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Dry Brushing Sounds Like Bullshit But You Might Want to Try It Anyway

Photo: Amazon

Once or twice a week, before I get in the shower, I take a short-handled bristle brush and, starting at my feet, drag it across my skin in quick strokes. I move upwards, brushing my legs, stomach, and arms. After a few minutes (I usually brush to Lizzo’s “Good as Hell” so I know I’ve clocked in around three minutes-worth of brushing), I hop in the shower and proceed with my usual morning grooming routine.

Dry brushing—using, yes, basically what you’re imagining a horse groomer uses—is all the rage in wellness right now. So let’s just jump to the bottom line: Is it bullshit? I mean, some of the claims made about its benefits absolutely are. But if you’re dealing with some scaly skin this winter as the weather gets dryer, you may just want to consider jumping on the dry brush bandwagon.

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What is dry brushing?

No, it’s not that thing where you’re traveling and forget a toothbrush so you put some toothpaste on your finger and wiggle it around your mouth because you’re too lazy to call down to the front desk for housekeeping to bring you a substitute.

Dry brushing has been a pre-bath ritual since forever, and the practice has recently come back into vogue because, well, wellness. It’s called dry brushing because you do it before a bath or shower, while you’re still totally dry (and nekkid).

Here’s what it definitely does: exfoliates dead cells from the surface of the skin. That’s it. Like a face scrub, dry brushing serves as a physical exfoliator for your skin.

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Here’s what some people claim it does before having to go back and update their stories to include a disclaimer that there’s actually no clinical data confirming any of these benefits: improve the appearance of cellulite. Aid lymphatic drainage. Improve blood flow. Jump starts your sex life. (Okay, no one has made that last claim, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it.)

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Why is dry brushing popular now?

Angel Kiss Dry Brushing Body Brush, $7
Graphic: Ana Luisa Suarez
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Thank/blame (thlame?) Goop. Just like Gwyneth Paltrow “made” yoga, the practice of dry brushing owes at least some of its recent resurgence to a spotlight on the actress’s lifestyle blog-turned-empire.

Best handheld dry brush: Angel Kiss Dry Brushing Body Brush

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Does dry brushing really work?

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To sweep away dead skin cells? Yes. Paltrow and her team of extras in a Big Little Lies scene set at a PTA meeting are right about that.

Beyond that? I’m not promising anything.

Best short-handled dry brush: Touch Me Natural boar bristle brush with contoured handle

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How and when should you dry brush?

Zen Me Premium Dry Brushing Body Brush, $20
Graphic: Ana Luisa Suarez
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As for how to dry brush, I’ll let Team Goop tell it: “...Start at your feet and brush upward toward the heart. Similarly, when you start on your arms, begin at the hands and work upward. Use firm, small strokes upward, or work in a circular motion.” After rinsing off in the shower or bath, use a body lotion or body oil to seal moisture in.

It shouldn’t hurt, so don’t brush too hard, and be sure to avoid any open wounds (gross, sorry). Skip it entirely if you deal with sensitive skin issues on your body like eczema or psoriasis.

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Stick to once or twice a week - the same as you would with a face scrub or exfoliator.

Best long-handled dry brush: Zen Me Premium Dry Brushing Body Brush

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About the author

Megan Collins

Megan Collins started Style Girlfriend to help guys look and feel their best. Today, she and her team share tips, tricks, and shortcuts to a closet that inspires confidence.