. Those who use the practice rub a brush over their skin in a particular way, and the brush is usually coarse with natural fibers. The natural fibers help get rid of dead skin and enhance the skin’s ability to detoxify.


1. Exfoliates Dead Skin

When in your teens and 20s, dry brushing isn’t really necessary because the skin automatically renews itself. However, as you get older, it is helpful to exfoliate once or twice week to help renew the skin and remove those dead skin cells so you have a fresher appearance and healthier skin.

It’s important to do this gently so you do not tear the skin. You don’t want to break down the skin’s protective layer or cause irritation to sensitive skin, which could get infected.

Exfoliating too much can also dehydrate the skin, which is that last thing you want to do.

2. May Stimulate the Lymphatic System

Because your skin helps detoxify the body, it’s important to keep it healthy so it can do its job. However, if your skin has too many toxins or dead skin cells, it may not be able to eliminate waste from your body as efficiently as needed.

Dry brushing your skin may be able to help your lymphatic system, which has the job of removing toxins from the body and ultimately helps prevent you from getting sick.

When inflammation builds up in the body, it can cause the body to struggle to fight off that inflammation. If the skin is healthy, it can help release those toxins so that the body does not have to work so hard to rid itself of them.

3. Reduces Cellulite

Everyone hates cellulite, and it seems to be so hard to lose. Cellulite is the appearance of cottage cheese skin predominantly seen on the legs, butt, stomach and back of the arms. It’s often caused by fluid retention, lack of circulation, weak collagen structure and increased body fat, in addition to hormonal imbalances, medical conditions, genetics, poor diet and toxicity.

Cellulite is most common in adolescent and adult women, but men can have it, too. While there are many claims to treatments, dry brushing may help stimulate the cells and break down toxins from beneath the skin — since research showed that lymphatic system stimulation can improve cellulite — which may act as a natural remedy for cellulite and even reduce the appearance of stretch marks. (You can also try this DIY coffee scrub for cellulite.)

4. Unclogs Pores

Dr. Cynthia Thaik, MD, a Harvard-trained cardiologist and author of “Your Vibrant Heart” tells us that, over time, your pores can get clogged with dead skin cells, pollutants and cosmetics. This causes the liver and kidneys to work really hard to get rid of impurities.

Dry skin brushing unclogs your skin’s pores and helps your skin absorb more nutrients, which promotes healthy skin and allows those toxins to release a bit easier.

5. Offers Stress Relief

Another benefit of dry brushing is that it’s similar to massage in decreasing stress, which is great for your health by eliminating anxiety. A study reported that whole body massage was effective in reducing anxiety and stabilizing vital signs of patients with acute coronary disorders. Dry brushing is similar to massage in helping you relax, yet is far cheaper since you can do it yourself.

Much like a hand massage, dry brushing can provide much needed natural stress relief. When you are less stressed, your body heals much faster from any disease-causing inflammation that it may have.

Did you know that 75 percent to 90 percent of all doctors office visits are related to conditions caused by stress? When you are stressed, it causes changes in the hormones that can increase inflammation and trigger various other problems.

If you experience stress over a long period of time, it can be dangerous and is capable of increasing the risk for:

  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • weight gain or obesity
  • mental disorders
  • autoimmune diseases
  • digestive disorders
  • even cancer

Therefore, finding ways to help eliminate stress is crucial. Dry brushing is an easy way to do this.

Dry brushing - Dr. Axe

How to Dry Brush

There are a few steps that are needed to dry brush correctly. With a little practice, you can enjoy this wonderful benefit, and your skin will thank you.

Not only will you feel better, but your skin will being to regain that youthful appearance.

Here’s how to dry brush:

  1. Purchase a natural bristle brush with a long handle so you can reach all areas of your body. Avoid the synthetic brushes.
  2. Remove any clothing, and stand in a bathtub or shower to catch the falling dry skin.
  3. Do not wet the skin. Dry brush your skin while it is dry.
  4. Starting at the bottom your feet, move in long, sweeping motion toward your heart. Stroking away from your heart can put extra pressure on the valves within the veins and lymph vessels, causing ruptured vessels and varicose veins.
  5. Brush each area several times, overlapping as you go to ensure that you do not miss a spot. Be careful over the more sensitive areas, such as the breasts. You may want to avoid the nipple area. It may feel more sensitive the first few times, but your skin will become less sensitive with consistent dry brushing.
  6. Once you’ve brushed your entire body, step into the shower, and bathe as you normally would.
  7. After you have showered, pat your skin dry, and apply a natural oil — like rosehip, olive or coconut oil — to your entire body. You can try this all-over homemade body butter, as well.


1. Sensitive Skin

At first, test a small area to make sure you are not over-sensitive to the activity. Then dry brush the entire body once a week.

Once you feel comfortable with the process and confirm that you do not have any irritation from it, you can dry brush your entire body a couple of times a week. More than that can cause dehydration.

By removing the outer layer, you are removing the much needed protection that your skin provides, so it is best not to dry brush too frequently.

2. Be Gentle

It is important to be gentle as you dry brush. You do not want to break the skin and cause more inflammation.

Also, make sure your brush has soft bristles. It should feel good.

3. Brush Toward the Heart

Brush toward the heart to so you avoid putting pressure on the valves within the veins and lymph vessels.

4. Relax

Part of the process is to reduce stress. Relax, don’t be in a hurry and enjoy this time for yourself.

5. Clean Your Brush

Clean your brush with soap and water at least once a week, and let it air dry to avoid any mildew accumulation on your brush.

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  1. Linda on

    Thank You so much. I wasn’t sure how to dry brush, now I do. I am going to start dry brushimg my body. God Bless You!!

  2. Michell Cupito on

    Hello, I live in a very humid climate by the gulf coast and mosquitos are the worst. By the time I’m ready to shower I’ve got a few coats of off and sweat plus sunscreen on my skin. Is it ok to dry brush with all this junk on my skin?

  3. Judy on

    Excellent information. Any special instructions for using luffas. I can grow them in the
    Arizona heat and have a few left from a crop a few years ago.

  4. Carol Starr on

    I’d actually never heard of it until I noticed it as an ‘add-on’ to a recent massage. The truth is that I was instantly relaxed and felt noticeable improvement in my circulation. I’m sold on it and will never again have a massage without dry-brushing.

  5. Becky on

    I just started Dry Brushing last fall when I read something about detoxing. I was having problems with burning itching in my torso area and thought that I would try this. Bought one on amazon (which came with brush instructions – different from what was given here). After a week my itching had decreased dramatically! I always do it before a shower…once I did it after because I forgot…did not feel very good, would not recommend that. I also like the idea of opening up my cells before showering and then wash the dead skin away.
    To date I don’t have itching, Yay, but I do notice dry skin. I’m going to do it less often and be sure and moisturize after. Would like to know if there’s more to know about the direction of the brushing.

  6. C. Hoewe on

    Some of this might be okay but a lot of this is stuff collected from the internet. The Cellulite removal. NO SIR…it does not work. I follow auyrvedic religiously and I dry brush to the letter ayurvedically. (dry brush then body massage with organic sesame oil, wait 20 minutes, bathe, etc.) It’s wonderful and it works wonders but cellulite. Come on now. That’s simply not true. Don’t reprint everything you see on the web, it lessens your credibility my friend.

    • Isabel Mc Mahon on

      I have four or five different ways to dry brushing, but I noticed
      that when I dry brush my legs they get bigger. So now I
      do not brush them. Please explain. Thank you

  7. Michele on

    Why is it important to brush when dry, as opposed to wet, whilst showering, which is what I’ve done for 35 years? Also, why natural bristles: are they less likely to cause damage?


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