Ask An Expert·3 min read

Dry Brushing Might Be the Missing Step in Your Skincare Routine

A woman dry brushing her propped up leg
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
October 17, 2023

Brushing your skin doesn’t exactly sound like a natural thing to add to your self-care routine, but those brushes deserve a spot in your bathroom. It turns out dry brushing, or exfoliating your skin with a stiff-bristled brush, can have major skin (and health) benefits. Here, Hyemin Pomerantz, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, breaks down several dry brushing benefits and how to dry brush correctly to snag them all. 

What are dry brushing benefits?

Dry brushing has both surface and internal benefits. “It helps exfoliate dead skin to enhance smoothness of the skin,” says Pomerantz. Dry brushing can unclog pores and slough off dead skin, which often contributes to dull, uneven-looking skin texture, says Pomerantz. Exfoliating can also help mitigate ingrown hairs, folliculitis, and other unwanted bumps. Basically it can mean the difference between dull, post-hangover skin and glowing, post-workout skin (IYKYK). 

But the dry brushing benefits go even deeper. It also temporarily helps increase blood circulation, says Pomerantz. That’s important, because blood flow gives your organs the resources it needs to function. One thing dry brushing can’t do: Get rid of cellulite. Sorry, Barbie.

Featured Expert:

Hyemin Pomerantz, MD

Hyemin Pomerantz, MD - Board-certified dermatologist at Viva Skin Dermatology and Aesthetics

How to dry brush skin 

First, get your hands on a round or oval-shaped brush with firm bristles. The bristles should be stiff enough to exfoliate, but they shouldn’t hurt when you brush them gently against your skin. Starting from the ends of your arms or legs, sweep your dry brush toward your heart in small, gentle strokes. And as long as you don’t press too hard, you can even dry brush your face. “Gentle pressure is the key,” says Pomerantz. Pressing or rubbing too hard can leave you with red, irritated skin. 

Once you’ve brushed, hop in the shower to rinse off the dead skin cells, says Pomerantz. Bonus: Your post-shower moisturizer will be better absorbed into the skin thanks to dry brushing, too she says. 

You can dry brush as often as once a week to once a month, but not every day, says Pomerantz. That’s because “it [takes] a few days to a week to create enough [dead skin] build-up that needs exfoliation.” Dry brushing too much can also end up damaging your skin barrier, which can lead to cuts or abrasion, she says. You’ll also want to skip brushing if you have certain skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis flare-ups, since it could irritate these areas and even introduce bacteria, leading to infection. As always, check in with your dermatologist before trying it.

Dry brushing is so much more than a woo-woo skincare trend. It has actual benefits for your skin and your overall health. 

Ask an Expert is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental-health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. By submitting a question, you are agreeing to let theSkimm use it—in part or in full—and we may edit its answer for length and/or clarity.

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