Dry brushing, long popular in Europe, is in vogue at American spas - and now there are plenty of products on the market to help you do it at home. But should you? Basically, dry brushing involves rubbing the skin with a dry, natural bristle brush. The process can be gentle or rough and may help slough off dead skin cells, but the other claims for it are pretty far-fetched:
- Cellulite reduction or elimination. There is no reason to believe this is true. Fat is arranged in large chambers separated from each other by columns of connective tissue. If fat overflows these chambers as a person becomes overweight, or if the connective tissue slackens with age, the result is the classic pitting and bulging we have come to know as cellulite. But no massage or brushing technique has any significant effect on it.
- Toxic elimination. The idea that dry brushing can eliminate up to a pound of toxins a day, as some proponents claim, is ridiculous. Under most circumstances, the body does a good job of cleansing and purifying itself. If you feel the need, you can help speed the removal of unwanted materials by drinking more water, using steam baths or saunas to promote sweating, adjusting diet and fiber intake to ensure regular eliminations and getting enough aerobic activity to stimulate faster breathing. In addition, taking the herbal remedy milk thistle supports normal, healthy liver metabolism, aiding its important role in detoxification.
I would take the health claims for dry brushing with a big grain of salt. If you enjoy it and believe it benefits you, there's no reason not to do it. But if you find that it irritates or inflames your skin, opt for a less abrasive spa treatment such as massage.