Get a leg up: How to dry brush your body for the beach or the pool

how to dry brush your body for the beach at wellandgoodnyc.comSome women love anything in a tube or jar that hints at the promise of fighting cellulite. Ann Marie Cilmi, a top New York City spa therapist and educator who used to head up the city’s Bliss Spas, loves dry brushing.

The domain of this soft-bristle brush isn’t your hair but your dermis. The health obsession started with the Ayurvedics and became a staple of the French slimming-treatment set. Now dry brushing is typically used in a body treatment at a spa to stimulate circulation and exfoliate. “Brushing the skin without water is linked to the detox process,” says Cilmi, “because it helps stimulate the lymphatic drainage process.” Lymph being our cellular-waste system that doesn’t have a heart to pump its bloat-causing sludge up and out.

You’re not going to see an American Medical Association peer-reviewed study on this topic any time soon. But one thing we’ve been hearing about—and personally testing—is the beach-ready results you get from brushing your pre- or post-shower silhouette—particularly on the legs and thighs, and even wobbly triceps. Let me just say that it beats the results of most cellulite products, which are typically useless and expensive. This is neither. The brush is about $15 (and displaying it gives my bathroom that Finnish sauna look.)

body brushes with wood handles

Body brushes are meant to be used dry on legs, butt, and anywhere there’s a tad of flab

One therapist I know dry brushes her legs and behind when heading to the beach or wearing a short skirt, and swears her deepest cellulite dimple is less concave for it. Another skin-brushing afficionado says it’s the first spa service she books when she gets to a resort. And Cilmi loves to include dry brushing in spa treatments that she helps create for spas—including the butt-firming Mama Mio treatment, which worked wonders on my tush.

Dry brushing your body (or booty) a few times a week can improve your circulation, and help give skin a glow, tone your legs, give your behind a little lift, and may even lessen the severity of cellulite, Cilmi says. “It’s an under-rated over-looked natural remedy for gorgeous gams.” Here’s how to get them:

Ann Marie Cilmi spa trainer and dry brushing expert

Spa expert Ann Marie Cilmi

How to dry brush your body

1. Buy a firm, natural-bristle brush. No need to get one for $45 at Anthropologie. You can buy one for less at C.O. Bigelow, Whole Foods, and health-food stores like Life Thyme on Sixth Avenue.

2. Take about three minutes to dry-brush your whole body. It’s best done in the morning before bathing, naked on the bathmat. (Or whatever works for you.)

3. Apply enough pressure to stimulate circulation, but not so much that it hurts. You’re going for a gentle yet vigorous process.

4. Important tip: Brush upwards (always towards the heart) in small and quick or circular motions until the skin appears pinkish red.

5. Start at the knee, where the lymph nodes are, and brush the outside, then the inside of the thigh towards the groin. Then brush the calf, from the foot toward the groin. Finally, brush the buttocks from midline outward toward the hip. Repeat on opposite leg. —Melisse Gelula


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  1. July 1st, 2010 at 10:51 am

    How does this work with sensitive, rash prone skin? I’ve always heard about the wonders of dry brushing but was concerned my skin couldn’t take the abrasiveness of the bristles.

  2. Well+Good
    July 1st, 2010 at 11:06 am

    I find that the brush is much less abrasive than salt scrubs. No irritating particles. Plus, you control the pressure, which doesn’t have to be very strong to do the trick. MG

  3. July 1st, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Thanks MG! I avoid salt scrubs for the same reason. But I’m going to give dry brushing a try.

  4. March 28th, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    Have you heard of using used coffee grinds? The scrubbing plus the caffeine is supposed to help. I’ve done it, but mostly am red and raw afterward. What do you think compared to the brush?


  5. Well+Good
    March 29th, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Totally different, Li! Dry brushing is gentle approach meant to address the lymph fluid under the skin, and it’s famously gentle. Ask a massage therapist trained in lymphatic drainage and she’ll tell you. But a coffee scrub works on the skin as an exfoliant, though caffeine is thought to be a microcirculation stimulator that helps with water retention. Which is why it’s also in eye cream. Seems like a body scrub could help—-but maybe blend your DIY grounds with some jojoba or grapeseed oil from the health food store to make it less abrasive and more like one that comes in a bottle! Good luck, Melisse

  6. May 28th, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    […] will definitely try this when I get back home! Get a leg up: How to dry brush your body for the beach or the pool Share this:FacebookPinterestTwitterTumblrEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  7. January 30th, 2013 at 12:26 am

    […] 3. Dry brushing. My client told me about this last year. (I had never heard anything like it!)  Before I get into the shower, I use a natural bristle brush to brush my skin in circular motions toward the heart. Dry brushing is supposed to cleanse the lymphatic system, remove dead skin, and stimulate circulation, among other benefits. I find that it makes my skin feel much softer and smoother, especially after running around all day in brutal winter weather. […]

  8. March 1st, 2013 at 6:57 am

    […] and this is the number one move for it. Photo: Pinterest   3. Dry brush. Two minutes of dry brushing before a shower increases circulation, stimulates the lymphatic system (which moves toxins out of […]

  9. March 7th, 2013 at 11:38 am

    […] Dry brush. Two minutes of dry brushing before a shower increases circulation, stimulates the lymphatic system (which moves toxins out of […]

  10. August 4th, 2013 at 5:04 am

    […] and high, undimpled tush of a barre instructor, we’re super skeptical. (Deep hankie massage and dry brushing are a usually things we know of that can unequivocally work on […]

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