Dry brushing is one of the best ways to detoxify the blood, tighten the skin, rid the legs and arms of cellulite, and keep your lymphatic system open and moving. To understand the importance of dry brushing, we must first understand the importance of our skin and its function in detoxification.
Our skin is our largest organ with many functions. It synthesizes vitamin D from the Sun, it regulates our body temperature and keeps us cool through sweating or warm by contracting, it protects our bodies from injuries, and it facilitates the body in the detoxification of wastes in the bloodstream. It gained its second name, the third kidney, because it functions quite similarly to the kidneys in eliminating toxins from the blood. To be precise, the skin eliminates around two pounds of waste each day. Rashes (eczema, seborrhea, dermatitis), boils, pimples, acne, and other skin problems are the unsightly manifestations of our inner condition. These are caused by toxins in the blood. How do we get toxins in the blood? There are two ways: internally and externally.
Toxins are caused internally by food allergies, alcohol, cigarette smoke, pesticides and chemicals in our food, excess hormones found in animal products (meat, milk, eggs), prescription drugs, overeating and constipation (which both cause putrefaction in the digestive tract), excessive stress or worry, and, widely unreported, synthetic supplements or too many supplements. What do all of these things have in common? Besides being toxic by nature, they clog the liver. Our liver is arguably our most important organ when it comes to our long-term health. Our liver purifies our blood, regulates our hormones, and helps to digest foods. When the liver is clogged, our blood cannot be properly purified and our blood flow becomes stagnant, or toxic. To make matters worse, a congested liver cannot filter out the body's hormones correctly, leaving us with hormonal imbalances that can lead to everything from acne to cancer.
Externally, our blood can become toxic from environmental pollution, chemicals in our body care products, synthetic dyes and chemicals in our clothing, as well as chemical-laden household cleaners and laundry detergents. Remember, the skin absorbs up to 70% of whatever we put on it. That's a big deal! Look in your cabinets at your detergent, hair gel, and moisturizers. My general rule is this: if you would not eat it, do NOT put it on your body. Environmental pollution is another big reason for blood toxicity and skin rashes.
I remember visiting New York City before I lived here and taking a shower when I returned home. I could feel the grease, grime, and smog from all of the automobiles coming off my body. Sometimes the water would even be a little grey in tint. Most of my friends also had the same experience, but now that we live in the city it's as if our bodies have adapted and, instead of rejecting the air completely, have learned to live with it, and possibly even absorb it into our skin. It's so important if you're living in the city to eat a diet that cleans the body of toxins on a daily basis. More importantly, there are several supplements (Alpha Lipoic Acid, parsely extract, and chlorella/kelp extracts) that are exceptional at detoxifying the liver and pulling heavy metals and radiation from the blood and tissues of the body.
One way to aid in the detoxification of the skin is through an ancient practice called dry brushing. Dry brushing increases the circulation to the surface of the skin which literally draws out wastes and drains the lymphatic system all over the body. The increased blood flow to the skin also helps to tighten the skin and drastically can begin reducing cellulite within days of doing it. Increased blood flow also means all of the good nutrition you're getting from your whole food plant-based diet is being delivered to the skin more effectively.
It stimulates nerve endings, which strengthen the nervous system. It also eliminates clogged pores, which allows the skin to take in more nutrients and excrete more wastes. Since the skin accounts for up to 1/4 of our daily detoxification, skin brushing can dramatically decrease the work of the liver and kidneys. When more toxins are leaving through an organ as large as the skin, instead of solely through the comparatively small liver and kidneys, those other cleansing organs can focus less on cleansing and more on digesting. Optimal digestion and flow of enzymes will then create less toxicity in the blood.
Once you perform a skin brushing, you will feel your skin literally breathing. It feels so open and fresh. You may even feel lighter. Some people, particularly those with a clogged lymphatic system, may notice mucus-like material in their stools. This is a great sign that the dry brushing is effectively stimulating the lymph to dump excess mucus into the colon for faster elimination. Since our lymphatic system is our super-highway for toxins, a faster flowing, unclogged lymph can do its job better and protect us from disease that results from the build-up of toxins.
Using a dry brush is very easy and takes between 5 to 15 minutes. You start at the top of your legs, stroking upwards in short, fast motions of three. I usually do six fast upstrokes before going to the next area of skin. Start at hip and upstroke your way down to the tops of your feet, then do the back of the legs in the same pattern. Move to your shoulders and upstroke down to your hands, then perform the same pattern on the back of the arm. Move to your neck and upstroke down to your waste and perform the same pattern on the back of the next down to your back - that's all there is to it!
Most practitioners advise starting at the bottom of the limb and working your way up. I believe, since the lymph flows up, that moving from the bottom up can actually clog the lymph, rather than open it. Imagine the lymph node in your groin as a knot and a long straight rope (the lymph vessel) running down from that knot to your foot. I find that opening the knot first will then allow the lymph to move through it easier, rather than liberating all of the lymph fluid below the node that may just stagnant until the node has been stimulated. If you're skeptical try both ways. I find this way works best for me. You may find it a little painful the first two, or three times, but the skin becomes stronger and the brushings become more and more soothing as your perform them.
You want to make sure that you're using a natural brush that's made from wood and plant-based fibers. Synthetic brushes will break down as you use them, releasing chemicals into your skin and reversing any benefits of skin brushing. I like the dry brushes from Yerba Prima, but as long as it's wooden and made from vegetable-based, non synthetic (plastic) bristles you're good to go!
Do NOT perform dry brushing over rashes, skin infections, fungal conditions, or poison ivy. It will cause severe irritation and, in cases of infection and fungal outbreaks, can contaminate the brush and spread the condition further throughout the body.
For optimal cleansing, perform a skin brushing before exercise. The open, unclogged pores will be able to sweat better and eliminate toxins better this way. Follow up with a cool shower to, once again, increase circulation to the skin and stimulate the lymph. This is a great ritual to include in your life each day to ensure proper detoxification and smooth, tight, glowing skin. Enjoy a nice glass of lemon water with cayenne and one dropper of burdock extract, or red clover tea with lemon and a small spoonful of raw honey after your dry brushing and shower. Those two tonics will continually help cleanse the body of toxins by stimulating the lymph and cleaning the liver.
If you have skin issues that may impede your ability to dry brush, you should follow a personalized diet and supplemental protocol for, at least, three months. Remember, a skin issue is a reflection of inner body toxicity that is manifesting itself to you. Your skin is an alarm system for the blood and the liver. Be thankful for it, as it is alerting you of small, reversible problems that can be easily eliminated before they become more life-threatening and severe.