"What in the hell did I get myself into?" That is the thought running over and over in my mind the first time I dry brushed my skin. It stings. Only momentarily, but it stings something awful. Why on earth would I be naked as a jay bird dry rubbing a stiff bristle natural fiber brush over every inch of my skin before hoping in my steamy lavender magnesium bath? Well, here's why I delved deeper into my adventures of being a posh crunchy mama and started skin brushing...
One third of your body's toxins are excreted through the skin and dry brushing helps to unclog pores and excrete toxins that become trapped in the skin.
A very good friend of mine sent me an article about skin brushing (also known as dry brushing), knowing how interested I am in all methods of naturally improving health, wellness, and natural immune boosting. I read the article and did a little additional research (c'mon, its me we're talking about). Skin brushing sounded pretty awesome.
Most of us know that your skin is the largest organ of absorption and elimination. That's the reason why what you put on your skin in the way of beauty products (lotions, deodorant, perfumes, etc.) is so very important. What you put on you, goes IN YOU. Aluminum, parabens, and all manner of hormone disruptors and carcinogens are present in our medicine cabinets, and it would serve you well to go read those labels carefully. But what about what comes out of our skin? Many people exfoliate the skin on their faces regularly (hello apricot scrub, I love you), an entire spa industry is focused on facial exfoliation. But the truth is that your whole body could do with thorough and regular scrub-a-dub. Skin that is clogged with toxins and dead cells cannot function properly because the toxins are not being eliminated.
Out of all the numerous benefits (and believe me their were tons), here are what I think are the top benefits of skin brushing:
Reduces Cellulite Um WHAT?! Awesome.The first major benefit that many proponents of skin brushing claim is that it eliminates–or drastically reduces–the appearance of cellulite (example of a before and after below). This is an important element of detoxifying the body. Cellulite is actually composed of toxic fat buildup that results in the wrinkling of the skin. Brushing dry skin is believed to tighten the epidermis and contribute to the breakup of this toxic material. This is much more economical and convenient than liposuction therapy. The detoxification process can be further enhanced by taking colon cleansing, liver cleansing, and chemical and heavy metal cleansing supplements and exercising regularly.
Exfoliates Another benefit one can expect is the removal of dead skin cells. Advantages that this brings extend beyond the obvious one of removing dry, dead skin that looks dull. When dead cells are exfoliated, new cells form more quickly. The added benefit of exfoliating the skin, is clearing excess sebum oil, dirt and residue from the pores. Though it isn’t recommended to dry brush the face unless you have a special, more delicate brush, dry brushing helps improve pores on the rest of the body. Skin not only looks healthier, it actually becomes healthier as dead skin is removed from clogged pores. If you are a lover of therapeutic essential oils (like I am, uh hem), you can expect better and more thorough absorption of your oils if there isn't layers of dead skin cells to pass though.
Promotes Circulation Blood flow increases to the skin following dry brushing, and the normal process of releasing toxins through perspiration is improved. Proper exercise, spicy foods, and breathing techniques also help promote normal circulation.
Supports Muscle Tone Another advantage offered by skin brushing is the stimulation of the nervous system. Stimulated nerves activate muscle fibers and improve muscle tone. This is particularly beneficial to people who have lost weight and are looking to tighten up sagging skin.
Immune System Health One of the most important benefits of skin brushing is the supposed effect it has on the lymphatic system. This is of profound significance to the immune system. The lymphatic system is a major part of the body’s immune system. It is made up of organs and lymph nodes, ducts and vessels that transport lymph throughout the body. Many of these lymph vessels run just below the skin and proponents of dry brushing claim that brushing the skin regularly helps stimulate the normal lymph flow within the body and help the body detoxify itself naturally. White blood cells, or lymphocytes, are actually named after this major body system. Lymph circulates to our cells through channels independent of our circulatory system. However, after it has done its work, it returns to the bloodstream through valves leading into the heart. Here, the white blood cells can fight the toxic agents that threaten our health. Massaging the skin with a brush, combined with exercise, speeds up the flow of lymph and directly contributes to a stronger immune system and healthier body.
Skin Appearance A huge benefit of skin brushing is a drastic improvement in the appearance of the skin itself! Eliminating dead skin and unclogging pores results in a very noticeable improvement. For people who exercise or sit in Far Infrared Saunas, this is an excellent follow up to detoxification by sweating. The appearance of the skin also improves as new cells form more quickly, and the skin takes on a smooth luster that is noticeably brighter than the dull appearance of old, dry, and often wrinkled skin.
HOW TO DRY BRUSH YOUR SKIN
The brush used should be a long-handled bath type brush. It should contain only natural vegetable bristles. Synthetic bristles should be avoided as they may scratch or irritate the skin. The brush should be kept dry and never used for bathing. When one performs skin brushing, the body should be dry for proper effect. Wet skin may allow sliding while dry skin brushing gently stretches the skin promoting lymph flow and the sloughing off of dead skin cells.
The brush should pass over every part of the body, always toward the heart.
Standing in my bathroom, as gently as I could, using this brush against my bare skin and over my bum (Hello?! Reduces cellulite!), I seriously started to doubt the wisdom of this experiment. Ouch! But the scratchy feeling subsides very quickly. And do you know what I started to see floating in the air? MY SKIN! Flakes of skin were everywhere. Okay, so it works in removing dead cells. That's pretty cool. Gross, but pretty cool. I then continued with my regular hot epsom salt and essential oils bath, natural lotion application and called it a night.
The next morning my skin is noticeably smoother and more vibrant. My body seemed to absorb my lotion and essential oils SO MUCH BETTER. Being in the endless winter here in New England and nursing a very hungry 6 month old - my skin seems perpetually dry. This was the first morning after my soak and smear (Hot bath followed with full body oils and lotion, meant to keep your skin in better health than constant showers that strip your body of moisture. I didn't make that name up, I hate the word smear too. gross) that my skin felt as moisturized and soft as it did when I went to bed. Looking forward also to the additional benefits this will have in increasing the effectiveness of my skin absorbing my daily use of my essential oils. Wondering how many of those precious drops in the past were wasted on my dead-skin laden body. Hmm, best not to think about it.
I'm sold. Not bad for a tool that cost $5.99! I'll keep you updated on any other benefits as I see them.
Would you try skin brushing? What was your experience?
In general, pure essential oils can be subdivided into two distinct groups of chemical constituents; the hydrocarbons which are made up almost exclusively of terpenes (monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, and diterpenes), and the oxygenated compounds which are mainly esters, aldehydes, ketones, alcohols, phenols, and oxides.
Terpenes - inhibit the accumulation of toxins and help discharge existing toxins from the liver and kidneys.
Esters - are the compounds resulting from the reaction of an alcohol with an acid (known as esterification). Esters are very common and are found in a large number of essential oils. They are anti-fungal, calming and relaxing.
Aldehydes - are highly reactive and characterized by the group C-H-O (Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen). In general, they are anti-infectious with a sedative effect on the central nervous system. They can be quite irritating when applied topically (citral being one example), but may have a profound calming effect when inhaled.
Ketones - are sometimes mucolytic and neuro-toxic when isolated from other constituents. However, all recorded toxic effects come from laboratory testing on guinea pigs and rats. No documented cases exist where oils with a high concentration of ketones (such as mugwort, tansy, sage, and wormwood) have ever caused a toxic effect on a human being. Also, large amounts of these oils would have to be consumed for them to result in a toxic neurological effect. Ketones stimulate cell regeneration, promote the formation of tissue, and liquefy mucous. They are helpful with such conditions as dry asthma, colds, flu and dry cough and are largely found in oils used for the upper respiratory system, such as hyssop, Clary sage, and sage.
Alcohols - are commonly recognized for their antiseptic and anti-viral activities. They create an uplifting quality and are regarded as non-toxic.
Terpene Alcohols stimulate the immune system, work as a diuretic and a general tonic, and are anti-bacterial as well.
Sesquiterpene Alcohols are anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-mycotic, and ulcer-protective (preventative).
Phenols - are responsible for the fregrance of an oil. They are antiseptic, anti-bacterial, and strongly stimulating but can also be quite caustic to the skin. They contain high levels of oxygenating molecules and have anioxidant properties.
Oxides - According to The American Heritage™ Dictionary of the English Language, an oxide is "a binary compound of an element or a radical with oxygen".
All pure essential oils have some anti-bacterial properties. They increase the production of white blood cells, which help fight infectious illnesses. It is through these properties that aromatic herbs have been esteemed so highly throughout the ages and so widely used during the onsets of malaria, typhoid, and of course, the epidemic plagues during the 16th century. Research has found that people who consistently use pure essential oils have a higher level of resistance to illnesses, colds, flues, and diseases than the average person. Further indications show that such individuals, after contracting a cold, flu, or other illness, will recover 60-70 percent faster than those who do not use essential oils.
The information on this page is from the Reference Guide for Essential Oils by Connie and Alan Higley. For more information on this subject, see also the book, The Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple, by David Stewart.