Stories from Skin-Care Tips

I found the fastest way to get softer skin from head-to-toe

Rachel Lapidos

Rachel LapidosMay 23, 2019

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Photo: Getty Images/Youngoldman

I’m totally fine and dandy with brushing my hair, brushing my teeth, and brushing bronzer onto my face, but I just haven’t gotten into (dry) brushing my body.  Until now, that is.

The practice of dry brushing is exactly what it sounds like: It involves taking a soft-bristled brush and moving it across your body, which should be completely absent of any beauty products. It’s actually a beauty ritual that’s been around for a very long time, and is huge in Ayurveda. Skin pros love it because it’s a holistic way of exfoliating, boosting lymphatic drainage in the body, and improving circulation.

“I love dry brushing—it’s my favorite method of body exfoliation because it’s multitasking. I recommend it all the time,” raves celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas, founder of Joanna Vargas Salons and Skincare. “It stimulates your lymphatic system to help move out toxins and bring in good nutrients to every cell in the body.”

It’s also a big collagen stimulator, so not only is it helping things move along inside your body, but it’s doing good things for your skin’s appearance. “Dry brushing increases blood flow, which is healthy, but its main purpose is to stimulate collagen production,” says Vargas. I’ve also heard that it can be helpful in smoothing out skin and leaving it all-around softer.

Fine—sign me up. I got my hands on Joanna Vargas’ own dry brush—the Ritual Brush ($30)—and immediately brought it home to my shower. First off, know that it’s not just brushing down your body like you would with, say, your hair. There’s a whole system for its best effects: “Start at the tops of your feet and brush upwards towards the heart,” says Vargas. “Spend extra time on areas that tend to be more stagnant and don’t forget to include the backs of the arms and the back.”

I take her advice, and wake up one morning (after plenty of snoozes) to get started on my feet as I stand just outside the bathtub in my skivvies. I brush in long motions, and immediately notice that it’s definitely not as pleasant as brushing your strands. Since it’s on dry skin, the bristles feel pretty rough against the body—I can pretty much feel the top layer of dead skin cells sloughing off of my legs, but, after all, that’s supposed to happen.

“Dry brushing immediately increases your circulation, so you’ll feel warmer when you are done,” says Vargas. Which is true. The brushing feels pretty nice as I make my way up my legs, but once I get to the back of the upper thigh, it feels tight—kind of like when I foam roll the area. Brushing it out feels therapeutic and like a beautified version of rolling out the tight fascia up there.

On my arms, the brush feels really good, like a massage that’s also scratching itches that I didn’t really know that I had. By the time I’m done going over my whole body, I’m actually shook by how little time it took. I’d always imagined that it was a drawn-out ritual that was impossible to fit into an a.m. routine, but nope—you can do the whole thing in, like, less than five minutes.

Though it may be a more holistic modality, derms back the practice too. “Dry brushing is reported to give several benefits to the skin, including exfoliation, improved lymphatic drainage, and enhanced circulation,” says board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. While there isn’t hard science behind the self-care ritual, I’ve been doing it for a week every morning, and have found that it’s a nice few minutes for me to connect with my body and give it some love. Oh, and my skin’s been looking more alive for it (and I’ve since swept up all the dead skin flakes from my bathroom floor).

As for your face, here’s what you need to know about chemical exfoliants like AHAs and BHAs. And here’s how to use a face scrub, if you’re into physical exfoliants.

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