What if I told you that rubbing a prickly brush over your skin could cure your cellulite, boost your blood flow, and make you glow? You’d probably give me some serious side-eye, right?
Well, “dry brushing,” is actually a pretty widely-loved beauty practice—hell, even Gwyneth Paltrow, queen of pricey beauty, swears by the affordable treatment.
But honestly, rubbing a brush on your legs seems strange. Real strange.
So, what exactly is dry brushing?
Basically, it’s exactly what it sounds like. “Dry brushing is a treatment using firm bristle brushes to help exfoliate dead cells from the surface of the skin,” says NYC-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D. “The procedure is also thought to help enhance lymphatic drainage and circulation,” he adds (more on that in a sec).
A dry brush can come in multiple shapes and sizes, but usually features natural bristles that are soft enough to sweep across your face and body, and oftentimes includes a long handle for harder to reach places (like your back).
Can you really see health benefits from dry brushing?
The main benefit: exfoliation. “Dry brushing improves skin appearance by removing the top layers of the skin, thus removing dull and dead skin cells and revealing healthy skin,” says NYC-based dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D. Think of it as a low-tech Clarisonic for your bod.
People swear by dry brushing for cellulite, and Engelman does say that it can help. Basically, cellulite happens when pockets of body fat gets pushed against the vertical connective tissue surrounding fat cells, she says. That puts pressure on your connective tissue, which ultimately pushes the fat against the top layers of the skin. “Dry brushing helps promote circulation and lymphatic drainage,” she says, which can help reduce inflammation and strengthen your connective tissue—and in turn, minimize the appearance of cellulite.
However, it should be noted that dry brushing is probably the least effective method for dealing with any bothersome cellulite (and not every derm recommends it). Zeichner adds that there’s little data showing how effective dry brushing actually is at promoting circulation and boosting the lymphatic system.
Are there any downsides to dry brushing?
Definitely skip dry brushing if you have dry or sensitive skin, or if you have eczema, says Zeichner. “When the skin barrier is disrupted, it can lead to irritation, inflammation, and worsening of dryness,” he says. Basically, exfoliating skin that’s already sensitive could make your issues worse.
And if you want to see results (especially for cellulite), you have to brush every. single. day, says Engelman. “Any effect from dry brushing is short-lived,” she says, “and once the treatment stops, the cellulite will come back.”
The bottom line: Dry brushing is great if you feel like your bod needs a little extra exfoliation. But don’t expect it to be a miracle worker, especially for cellulite.
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