Dry brushing has been a "thing" for a few years now. You've probably heard about it from your friend who is like, super into juice cleanses, or from the dozens of fancy-pants celebs who swear that it's changed their bodies, eliminated their cellulite and helped them transcend to a higher plane of being. "Dry brushing has become popular for all parts of skin," says dermatologist Annie Chiu. "Traditionally it was used for the thigh areas to improve the appearance of cellulite. It is thought to increase blood flow and circulation and leave your skin toned, exfoliated and better hydrated. It is also suggested that dry brushing can help your lymphatic system clear toxins from the body."
The principle is simple: You take a dry body brush (ideally with stiff, natural bristles) and move it in slow, circular motions over your body, leaving your skin, and the flesh underneath, better and brighter than before. With the prospect of smoother, more toned skin on the table, it's only natural that some people would start taking it to the next level: What's good for the thighs must be good for the face, right? Here's what experts had to say.
For oily and combination skin types, dry brushing can be helpful for issues like the dreaded early-morning puffy face (that's ye olde lymphatic drainage at work). And for clogged-pore sufferers, the bristles help slough away dead skin cells that can lead to blackheads and acne, though it's best to avoid the treatment in the midst of a full-blown breakout, since the friction can irritate already inflamed blemishes. "This method of exfoliation appeals to people, as it's a step that wouldn't have the concern of inactivating other skin-care actives (such as vitamin C or retinol) if you have a more complex skin-care regimen," says Chiu. Dry brushing can also work as a gentle exfoliation option for those whose skin reacts badly with ingredients like AHA.
But — and that's a fairly significant but — there are some pretty major caveats. "As a dermatologist, I don't suggest dry brushing, and definitely avoid it if you have eczema, dry or very sensitive skin," says Chiu. For those types, this kind of exfoliation can be too harsh, leaving skin dry and inflamed, and aggravating underlying redness. Flaky and tender: Great descriptors for biscuits, but exactly the opposite of how you want for your face to look.
If you do decide to try facial dry brushing, the tool you use is important. "Find a gentle brush with natural — not synthetic — bristles that's meant for facial use. Don't use the same brush as you might for your body," Chiu warns. Body brushes typically have very stiff bristles that are far too intense for the more sensitive skin on your face. The other key to keeping your complexion looking smooth and pretty (as opposed to raw and inflamed) is to resist the urge to overdo it. One or two dry-brushing sessions a week, maximum, will be enough to accomplish all of the dead-skin-sloughing you need; trying to turbo charge things with an extra few sessions will likely leave the skin inflamed and the natural network that keeps your moisture in balance compromised.