Although it sounds harsh, dry brushing is actually bracing in a good way, according to Lauren Baumann, an aesthetician at Canyon Ranch Spa in Lenox, MA. "Dry brushing is an ancient ritual once practiced in Greece and Japan. It's an invigorating exfoliation method that uses a natural bristle brush to promote circulation and smooth the skin's surface by sloughing off dead skin cells."
Bonus: Dry brushing has additional benefits besides just simply sweeping away dead, dull skin cells, according to Baumann. "It differs from other methods of exfoliation, mostly by how it is performed. Dry brushing stimulates circulation and moves lymph fluid in the body to promote detoxification." Plus, this method of exfoliation can actually be better suited to those with sensitive skin than other exfoliation methods. "The natural bristle brush makes for a gentle and non-irritating way to exfoliate, whereas more abrasive scrubs or strong alpha-hydroxy acids may be too intense for some skin types."
Dry brushing is commonly offered as a treatment in spas, but it's perfectly safe to attempt at home — as long as you have the right tool. "It's important to find the right brush to use," says Baumann. "If your brush is too soft, you'll get little exfoliating benefit, and one that's too stiff might be too abrasive." Baumann recommends a natural bristle brush, rather than a synthetic one, because it'll be less harsh and won't scratch the skin.
"To start, gently brush your skin starting from the outer limbs, moving towards the heart. Long, sweeping motions are best, rather than small isolated circles, where you may overstimulate with too many passes," Baumann says. Even though you're not using water while brushing, you'll probably want to dry brush in your shower or tub, so that dead skin cells can be rinsed down the drain (appealing, right?). "When you're finished, rinse your skin and your brush off, and always moisturize to rehydrate the skin," she says. While Baumann says that it's okay to dry brush up to once or twice a day, we recommend giving your skin a breather between treatments, just to be sure that you won't be rubbed the wrong way — get it?
The Body Shop Cactus Body Brush, $11.25, available at The Body Shop; Earth Therapeutics Purest Palm Body Brush, $9.99, available at Bed, Bath & Beyond.