Summer’s here, and is your skin in tip-top shape, ready to show off in a sundress and sandals, or tank top and shorts, or could it use a bit of exfoliation and pampering? There’s no need to continue to hide your sunstarved, flaky, winter snake-skin under long pants and long sleeve shirts – help has arrived. Let me share with you an age-old method for ridding your body of dry skin so that it reveals a satiny glow that you’ll want to reveal.
Dry, scaly, dull skin is not only unsightly but uncomfortable, too. To eradicate the cloak of dry skin, I recommend that both women and men adopt a simple, health-enhancing, invigorating, daily ritual: dry-brushing (or body brushing), for epidermal stimulation and exfoliation.
For Radiant, Luminous Skin: Give Your Body The Brush-Off
The practice of dry-brushing is a must for healthy, sleek, clear skin and was routinely used thousands of years ago by the Greeks, Egyptians, and East Indians as a method for cleansing the skin in preparation for the application of nourishing, moisturizing, fragrant body oils. Today, many who observe Ayurvedic health and beauty principles, still perform dry-brushing as part of their wellness routine. As a licensed esthetician and herbalist, I know the bevy of benefits that dry-brushing can deliver to your skin’s health and appearance. Done consistently, you’ll realize soft, lovely, flexible, balanced skin that’s rarely dry, rarely itches, and rarely breaks out. Beauty to behold!
Over the course of a day, your skin eliminates more than a pound of waste, including perspiration, through thousands of tiny sweat glands. In fact, about one-third of all the body’s impurities are excreted in this way. If your pores are clogged by tight-fitting clothes, aluminum-containing antiperspirants, waterproof chemical sunscreens, and mineral-oil-based moisturizers, there’s no way for these toxic by-products to escape. Over time, the wastes build up, causing your skin to look pale, pasty, and pimply. The dead skin cells also build up on the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin), resulting in a dry, flaky, lizard-like texture that serves as a barrier impenetrable to most moisturizers. Ever keep applying moisturizer over and over again to your legs and arms yet have that parched feeling, even though the bottle promises to alleviate even the most severely rough, dry skin? This is where dry-brushing lends a helping hand. It works by stimulating the sebaceous (oil) glands, thereby encouraging natural lubrication of your skin from within; removing the top layer of dead cells, leading to significant exfoliation so that your moisturizer can really penetrate and do its job – leaving you with summer-ready skin that is polished and velvety smooth. Body brushing also improves circulation and increases blood flow to the surface of the body, and activates the entire lymphatic system, thereby aiding in natural detoxification, too. Contrary to what you might imagine, you can dry-brush over eczema and psoriasis.
Granted you may have to lighten up on your pressure a bit, but the stimulation is superb for those thickened, scaly, rough patches.
Let’s Unveil A New You
Repeat the following ritual daily (or at least several days per week) – year round – not just in summer. It’s a good idea to wash your body brush with soap and water every week to keep it free of skin debris.
Dry-brushing is performed on dry skin (hence the name) – not oiled, not damp, but dry, before-you-bathe-orshower skin. Because it is so invigorating, do it in the morning, or whenever it is that you wake up and start your day. Using a medium-soft, natural-fiber body brush the size of your palm, preferably with a long handle, simply brush your entire body – don’t skip any areas except your face (and breasts, if you’re a woman) – for five minutes or so depending on your body size. Do not brush hard – you’ll have to start very gently at first (even more so if you have very sensitive skin) and work your way up to more vigorous brushing. Never scrub, however; your skin is not the kitchen sink. Always remember to brush toward your heart as much as possible. Begin by brushing your hands, including the area in between the fingers, then work upward to your arms, underarms, neck, chest, and upper back. Next, move on to each leg, beginning with the feet and working upward toward the groin, buttocks, lower back, and sides. End at your stomach, using a clockwise spiral motion to brush this area. That’s it!
You’ll feel wonderfully invigorated when you’re finished, and your skin will simply glow. If you’re just beginning, your skin may be a bit red immediately afterward, but as it adjusts and becomes firmer, only a pinkish tinge (depending on your pigmentation) will remain for about five minutes until circulation calms. If your skin remains red or pink for a longer period or feels irritated, then either the brush bristles are too firm or you’re brushing way too hard.
Note: Avoid dry-brushing altogether if your skin is sunburned, wind burned, rashy, or otherwise irritated. Do not share your body brush with anyone. Skin diseases such as nail fungus or athlete’s foot, and even dermatitis from poison ivy, can be transmitted to another person – better to be safe than sorry.
Now pour a tablespoon or so of almond oil or extra-virgin, unrefined coconut oil (which is the most energetically cooling) into a very small bowl, such as a custard cup, and add a drop or two of one of the following essential oils: lavender or orange (Vata); rose geranium, lavender, or peppermint (Pitta); or rosemary, lemongrass, or cedar (Kapha). Massage your entire body, including your face, ears, and scalp (if you’re washing your hair that day). Do this for about five minutes, then, ideally, allow the oil to soak in for another five minutes. Next, jump in the shower or bathtub and just rinse (no need to use soap except to wash underarms and intimate areas, as you’ve already cleansed your skin by using the body brush). The steam of hot water from your bath relaxes your pores and helps the oil penetrate your skin. Pat dry. If your skin is severely dry, follow with an application of natural body lotion, as necessary. Now, don’t you feel (and look) fabulous all over?
If going outside, apply a chemical-free sunscreen that uses micronized titanium-dioxide or zinc oxide as the base. These minerals serve as non-irritating, yet very effective, reflective barriers to the sun’s damaging rays.
Now that you’ve polished and pampered your skin from the outside, why don’t you try the following lip-smackin’ smoothie recipe to feed, cool, and calm your skin from the inside.
This luscious, fruit-based smoothie is the perfect refreshing beverage to counteract the fiery heat and skin irritations that come with Pitta season and nourish your skin from the inside out. It’s loaded with beautifying anti-oxidants, lots of vitamin C, and ample amounts of potassium, magnesium, healthy fats including omega-3 and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), natural sugars, protein, and fiber, plus it fills you up, not out. Wonderful for breakfast or anytime you feel the need for cooling, energizing rejuvenation!
1 ½ cups organic almond or low-fat coconut milk
½ cup fresh or frozen strawberries
½ cup fresh or frozen raspberries
½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries
2 tablespoons raw, shelled hemp seeds
1 tablespoon raw honey or agave nectar
1 tablespoon flaxseed oil, unrefined preferred Pinch of sea salt (optional)
Put all ingredients in a blender and puree for 30 to 60 seconds until smooth and creamy.
Serve immediately in your favorite glass or insulated mug and relish the refreshment!
– Yield: 1 generous serving.
Other benefits that I’ve noticed by performing body brushing on a daily basis are improved tone in the “jiggle-prone” parts of my body: upper arms and inner thighs. In addition, my complexion is rosier, the essential oil fragrances of my favorite body oils lasts longer on my skin – and a bonus I didn’t expect – it doesn’t take me thirty minutes to wake up in the morning, like it used to! For me, body brushing is equivalent to a shot of espresso. Not bad for a 15-minute beauty treatment!
Stephanie L. Tourles is a licensed holistic esthetician, certified aromatherapist, and gardener with training in Western and Ayurvedic herbalism. She is the author of eight books, including Hands-On Healing Remedies, Organic Body Care Recipes, Raw Energy, Naturally Healthy Skin, 365 Ways to Energize Mind, Body & Soul, and Natural Foot Care. She lives in Orland, Maine.