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Get a leg up: How to dry brush your body for the beach or the pool

dry brushing legs cellulite
Photo: Aila Images via Stocksy

Some women love anything in a tube or jar that hints at the promise of fighting cellulite. Ann Marie Cilmi, a top New York City spa therapist and educator who used to head up the city’s Bliss Spas, loves dry brushing.

The domain of this soft-bristle brush isn’t your hair but your dermis. The health obsession started with the Ayurvedics and became a staple of the French spa-going set. Now dry brushing is typically used in a body treatment at a spa to stimulate circulation and exfoliate. “Brushing the skin without water is linked to the detox process,” says Cilmi, “because it helps stimulate the lymphatic drainage process.” Lymph being our cellular-waste system that doesn’t have a heart to pump its bloat-causing sludge up and out.

It beats the results of most cellulite products, which are typically useless and expensive.

You’re not going to see an American Medical Association peer-reviewed study on this topic any time soon. But one thing we’ve been hearing about—and personally testing—is the beach-ready results you get from brushing your pre- or post-shower silhouette—particularly on the legs, thighs, and even triceps. Let me just say that it beats the results of most cellulite products, which are typically useless and expensive. This is neither. The brush is about $15 (and displaying it gives my bathroom that Finnish sauna look.)

One therapist I know dry brushes her legs and behind when heading to the beach or wearing a short skirt, and swears her deepest cellulite dimple is less concave for it. Another skin-brushing afficionado says it’s the first spa service she books when she gets to a resort. And Cilmi loves to include dry brushing in spa treatments that she helps create for spas—including the butt-firming Mama Mio treatment, which worked wonders on my tush.

Dry brushing your body (or booty) a few times a week can improve your circulation, and help give skin a glow, tone your legs, and may even lessen the severity of cellulite, Cilmi says. “It’s an under-rated over-looked natural remedy for gorgeous gams.” Here’s how to get them:

1. Buy a firm, natural-bristle brush.

No need to get one for $45 at Anthropologie. You can buy one for less at Whole Foods or any health food store.

2. Take about three minutes to dry-brush your whole body.

It’s best done in the morning before bathing, naked on the bathmat. (Or whatever works for you.)

3. Apply enough pressure to stimulate circulation, but not so much that it hurts.

You’re going for a gentle yet vigorous process.

4. Important tip: Brush upwards (always towards the heart).

Do so in small and quick or circular motions until the skin appears pinkish red.

5. Start at the knee, where the lymph nodes are, and brush the outside.

Then brush the inside of the thigh towards the groin, followed by the calf, from the foot toward the groin. Finally, brush the buttocks from midline outward toward the hip. Repeat on opposite leg.

Originally posted July 1, 2010, updated May 26, 2016.

After all of this leg work, maybe it’s time to purchase these cool bike shorts all the cool yogis are wearing in lieu of leggings. And don’t forget to moisturize—check out the 12 best natural body oils on the market.