Ask Curology: Should I be dry brushing my skin?

How (and why) to dry brush, according to science.

Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer
Nov 12, 2020 · 5 min read

We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Welcome to Ask Curology, penned by one of our in-house medical providers in response to your questions about all things skincare. This week: what are the benefits of dry brushing your skin? This technique is popular in body care, but has potential side effects that make us bristle.

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Dear Curology,

I’ll brush my teeth twice a day, but to be honest, the idea of skin brushing twice a day is intimidating. That said, I’ve heard that using a dry, stiff brush on your skin has some benefits. I’m most interested in scrubbing away some cellulite, but I’ve also read that it can help your skin look younger and bring out an inner glow.

So, what exactly is dry brushing? And how do I dry brush my skin?

Signed,

Painter’s Brush

Dear Painter,

Before we dive in, I need to be honest with you: there is almost no hard medical evidence to support the benefits of dry brushing. In fact, it’s challenging to find any medical studies about dry brushing at all. There is, however, lots and lots of anecdotal evidence. OK, now that I’ve brushed that off my chest (pun intended!), let’s get to it.

So… what is dry brushing, anyway?

Dry brushing is a skincare ritual that involves brushing your skin with a stiff brush. It’s rooted in Ayurvedic medicine, and it’s been around for centuries.¹ There may be some benefits to dry brushing — more on that later! — but first, I want to debunk a few myths.

You mentioned that you’re most interested in getting rid of cellulite. Unfortunately, there isn’t any scientific evidence to suggest that dry brushing will make a substantial difference. I want you to know that almost everyone (including me!) has cellulite, and that’s more than okay! I know that accepting your cellulite is much easier said than done, but in the long run, self-love and acceptance are well worth the effort.

There are also claims that dry brushing helps “detoxify” the body by stimulating the lymphatic system (although there is little research to support this!). The lymphatic system is part of the immune system and helps your body fight off infections. Supposedly, dry brushing can “rev up” the lymphatic system and help the body get rid of toxins.² If your goal is to boost your immune system, though, you may want to try something with a bit more science to back it up like getting adequate vitamin C intake (hello oranges and grapefruits!).³

The benefits of dry brushing

You might be feeling a bit disheartened after we busted all those myths, SO let’s move on to a happier topic: the potential benefits of dry brushing. First, dry brushing can be an effective form of physical exfoliation. It can help buff away dry, dead skin cells and leave your skin feeling smoother and softer.⁴ Dry brushing can also be relaxing and used as a form of self-care. You might try playing some soothing music and running a warm bath to enjoy after you finish dry brushing. It can be a mini spa day right in your own bathroom!

Potential side effects of dry brushing

There are no hard and fast rules about who should and shouldn’t dry brush, but you may want to avoid dry brushing if you have chronic skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. You also might want to avoid it if you have open wounds or sores or have skin that is very sensitive or easily irritated.⁵

And keep in mind: exfoliation is easy to overdo! Dry brushing physically exfoliates the skin, and while regular exfoliation can certainly be helpful, exfoliating too much can result in skin that’s lost more of the surface-level “dead” skin cells than is ideal. Other signs that you may be over-doing it are redness, tightness, and dryness.

How to dry brush your skin

Ok, so now that we’ve covered some of the potential risks and benefits of dry brushing, let’s get into how to dry brush!⁶

Step 1: Find a brush (here are some recommendations you might consider) and strip down to your birthday suit! Many sources recommend dry brushing right before you shower.

Step 2: Learn the technique. Long medium-pressure strokes are often recommended.

Step 3: Start at the bottom of your feet and work upwards all the up to your neck. Some people even dry brush their face, but this is really up to you.

And if you’re more of a visual person, you might want to check out this video tutorial on dry brushing.

Start your free trial (plus shipping and handling)

I hope that helps! Feel free to sound off in the comments if you have more questions, or get in touch with your Curology medical provider. If you’re not a member yet, you can sign up for a free month of Curology (just pay $4.95 + tax to cover shipping and handling). Members get paired with an in-house medical provider (like me!) for a custom skincare experience.

All my best,Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

P.S.

We did our research so you don’t have to.

  1. Ronni Gordon. The benefits and risks of dry brushing. Healthline. Sept 29, 2017.

  2. Alexandra Engler. Dry Brushing: A Step-By-Step Guide + The 3 Best Skin Benefits. Mind Body Green. June 29, 2020.

  3. Carr, A. C., & Maggini, S. (2017). Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients, 9(11), 1211. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9111211

  4. Alexandra Engler. Dry Brushing: A Step-By-Step Guide + The 3 Best Skin Benefits. Mind Body Green. Ibid.

  5. Ronni Gordon. The benefits and risks of dry brushing. Healthline. Ibid.

  6. Alexandra Engler. Dry Brushing: A Step-By-Step Guide + The 3 Best Skin Benefits. Mind Body Green. Ibid.

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