Daily dry brushing is a simple and indulgent ritual that has benefits for overall health. Basically
an exercise of sweeping the entire body with a semi-stiff, natural bristle brush, it feels like a mini
self-massage and is an excellent morning boost for the nervous system. Spending just 5-10
minutes brushing prior to your morning shower is a great way to gently exfoliate your skin,
stimulate micro-circulation, encourage lymphatic drainage and support your immune system.
Many claim it is effective in smoothing the appearance of cellulite as well.
Dry skin brushing is a common traditional practice among a number of cultures and is used as a
cleansing modality in Auyrvedic medicine, where it is known as garshana. Most traditions
consider dry brushing beneficial for aiding in the movement of lymphatic fluids, which is
fundamental in the elimination of the byproducts of the body’s cellular processes, as well as its
immune functions. Some causes of congested lymphatic fluids include lack of movement, tissue
injuries, over exposure to toxins, and constricting or tight-fitting clothing.
All you need to get started is a brush! If you’re new to this practice, a short-handled brush with a
bristle area about as large as your hand is a good place to start. (These are readily available for
$5-15.) To properly dry brush, it’s important to follow a technique that supports the natural
movement of body fluids. It’s not unusual for the brushing to pink-up your skin, especially in the
beginning of your practice. For those with very sensitive skin, limiting to 1-2 days per week may
be more appropriate.
Stretch and sweep
There are a variety of recommendations for specific brushing techniques and sequences. The one
described below is based on a Chinese Medicine view of the body in that the flow is directed
outward & downward on the yang or lateral/ dorsal aspects of the body, and inward & upward on the yin or medial/ anterior aspects. This is consistent with the lymphatic system’s natural direction of moving circulation toward the heart, particularly on the softer surfaces of the body.
It also follows some of the techniques used in lymphatic drainage massage, such as initiating the
practice by opening the primary drainage areas at the clavicle and under the arms. Another basic
tenet related to lymphatic drainage massage is to stretch each limb as it is being brushed in order
to stimulate any sluggish fluids.
- Assume a seated position. A bathroom stool or the edge of a bathtub is perfect.
- Start by stimulating your scalp: brush through your hair with a natural bristle hairbrush.
- Switch to the body brush and continue with long, outward strokes down the back of the
neck and across the back of the shoulders.
- Move to the front of the neck and gently sweep above and below the clavicles toward the
- Sweep your brush down the outer aspect of each arm and then up the inner, focusing
extra stimulation on the palms of the hands and using gentle circular strokes at the inner
elbows and axilla.
- Similarly, sweep in a downward direction from your backside to the tops and lateral
aspects of your feet. Then move up the inner half of the legs beginning with the soles of the feet, where you can apply more vigorous strokes to stimulate the many nerve endings there.
- Brush in an upward direction on your belly.
- Don’t forget the soft tissues of the chest: raise each arm and—starting at the axilla—brush around the upper and lower areas of each breast, moving toward the heart.
To more effectively move fluids, it’s important to use gentle pressure on the body’s soft areas,
where lymph nodes are typically clustered. Always avoid any areas of broken skin or acute
inflammation, and consult your physician if you have concerning health conditions that may be
contraindicated, including serious kidney problems or congestive heart failure.
Williams, Anne. (2010). Manual lymphatic drainage: Exploring the history and evidence base.
British journal of community nursing. 15. S18-24. 10.12968/bjcn.2010.15.Sup3.47365.