By Kristin Limoges

Published on July 3, 2018

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Illustration by Phuong Nguyen

Summer: the season of swimsuits, carefree attitudes, and jean shorts. But with all those joys can be a lot of emotional skin woes. You look great, and should feel like the strong, confident lady you are. But there is one super simple thing that can improve the appearance of the skin on the legs, buttocks, and abdomen—and more importantly, can improve your overall health, too.

We’re talking about body brushing, also known as dry brushing, the ancient practice of literally brushing skin with a natural (usually quite stiff) brush. Its popularity has skyrocketed in recent months because, when done regularly, it can offer a whole host of skin and body benefits, like exfoliation, improved circulation and appearance, and give an energy boost.

It’s pretty darn easy, and takes mere minutes, too. Every day, before bathing or showering, gently dry brush your body. In the simplest terms, you’ll start at your feet and move towards your heart in short, lifting, vigorous strokes on every inch of your body. Always be brushing back to your heart; it’s not bad to do it the opposite way, but you won’t get the full detoxifying lymphatic drainage if you go the other way. Half of perfecting this technique is the short movements, and half is using the right brush, ideally one that has firm, but not too stiff, bristles. It should feel like a nice, big scratch, but not painful.

It’s best to use a natural, not synthetic, brush. We recommend a brush with natural cactus, like the Aromatherapy Associates Dry Brush ($32). It’s the gold star of dry brushing (and the only brush I use), and the natural cactus sisal bristles leave skin feeling energized, refreshed, and smooth. (I’ve had mine for over a year now, too; they are practically indestructible, so don’t let that $32 price point scare you off.)

But if you need a bit more convincing before adopting a new daily process, we asked Aromatherapy Associates global director of education, Christina Salcedas, to explain the potential benefits for your overall health and skin—because it’s short shorts season and you want your gams to be glam.

It encourages new cell growth.

The superficial, surface reason why dry brushing is so popular is that it exfoliates, which is incredible for skin’s overall appearance, but it also encourages new, healthier cells to emerge.

“The physical sweeping of the brush across the skin lifts dead skin cells on the surface, allowing them to be swept away,” says Salcedas. “This leaves the skin looking smooth and feeling soft.”

It helps you detox.

The deeper wellness reason for dry brushing’s popularity is lymphatic drainage, aka detoxifying. Lymphatic drainage isn’t always the easiest thing to trigger, but the simple act of a stiff brush and light strokes can activate the detoxification, body-wide.

“Our lymphatic system helps to protect us from infection and disease,” says Salcedas. “It is a network of tissues and organs that play an integral part in the body’s immune system, assists in removing toxins, waste, and other unwanted materials from the body. The light massage that happens as result of body brushing can aid this process.”

It can do wonders on cellulite.

This one especially hooked me in: “Body brushing is known to improve blood flow, which in turn can improve the appearance of the skin thereby improving tone and the appearance of cellulite,” says Salcedas.

Your products will work better.

Just like applying moisturizer on damp skin helps it absorb better, dry brushing can also help moisturizers and products absorb more readily.

“With a fresh canvas of newly exposed skin cells, products applied after brushing can get to work quicker and more effectively,” says Salcedas.

It encourages mindfulness.

As is the case with any daily, self care practice, dry brushing is an opportunity to practice that ever elusive mindfulness. If you’re purposeful about every stroke and movement during the two to five minute practice (you can go slow or fast, you pick your speed), you’ll find that process carries over to other parts of your life.

“Use it as an opportunity to think about the day ahead,” says Salcedas.

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