Illustrations by Louisa Cannell
How to Dry Brush—and Why It’s So Potent
Stacked amongst the clear glass jars of homeopathic remedies, immune-supporting supplements, rose creams, and carrot cleansers on the sparkling shelves of The Organic Pharmacy on Bleecker Street in New York, you’ll find a long wooden brush that looks straight out of an especially well-made Norwegian sauna. The brush is one of Margo Marrone’s—the London-based apothecary’s founder—favorite items (goop, $15). “It’s invaluable in helping with so many issues, but especially detox,” she says. Indeed, the practice of brushing the skin once or twice daily with a soft but firm brush is essential during a detox, but the benefits of simply making it a permanent habit are even more important: It’s said to boost circulation, sweep away dead skin cells, stimulate the lymph nodes, improve digestion, improve the appearance of cellulite, and help the cells and body in general remove waste.
Stimulating the lymphatic system is at the core of all its benefits, Marrone says, which is why dry brushing is prescribed along with the company’s bestselling 10-day Detox program (goop, $169). “The lymphatic system is responsible for collecting, transporting to the blood, and eliminating the waste our cells produce,” she explains. “If the lymphatic system is congested, it can lead to a build-up of toxins, causing inflammation and illness. Dry brushing stimulates the lymphatic system as it stimulates and invigorates the skin.”
A long brush like Organic Pharmacy’s allows you to get at hard-to-reach spots like the middle of your back; the shorter one from Aromatherapy Associates (goop, $32) fits in your hand perfectly, making it incredibly easy to use. Supracor makes a bath mitt specifically for dry brushing (goop, $32) that slides on like a glove.
At the Mayflower Grace Spa in Washington, Connecticut, dry brushing is incorporated into many treatments, from a detox sea mud wrap to an immune system support protocol, says Lise Sargent, guest services supervisor. “Along with normalizing lymph flow, it leaves your skin softer, pores clearer, and your whole body with more energy,” she says. The therapists at the Arrabelle in Vail, CO, use dry brushing as the first step in their Sports Enthusiast Body Recovery treatment to jump-start the healing process for tired or overworked muscles. In San Francisco at the Cavallo Point Lodge Healing Arts Center, the therapy is used in multiple treatments including the two-hour Infrared Salt Ritual, where it’s paired with Himalayan salt crystals and stones, plus an Amethyst BioMat that warms and nourishes the body with far infrared rays and negative ions. And at the Chill Spa at the Hotel Terra Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the supremely relaxing Lavender and Goat Milk treatment begins with therapeutic dry brushing—followed by a massage with shea butter, coconut oil, and goat’s milk powder, a foot scrub of raw lavender buds, and a warm wrap.
Dry brushing is one of those rare things that feels just as good when you do it yourself, and it’s incredibly easy to incorporate into your routine. Most experts recommend dry brushing in the morning, rather than before bed because of its energizing qualities. Some people use the brush on its own, others put a bit of body oil onto the brush before they use it. “Shower before skin brushing if you’re using an oil on the brush,” says Marrone, who brushes on Rose & Jasmine Oil (goop, $66) to maximize benefits. “If not, shower after skin brushing then apply oil or lotion.” It’s fantastic to do in conjunction with a sauna or steam, too.
Illustrations by Louisa Cannell
To do it yourself, start at your feet and brush upward towards the heart. “The chest area is where the lymph system drains,” says Sargent. Similarly, when you start on your arms, begin at the hands and work upward. Use firm, small strokes upwards, or work in a circular motion. For the stomach, work in a counterclockwise pattern. Harsh exfoliation is never the point; be sure not to press too hard, or use too-stiff of a brush. “Any kind of brushing or exfoliation should be gentle and should never break the skin.” Marrone adds. “I’ve tried skin brushes that are so hard they cannot be used due to the damage they do. I chose a medium soft cactus bristles for our skin brush for gentleness: The skin should never be scratched or damaged.”
Dedicate at least three to five minutes to brushing, says Michelle Kelthy, spa director at the Ritz-Carlton Spa in Naples, Florida, who finds the practice also helps with water retention. Marrone says the increased circulation and exfoliation regular dry brushing stimulates helps smooth the appearance of cellulite, too.
Dry brushing can also be done on the face, but the action should be even gentler, only once or twice a week (in place of other kinds of exfoliation) and use a brush specifically designed for face, like the one from Mila Moursi, Paris ($39, goop.com). Work upwards again, on both face and neck and moisturize with a face oil: We love Winter Oil from De Mamiel (goop, $114), Rodin Olio Lussio (goop, $170), or Kypris 1,000 Roses (goop, $225).
Dry Brushing Essentials
All you need to make dry brushing a daily ritual.
ELIXIR I – 1,000 ROSES goop, $225
WINTER FACIAL OIL goop, $114
ROSE & JASMINE
BODY OIL goop, $66
LUXURY FACE OIL goop, $170
BODY OIL Barneys, $68
STIMULITE BATH MITT goop, $32
POLISHING BODY BRUSH goop, $32
COMPLEXION BRUSH goop, $39
SKIN BRUSH goop, $15