The Detox Toolbox: Dry Brushing

Part of the detox regimen I am currently in the midst of includes dry brushing the skin. Since most of a detox regimen consists of dietary changes, hydration, and cleansing of the internal organs and systems to remove buildup of toxins, you may wonder what the skin has to do with it.

The skin is the largest organ of the human body. It serves many functions, one of which is excretion/elimination of toxins and waste products from the body via the sweat glands. The function of sweating is crucial in the body?s natural detoxification process. In fact, the skin is responsible for excreting approximately one pound of waste products per day primarily through the sweat glands, which accounts for one quarter of the body?s total daily waste.

The sweat glands must be able to do their job.

If the sweat glands are not functioning properly due to buildup of dead skin cells, dirt, oils, etc. then these toxins become trapped inside the body. These trapped toxins are often deposited and stored in the subcutaneous layer of fat cells right beneath the skin which leads to unattractive and very hard to get rid of cellulite. Yuck.

Malfunctioning sweat glands can also cause blockages in the lymphatic system, which can lead to an unhealthy buildup of lymph (bodily fluid responsible for collecting and transporting waste products to the organs of detoxification for elimination) which can cause swelling in the limbs and joints. It also adds unnecessary stress to the body?s other detoxifying organs and systems, making them work harder to eliminate the additional waste, therefore forcing the body into a state of imbalance.

It may be hard to imagine that perspiration serves such an important function. Many people simply associate it with that salty-tasting unpleasant stuff that we have to wipe away after exercise or on hot days. However, ?chemical analysis of sweat shows that it has almost the same constituents as urine.? You don’t want that trapped in your body or your skin. Like urine and other forms of excrement, better out than in.

Benefits of dry brushing?

So you see why we need to keep those sweat glands clear and promote healthy perspiration.
Dry brushing helps do that in addition to these other benefits:

? Increases blood circulation
? Stimulates and cleanses the lymphatic system
? Helps break up and remove toxic build-up in the fat cells which reduces cellulite
? Improves the overall appearance of the skin by softening, tightening, and toning it
? Helps improve muscle tone
? Fortifies the immune system
? Removes dead skin cells, dirt, built-up oils, and other debris from the surface of the skin ? keep the sweat and oil glands functioning properly. This also helps to prevent dry skin, and does not compromise the skin?s natural barrier (unless you overdo it).
? Strengthens the skin?s immune system, which helps strengthen the body?s immune system

It?s pretty amazing that dry brushing alone can do so much to restore and keep the skin?s function of excretion intact. If the skin is doing its job without anything slowing it down or getting in its way, then the kidneys, liver, lungs, and lymphatic system can focus on doing their part in the detoxification process, rather than having to pick up the slack from congested sweat glands.

How do I get started with dry brushing?

The first thing you want to do is go to your health food/natural product store or apothecary shop and purchase a brush made of natural bristles (synthetics are usually meant for scrubbing dishes or bathroom surfaces and are too harsh and sharp for the skin). Bristles can be sourced from certain animals (wild boar, goat), or plants (palms, sisal or other grasses, loofah) depending on your preference. They come in various sizes and strength of fibers?you want to choose a gentle one preferably with a long handle for hard-to-reach areas.

 

Dry brushing is done on the majority of the body (never the face), typically once a day before showering (twice if you are sick, stressed, feel bloated or otherwise sluggish). It is called dry brushing for a reason?the skin must be dry and the brush must be dry. I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will just to avoid any confusion: you have to be naked for this.

It is very important that you brush the entire body from the tips of the extremities towards the core. On the core itself, you can brush sideways or in a gentle circular motion (to massage the organs), but always inward towards your center.

Do not overdo it.

Do not scrub your skin while you are doing this. You are not cleaning tile and grout. You want to use a gentle, yet slightly firm pressure. Remember, you are trying to stimulate the skin, not sand it off. If you have any areas of irritation/sensitivity, varicose or spider veins, or small wounds, you should either brush over them extremely gently or just skip that area. Conversely, if you have particularly rough or thick areas, you can add a little more pressure. It usually takes no more than five minutes, though you can go over areas with cellulite for a few additional minutes.

The sensation of dry brushing depends on your skin?s sensitivity, or lack thereof. Some people may find dry brushing very uncomfortable at first, while others absolutely love it and find it invigorating. Regardless, the skin will adjust to it and if there is any discomfort, it will go away if you stick with it.

Once you’re done?

After dry brushing, you’ll want to tap the brush over the trash to remove the dead skin cells from the brush, and then put it away. Do not wash it?that will cause bacteria or fungi to grow in the brush, and it will then have to be thrown out. And do not share your brush. Anyone in your household who is dry brushing should have their own brush. Once you put it away, jump into the shower. There are many opinions on whether a hot or cool shower is best, some people even say to alternate hot and cold temperatures while in the shower?I say just take a shower that is a comfortable temperature for you, but never too hot.

Another option right after dry brushing is to soak in a warm bath with detoxifying salts such as Epsom salt, or mineral-rich salts from the Dead Sea or the Himalayas. I personally prefer the pink Himalayan crystal salt. The negatively charged salt is attracted to the positively charged toxins and will draw them out of the body. You can add powdered clay or mud to the bath as well?Dead Sea mud and Bentonite or Rhassoul clay are mineral rich and are also great at absorption.

Certain herbs and essential oils also can be added to enhance the detox, restore the skin, and add aromatherapy to your bath. Try eucalyptus, comfrey, dandelion root, echinacea, lavender, lemongrass, jasmine, frankincense, green tea, alfalfa, red clover, or cocoa powder.

If you want to try any tools to aid your body?s detoxification efforts, dry brushing is a very easy, relatively quick, and inexpensive option that offers many advantages. Remember though, dry brushing is not a substitute for a wholesome, well-balanced diet and healthful lifestyle choices. Before starting any detox regimen, consult with your healthcare professional, and always drink lots of water during a detox.

Have you tried dry brushing??

How did it work for you? Please tell me in the comments below.

*Spa image courtesy of ASCP

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