what is dry brushing

Maybe you’ve been hearing a lot about dry brushing lately — but what is it? And is dry brushing something worth adding to your skill set and offering your massage clients?

Brooke Riley, a licensed massage therapist who is also an operations specialist for Massage Heights, a nationwide family-owned therapeutic massage and facial services franchise company based in San Antonio, Texas, didn’t see what all the fuss was about when she started hearing about dry brushing.

“It took listening to quite a few clients asking about the service to make me decide it might be a good idea to do my own research to see what all the fuss was about,” she said. “Once I saw how easy and low cost it was for my business, it was easy to see adding it was a good fit.” 

What is Dry Brushing?

Dry brushing, also called body brushing, is an ancient wellness technique that uses raw silk or linen gloves or natural brushes to brush the body without the use of water, oils or other moisturizing creams. It is most commonly associated with Ayurveda. In the Ayurvedic tradition, dry brushing is used to cleanse the lymphatic system to remove cellular waste in an effort to counter fatigue, sluggishness and an underperforming immune system.

Today, dry brushing of the body is still used to stimulate the lymphatic system to release toxins, said Riley, but it also is thought to offer such benefits as:

• Exfoliation: Dry brushing removes dead, dry skin, which can lead to clearing clogged pores, allowing your skin to “breathe” and brighten, improving its appearance, and feel softer and fresher, she said.

• Increases circulation: Using slow long strokes, or slow, circular strokes, depending on the area of the body being brushed, stimulates sensory nerves, which can leave your client feeling refreshed and energized. The firm movement of the brush’s bristles also activates lymphatic drainage, helping the body to detoxify.

• Stress relief: “The act of dry brushing has been described as meditative,” she said, and may aid in reducing muscle tension and calming the mind.

• Invigoration: Dry brushing “simply feels so good,” she said. Even after a quick dry brushing session, those who do the practice regularly report feeling rejuvenated.

It should be noted, though, that claims of dry brushing benefits, such as lymphatic drainage or reduction or elimination of cellulite, have not been scientifically proven, Riley said. And, while dry brushing is generally a safe technique for most people and is painless, those with sensitive skin, fragile skin due to, for example, aging, or with skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, may want to avoid it, she said.

Dry Brushing and Massage

Massage therapists can offer dry brushing as a stand-alone service or as a massage add-on, Riley said. Before they begin offering it to clients, massage therapists should take the time to learn the technique and to become comfortable doing it. Most massage therapists take course work in school or as part of continuing education training or by picking up the skill while working at a spa that offers it, she said.

To do dry brushing, the massage therapist works the brush in circular movements or long, gentle strokes, starting with the soles of the feet or with the fingers (from the fingers to palms), she said. Massage therapists should work the brush up the body, always in the direction of the heart.

“When stimulating circulation and lymph system, you always want to be brushing in the direction of venous and lymphatic flow,” she said. Provide extra care and attention to areas such as the feet, knees and elbows where the skin tends to be thicker and tougher.

Educate Clients

Your clients may have heard various things about what dry brushing can do – for instance, the oft-touted reduction or elimination of cellulite – so if they’re interested in trying this technique, make sure to talk to them about what dry brushing can and cannot achieve.

“Letting your client know they will see a change in the texture of their skin, and educating them on how soft and renewed the skin will feel after is a great way to educate the client on dry brushing,” Riley said.

While it’s obviously more relaxing for your clients to be comfortably stretched out on your massage table when dry brushing is performed, you can also educate them on how to incorporate dry brushing into their at-home wellness routine, she said.

When educating your clients on at-home dry brushing, emphasize these things:

1. Always brush from the outermost point in, so start at the feet, for example, and work up the body from there.

2. Brush longer on areas that need a bit more attention, such as the knees, feet and elbows.

3. Dry brushing can be done at any time, but many regular practitioners like to do so before showering or bathing so that the dry skin flakes are contained and washed off.

4. Because dry brushing can be energizing, most dry brushing traditions, such as the Ayurvedic, recommend doing dry brushing in the morning rather than in the evening before going to sleep. Riley recommends using a good natural moisturizer after a session of dry brushing and bathing.

5. After brushing, clean the brush with antibacterial soap, store it in a dry place, away from humidity, and let it completely dry before using it again.

Dry brushing can be done daily, but many skin experts recommend three times a week to once a week to avoid causing skin irritation.

An Easy Addition

Whether at home or during a massage session, dry brushing is something that can be done year-round. As with any hands-n technique, make sure dry-brushing is covered in your scope of practice as administered by your board of massage therapy.

“Summer sun leads to dry skin, and so does winter’s cold weather,” Riley said. “If you have a client that is complaining of an issue with dry skin, is feeling sluggish, or has minor swelling, dry brushing in the correct way can be a great addition as a service offering.”

Because it’s such an easy addition, too, it’s a great service to offer clients who are just interested in keeping up with wellness trends or who enjoy trying something new, she said. “Those clients that keep up with the trends and want a spa experience love it.”

About the Author:

Stephanie Bouchard is a freelance writer and editor based on the coast of Maine. She frequently reports news and features for MASSAGE Magazine.