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Skin Brushing - A Simple and Quick Path to Better Health

Updated on February 3, 2015

What is Skin?

Skin consists of two layers, the outer layer is known as the epidermis, and the inner layer is the dermis. There is also the hypodermis which is technically not part of the skin, but serves to bond the skin to the tissue underneath, as well as provide blood flow to the skin.

Skin has many purposes that are not immediately obvious. It is the largest organ in your body. It is sometimes referred to as the third kidney. Responsible for the elimination of approximately 25% of waste products per day, it also plays a role in absorbing small amounts of nitrogen and oxygen, and absorbs ultraviolet light to synthesize Vitamin D. Skin stores water in the body as well as provides a partially impermeable barrier to overhydration. It also provides a barrier to foreign pathogens such as bacteria and viruses, and contains cells that are part of the immune system known as Langerhans cells. The nerve endings located in skin are responsible for the body's ability to have the sensation of touch.

A skin brush pictured with other exfoliation items.  This particular brush has a pumice stone on the other side that is used for facial exfoliation.  You may want a brush with a longer handle for body brushing in order to reach the whole back.
A skin brush pictured with other exfoliation items. This particular brush has a pumice stone on the other side that is used for facial exfoliation. You may want a brush with a longer handle for body brushing in order to reach the whole back. | Source

What is Skin Brushing?

Skin brushing, or body brushing, is just what it says. It is to brush the dry skin, preferrably using a soft, natural bristle brush with a long handle. The process should take approximately two or three minutes. It is one of the simplest, yet also one of the most important routine detoxification measures you can take to better your health.

A cross section of skin.
A cross section of skin.

Why You Should Brush Your Skin

Health benefits of skin brushing are numerous. First, it has detoxifying effects. Skin cells are constantly dying and being replaced. Sometimes dead skin cells can become clogged in the pores. Secreted oils and toxins, as well as dirt that mixes with sweat can also clog pores. Bathing and showering, while cleaning the majority of your skin, does not get rid of all of the clogging inside the pores. This is perhaps due to a wet surface having less friction. If your skin has an abundance of clogged pores, it will not be able to dispose of toxins and waste products as adequately as it otherwise would.

As a result of this detoxification measure, a logical conclusion to this is that the second effect of dry brushing is to aid the immune system. If your skin is able to remove toxins more efficiently, then the immune system has far less potential hazards to deal with. This is even more important if you are battling a disease. Hence, skin brushing is widely used in cancer centers in Europe.

A third benefit is to stimulate the lymphatic system. Along with improved ability for detoxification, this is probably the most critical benefit. While the internal lymphatic organs play a key role in distributing the lymph, about 70% of the lymph system is directly under the skin. It is a very thin layer, however it covers the area of your body. Proper brushing stimulates lymphatic flow, which also has an immune boosting effect as well as enables more efficient processing of the blood.

Other benefits include removal of cellulite. This effect will not be seen immediately, results should be more apparent after a period of several months. Brushing also will give you a more youthful appearance. The reasons for this is that it tightens the skin, improves circulation, and stimulates hormone production.

How to Brush Your Skin

Proper skin brushing begins with using the correct type of brush. Soft, natural bristles are essential, synthetic bristles tend to be too hard or sharp when brushed dry and can cause skin damage. The handle on the brush needs to have sufficient length to reach the back.

Next, your skin must be dry. If you are sweating, take a towel or a blow dryer and dry your skin before brushing. Skin brushing is to be done before bathing or showering, not after. Showering will wash away all the exfoliated skin.

Start at the bottom of the feet, the furthest point on the body away from the heart. The lymphatic system flows towards the heart, so all of your strokes should be straighter strokes towards the heart. Do not brush in a circular motion, with the exception of the abdomen. Also, do not brush back and forth, you want the lymphatic system to be coaxed in its natural flow, so stroke only in the correct direction. Therefore, brush upwards on all four limbs, upwards on the lower back, and downwards on the shoulders and upper back. Brush the abdomen in a circular motion in a clockwise direction. A few strokes over each section of the skin will suffice.

For beginners, be sure to brush softly enough to not irritate the skin. The skin will get used to being dry brushed after doing it regularly, then you can use a bit more pressure, but the pressure should still be sufficiently gentle as to not redden the skin or warp the bristles of the brush. Your skin should not be red or feel irritated, though a slight pink flush is normal.

Do not brush your face. Do not brush over any open wounds or sores. Do not brush over rashes.

In order to maximize exfoliation, be sure to thoroughly clean your brush after each time. Soap and water will suffice.

If your skin is dry, after brushing and showering, you may want to apply a body moisturizer.

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