There’s always a new skin trend popping up rumored to vanish wrinkles, smooth dimples and zap cellulite. But most turn out to be temporary tricks and, more often than not, too good to be true. Cue dry brushing—is it really worth the hype?
Dry brushing, as the term suggests, quite literally entails brushing your bare skin—thighs, butt, arms, you name it—with a soft-bristled brush in order to give skin a fresher, smoother appearance. While there is scant scientific research to back up claims that it cures cellulite, it has some cosmetic benefits, explains Mona Gohara, MD, a dermatologist at the Yale School of Medicine—although they are fleeting at best.
The motion improves circulation and helps flush waste and toxins by stimulating the lymphatic system, explains Dr. Gohara, who is also a fellow of American Academy of Dermatology. “Doing all of that can certainly parlay into skin radiance and glow and a plumper appearance.”
Another power of dry brushing is the element of exfoliation, she adds. While exfoliating “won’t shave off 20 years,” Dr. Gohara says, it helps remove dry, dead skin cells and makes your derm more susceptible to moisture and hydration. “Exfoliation really is a tenant of healthy, younger-looking skin.”
How to dry brush properly
Using a brush made with natural, ultra-fine bristles, run the brush over your bare skin in gentle, circular motions. It’s best to do it before you shower; both your skin and the brush should be dry. “I generally recommend doing it once a week, one pass per body part,” Dr. Gohara adds.
The brush makes all the difference; stiff or synthetic bristles can cause irritation or even microscopic cuts. “You should use a brush that would be safe even on a baby’s skin,” Dr. Gohara recommends.
You should avoid dry brushing if you have very sensitive skin, acne, or a condition like rosacea or eczema. “There’s a good chance any type of sensitive skin will react to this type of stimulation,” she says.
You may notice plump, fresh skin for a couple of hours. “Think about it,” Dr. Gohara explains, “when we go for a jog, our hearts are pumping blood to our organs, our face gets flushed, and then it fades away. Or imagine what happens when you pinch your cheeks.”
The bottom line: Dry brushing can act as a short-lived fix to energize your skin. But is it a permanent anti-aging solution for all lumps and bumps? “Absolutely not,” she says. “All of us would be scrubbing ourselves with brushes constantly, every day.”
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Five dry brushes to try
Our top picks boast natural, soft-to-the-touch bristles and various handle lengths to reach any lower or upper body area.
Best for: Brushing hard-to-reach spots
Best for: Brushing beginners who don’t want to spend a lot
Best for: Super-controlled brushing
Best for: Keeping on display between uses