Is Dry Brushing My Skin Healthy?

What do you think of the practice of “dry brushing” the skin? Does it really detoxify the body and get rid of cellulite?

– February 17, 2011

Dry brushing involves rubbing the skin with a dry natural bristle brush. I understand that this is all the rage at spas and that commercial products are available so that aficionados can do it themselves at home. The process of dry brushing skin, which can be gentle or rough, may help slough off some dead skin cells, but some of the other claims for it are pretty farfetched.

The notion that dry brushing can reduce or eliminate cellulite makes no sense. Fat is arranged in large chambers separated from each other by columns of connective tissue. If fat overflows these chambers as a result of being overweight, or if the connective tissue slackens with age (as it invariably does), the result is the classic pitting and bulging we have come to know as cellulite. I have never seen any treatment that can effectively eliminate it. An improvement in the “appearance” of cellulite may be in the eye of the beholder, but I doubt that any objective change takes place with dry brushing for cellulite.

The idea that the dry brushing method can eliminate “up to a pound of toxins a day,” as some proponents claim, is ridiculous. First of all, the body does a pretty 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 to increase urinary output, taking steam baths or saunas to promote sweating, adjusting diet and fiber intake to ensure regular eliminations, and getting enough aerobic activity to stimulate 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 skin 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, you might want to opt for a less abrasive spa treatment.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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