Whether you're a faithful practitioner of Ayurveda or your average beauty-lover who isn't afraid of scraping off every dead skin cell on your body with a frighteningly long brush, you've probably heard about dry brushing. What you may not know is that dry brushing has been touted by some as a way of both preventing and getting rid of cellulite. Now, considering how nearly every woman on Earth has cellulite — which is dimpled skin caused by subcutaneous fat that usually occurs on the thighs, hips, butt, and belly — it's pretty annoying that we don't know a whole lot more about how to get rid of it.
Are we going to pass off dry brushing as the miracle solution? Nope. Are we going to pretend it's unnatural to have cellulite and that we have to make it a lifelong quest to make it vanish? Thankfully, no again.
But because we're eternally curious about beauty trends like dry brushing (assuming you can call an age-old practice trendy), we spoke with a board-certified dermatologist to get the lowdown on whether dry brushing actually helps treat or prevent cellulite so that you maintain realistic expectations.
What Is Body Brushing?
Let's start with the facts: body brushing, or dry brushing, is a routine in which the skin all over your body is brushed in long strokes, usually right before a bath. "The concept of dry brushing is to increase circulation and lymphatic flow in the tissue, to reduce swelling, improve lymphatic drainage, and improve circulation and oxygenation of the skin and tissues," said Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, a dermatologist in Beverly Hills, California.
When body brushing, it is recommended that you work a dry body brush in gentle, circular motions beginning at the ankles and up toward the heart. Don't brush too hard over sensitive skin on your abdomen and breasts and, when it comes time to brush your back, brush downward from your neck. Follow your shower with an application of essential oils, like almond or sesame oil.
What Are Some Of the Best Body Brushes?
Selecting a body brush is a personal choice, and it may take a bit of trial and error to find the best one for you. In general, it is recommended that you invest in a brush with natural bristles and a long handle that makes it easy to reach spots like your back. The good news is you needn't spend a small fortune on a quality dry brush.
Some of the most popular choices on Amazon include Wholesome Beauty Dry Skin Body Brush, Touch Me 100% Natural Boar Bristle Body Brush With Contoured Wooden Handle, and TopNotch Body Bath Brush.
Does It Work For Cellulite?
Let's cut to the chase and find out what everyone really wants to know: can dry brushing your thighs, butt, or hips actually decrease or prevent cellulite?
"Cellulite is genetic, and over 90 percent of women have it," Shainhouse said. "Cellulite does occur in women of all weights and body shapes and body fat percentages, and it cannot be prevented. There are no permanent treatments for cellulite, but the appearance can be lessened. Massaging the skin may help swell up the tissue and very temporarily loosen the bands, so that it appears more smooth."
In other words: if you dry brush every day, there's a chance your skin will look overall smoother and plumper, which can reduce the appearance of cellulite — but Shainhouse said solutions like exercise (which can can help firm up muscles so that the overlying fat and tissue doesn't appear as soft and tethered) and Cellfina, an FDA-approved device that cuts the bands under the skin and is effective in reducing specific areas of skin puckering, are likely as good or better at masking cellulite. And you'll have to weigh the benefits of dry brushing against what Shainhouse says are potential drawbacks to the practice.
"While gently massaging the skin and tissues is a good way to help lymphatic flow, repeatedly brushing the skin with a brush is not recommended by dermatologists," Shainhouse said. "Continually rubbing the skin causes inflammation in the skin, and the skin responds by thickening up, to create a better, protective barrier from the outside trauma, aka brushing. Thicker skin will appear purple or hyper-pigmented (grey-brown), called macular amyloid. Further rubbing can cause thick scaly plaques or calluses, called lichen simplex chronicus. These effects are not always completely reversible."
With this expert's advice and knowledge in mind, it makes sense to proceed with caution when dry brushing your body. Don't brush too hard, find a better brush if yours proves too abrasive, and — for goodness sake — cut yourself some slack when it comes to dry brushing cellulite away. Using a body brush may temporarily help your skin look healthy and more plump, and if it feels good to you, by all means, make dry brushing a part of your beauty regimen. But if there's no true "cure" for cellulite, the reason could just be because it's a natural skin feature that most of us share.