Stacked amongst the clear glass jars of homeopathic remedies, immune-supporting supplements, rose creams, and carrot cleansers on the sparkling shelves of The Organic Pharmacy on Bleecker Street in New York, you’ll find a long wooden brush that looks straight out of an especially well-made Norwegian sauna. The brush is one of Margo Marrone’s—the London-based apothecary’s founder—favorite items. “It’s invaluable in helping with so many issues, but especially detox,” she says. Indeed, the practice of brushing the skin once or twice daily with a soft but firm brush is more common during a detox, but regular users and fans report more benefits when it becomes a permanent habit—from sweeping away dead skin cells to improving the appearance of skin and supporting digestion.
Stimulating the lymphatic system is at the core of all its benefits, Marrone says, which is why dry brushing is prescribed along with the company’s bestselling 10-day Detox program. “The lymphatic system is responsible for collecting and transporting waste to the blood,” she explains. “Dry brushing can stimulate the lymphatic system as it stimulates and invigorates the skin.”
A long brush like Organic Pharmacy’s allows you to get at hard-to-reach spots like the middle of your back; the shorter one from Aromatherapy Associates fits in your hand perfectly, making it incredibly easy to use.
Dry brushing is one of those rare things that feels just as good when you do it yourself, and it’s incredibly easy to incorporate into your routine. Most experts recommend dry brushing in the morning, rather than before bed, because of its energizing qualities. Some people use the brush on its own, others put a bit of body oil onto the brush before they use it. “Shower before skin brushing if you’re using an oil on the brush,” says Marrone, who brushes on Rose & Jasmine Oil to maximize benefits. “If not, shower after skin brushing, then apply oil or lotion.” It’s fantastic to do in conjunction with a sauna or steam, too.
Illustrations by Louisa Cannell
To do it yourself, start at your feet and brush upward towards the heart. Similarly, when you start on your arms, begin at the hands and work upward. Use firm, small strokes upwards, or work in a circular motion. For the stomach, work in a counterclockwise pattern. Harsh exfoliation is never the point; be sure not to press too hard, or use too-stiff of a brush. “Any kind of brushing or exfoliation should be gentle and should never break the skin.” Marrone adds. “I’ve tried skin brushes that are so hard they cannot be used due to the damage they do. I chose medium-soft cactus bristles for our skin brush for gentleness; the skin should never be scratched or damaged.”
Dedicate at least three to five minutes to brushing. Marrone says the increased circulation and exfoliation regular dry brushing stimulates helps smooth the appearance of cellulite, too.