You’ve likely heard how dry brushing your body stimulates the lymphatic system, removing toxins and puffiness and aiding in circulation while also exfoliating dead cells to plump the skin and reduce the appearance of cellulite. What you might not have known? There are also anti-aging benefits to dry brushing your face! Sounds wacky, but read on to learn how to dry brush your face and the multiple ways skin experts say it can turn back the clock.
What is dry brushing and how does your body benefit?
Exactly as it sounds, dry brushing entails using a brush with soft, fibrous bristles (you can use a baby brush or pick up an inexpensive brush that’s made for dry brushing) to massage your skin in a circular motion without using any water or cleansers. Because the motions stimulate the lymph system and exfoliate the skin, the benefits are impressive.
Dermatologist Navin Arora, MD, founder of Borealis Dermatology in New York, outlines some of the benefits of dry brushing here:
- Softens skin: Dry brushing helps remove dead skin cells from the surface of your skin, leaving it smoother and softer. This process can improve the overall texture of your skin and promote a healthy glow.
- Reduces cellulite: Like a massage, the brushing action stimulates blood flow, which can help nourish the skin cells and promote a healthy complexion. It can even cause a reduced appearance in the dimpling that comes with cellulite.
- Shrinks swelling: Dry brushing is believed to support the lymphatic system, which plays a crucial role in immune function and detoxification. Some people find that this helps reduce puffiness and fluid retention.
- Enhances absorption of skincare products: By removing dead skin cells, dry brushing can improve skincare products’ absorption, like moisturizers and serums, allowing them to penetrate more effectively.
- Relaxes: Dry brushing can be a relaxing ritual that provides a few moments of self-care and mindfulness in your day.
What are the benefits of dry brushing the face?
Simply put, applying the technique to your face will have you reap the same benefits as the body — and then some.
1. It can enliven dull skin and smooth wrinkles
“Exfoliating your facial skin allows the fresh, healthy skin to come to the surface. That’s how you get a rosy glow and reduce acne and fine lines,” explains Richard Bottiglione, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Arizona and founder of Dermatologist’s Choice Skincare.
2. It can firm skin and improve tone and texture
“Since it helps increase circulation and promotes the flow of oxygen-rich blood so skin cells can turnover faster, and cellular turnover improves the tone and texture of the skin, that makes it appealing as an option for the face,” explains Merry Thornton, PA-C, board-certified dermatology physician’s assistant and founder of Element Medical Aesthetics in New Canaan, Connecticut.
3. It can de-puff the eyes
“We can get congestion in areas like the under-eye area, which causes puffiness and swelling,” says Thornton. “Dry brushing can help unblock these channels to de-puff.”
How to dry brush your face
To ensure you don’t irritate the sensitive skin on the face, you’ll want to follow expert recommendations on exactly how to do it. Thornton details it for us:
- Make sure the skin is clean and dry, and choose a brush with natural bristles. (See below for our recommendations.)
- Apply gentle pressure to the brush and start in the center of your face and move outward, then behind the ear and down the neck, brushing in short strokes (you can also make small circles).
- Aim to do this for about 2 minutes once or twice weekly.
You’ll also want to ensure you only apply gentle pressure when you dry brush, especially near the eye area where the skin is thinner. “Overdoing it or using a harsh brush will lead to skin irritation, redness or broken capillaries,” warns Anna Chacon, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Florida. “If you have sensitive skin or skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis, it is best to consult with your doctor before dry brushing,” advises Dr. Chacon.
To see how to dry brush your face in action, watch this video tutorial:
Who shouldn’t dry brush their face?
As outlined by the experts we consulted, dry brushing can benefit the skin on our face and bodies. However, you’ll want to note that there are some cases in which the process can be too abrasive.
“If it feels irritating or uncomfortable, don’t do it. If you have an open wound, this would be another reason to avoid dry brushing in that area,” advises Thornton.
And because dry brushing is a form of physical exfoliation, you’ll want to avoid doing it in combination with other exfoliants, says Dr. Bottiglione. Together it would be like using sandpaper on your skin, he says. “It will remove skin cells but can also cause a lot of irritation or worse eczema.” This includes abrasives like scrubs, sugars and even rough cloths designed to remove dead skin cells and exfoliate the skin manually.
Another downside to using a physical exfoliator: “The irritation it can cause as it disrupts your skin barrier and forces the skin cells to come off,” says Dr. Bottiglione. “I wouldn’t recommend these abrasive methods for patients with clinically dry and sensitive skin as it can cause more damage.”
How often should I dry brush my face?
Experts say that dry brushing can be done up to twice weekly, but if you’re a little more on the sensitive side (but not too sensitive to exfoliate with dry brushing), you may want to stick to just once a week.
Basically, whatever your skin can tolerate.
Should I wash my face after dry brushing?
You’ll want to commence your normal skincare routine after dry brushing.
If you’re dry brushing before entering the shower or bath, apply a nourishing body oil like the Pre-Bath Oil by Dermatologist’s Choice (Buy from Dermatologist’s Choice, $35) to your skin then enter the bath or shower. “Applying the Pre-Bath Oil before and after dry brushing helps protect the fresh layer of skin and minimize the sensitivity the dry brushing may have caused,” explains Dr. Bottiglione. “Plus, applying the Pre-Bath Oil before the shower or bath protects your skin barrier from the harsh hot water and soaps. You can then use a gentle cleanser, your normal serums and moisturizer.”
3 affordable dry brushes experts love
Now that you’ve got the know-how to dry brush the face, here are options for the one inexpensive tool you need to getting it done
Grace & Stella Dry brush (Buy from Grace & Stella, $8)
This vegan dry brush helps increase blood circulation and lymphatic drainage to eliminate dull skin, promoting cell turnover for healthier skin.
Primally Pure dry brush (Buy from Primally Pure, $18)
The Primally Pure brush features natural bristles and a round face-friendly shape so you can cover a large area while still getting the brush into facial nooks and crannies.
Kewlyseu Face Brush (Buy from Amazon, $7.99 for pack of 2)
The best deal of the bunch, this pick features natural boar bristles and comes as a pack of two, so when one gets worn from use, you can toss it and use the other one!
How often should you wash your dry brush?
You should wash your dry brush semi-weekly or weekly, depending on how often you use it, much like you’d care for your makeup brushes. You can gently scrub in warm water using a mild unscented soap or baby shampoo, and allow the brush to dry on a towel with the bristles facing down.
This video shows the easy how-to:
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