Dry Brushing: An Ayurvedic Practice To Support & Detoxify The Body

Diving deep into the latest TikTok health trend

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Dry brushing, or garshana, is a traditional Ayurvedic technique that has become increasingly popular in recent years (especially with the rise of TikTok health trends).

Taking just 5 minutes, it’s a method of exfoliating the skin that can not only lead to smoother and more radiant skin but also help you glow from the inside out.

The best part? It’s stood the test of time!

Promoted by wellness-culture-loving celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Tracee Ellis Ross, let’s take a look into what this ancient technique actually is and how you can start getting some of its benefits for yourself.

We explore:

  • What Is Ayurveda?
  • What Is Dry Brushing?
  • Dry Brushing Skin: How To
  • Dry Brushing Benefits
a woman sitting on the edge of the bath dry brushing

What is ayurveda?

Ayurveda is an ancient system of medicine originating in India.

In Sanskrit, ayur means ‘life’, whilst veda means ‘science’ or ‘knowledge’. Therefore, Ayurveda is often spoken of as the ‘science of life’ or ‘knowledge of life’.

Ayurvedic operates on the belief that illnesses arise from imbalances in the body-mind and living out of sync with our innate nature.

The system perceives the body as a finely tuned system, where disruptions in this equilibrium can give rise to sickness.

Various factors, such as the weather, exercise habits, emotional states, and dietary choices, can disrupt this balance. Therefore, Ayurveda is incredibly holistic, examining all facets of a person’s lifestyle to uncover the underlying causes of their symptoms.

We have a whole section on Ayurveda with a wealth of Eastern wisdom here:

What is dry brushing?

Dry brushing is a technique that is intended to exfoliate the skin, promote circulation, and stimulate the process of lymphatic drainage. A dry brush typically consists of natural bristles and is used in a gentle, sweeping, and circular motion on the skin.

Though it’s certainly an ancient technique, with the practice found across systems in Ayurveda, Ancient Egypt, and traditional Chinese medicine, dry brushing has also risen to fame as a wellness trend in recent years with many claiming incredible results.

It’s clear that the practice has been around for a long time, and there’s a good reason for it. Let’s take a look at how to dry brush, and then we’ll go over some of the benefits.

Dry Brushing

How to

1. Choose the right time

Dry brushing is often done before a shower, as it can help remove exfoliated skin cells. Some people prefer to do it in the morning for an energizing start to the day, while others incorporate it into their evening routine in order to wind down.

2. Stand on a towel or in the shower

To catch any falling dead skin, it’s a good idea to stand in the shower, bath, or over a towel or mat. This way, cleanup is easy, and you won’t have to worry about dead skin falling anywhere.

an outstretched hand with a dry brush

3. Start at the feet

Start with your feet and work your way upward. Use gentle, long strokes and always brush towards your heart.

This direction follows the lymphatic flow in the body, which can assist with lymphatic drainage.

4. Legs and arms

Continue brushing up the legs and arms, always towards the heart. Pay special attention to areas like the knees, elbows, and underarms, but be gentle on sensitive areas like the inner thighs.

5. Back and abdomen

For the back, it’s often more convenient to use a long-handled dry brush. On the abdomen, move in clockwise strokes from the belly button outwards.

7. Chest and neck

Be extra gentle when brushing the chest and neck areas. These areas have thinner and more sensitive skin.

8. Avoid the face

Never dry brush your face as facial skin is very delicate and dry brushing can cause irritation. You can use a separate, softer brush designed for facial exfoliation if desired.

9. Shower or bath

After you’ve completed all the steps, it’s a good idea to take a shower to wash away the exfoliated skin cells. Use warm, not hot, water.

10. Hydrate your skin

After your shower, apply moisturizer or body oil to help lock in moisture and keep your skin hydrated. This step is especially important after dry brushing, as it can leave your skin feeling slightly dry.

someone dry brushing their leg

Things to consider


To avoid over-exfoliating, it’s typically recommended to dry brush no more than a few times a week. Consistency is more important than frequency, so find a routine that suits your skin’s needs.

Cleaning you brush

After each use, clean your dry brush by gently tapping it to remove any remaining skin debris. You can also wash it with mild soap and water every couple of weeks, allowing it to air dry before you use it again.

Everyone’s skin is different

Remember, everyone’s skin is different, and it’s crucial to adapt the pressure and frequency of dry brushing to what works best for your skin.

If you have specific skin concerns or conditions, consider consulting with a dermatologist or skincare professional before incorporating dry brushing into your routine.

Consistency is key

For best results, maintain a regular dry brushing routine.

Don’t overdo it

Dry brushing once or twice a week should be sufficient, if you do it more than this then you risk over-brushing which can be harmful to the skin.

a woman dry brushing her leg

dry brushing benefits

1. Exfoliation

One of the primary benefits of dry brushing skin is exfoliation. By gently removing dead skin cells from the skin’s surface, you support the skin’s renewal process and leave it feeling softer, smoother, and plumper.

As well as encouraging cellular turnover, dry brushing can help to decongest pores and avoid things like ingrown hairs and keratosis pilaris.

2. Circulation

It also helps to stimulate blood flow, as the gentle pressure and repetitive brushing strokes work to stimulate blood flow in the underlying blood vessels.

This increased flow is particularly beneficial for the skin, as it ensures that skin cells receive a rich supply of oxygen.

In addition to oxygen, blood carries essential nutrients that are vital for the skin’s health, like vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Improved circulation ensures that the skin receives an abundant supply of these nutrients, promoting optimal skin function and overall health.

This enhanced circulation can also contribute to a sense of increased vitality, allowing us to feel more energized in the morning.

3. Inflammation

Some users of dry brushing have also reported decreased inflammation. This may be tied to enhanced circulation, which can aid in reducing swelling and inflammation.

When blood flow is improved, it can help remove excess fluid from tissues, potentially reducing the appearance of puffiness or swelling in the skin. This can be especially beneficial for individuals dealing with conditions like edema.

a woman in a white robe dry brushing her arm

4. Lymphatic draining

The lymphatic system is a crucial part of the body’s immune system and is responsible for draining waste products, toxins, and excess fluids from tissues, while also aiding in the transportation of white blood cells to fight illnesses.

One of the core principles of dry brushing is to brush in the direction of lymphatic flow, which is toward the heart. This is believed to help move lymphatic fluid and waste products through the lymphatic vessels more effectively.

The gentle strokes of dry brushing can provide a massaging effect that encourages lymphatic flow and reduces the retention of excess fluids.

Similarly to enhanced circulation, this can also have an energizing effect as, by assisting the body in removing waste products, you may reduce feelings of sluggishness and promote a more enlivened state.

5. Increased moisture

The kind of stimulation of the skin that dry brushing provides can encourage the sebaceous glands in the skin to become more active.

These sebaceous glands are responsible for producing sebum, a natural oil that plays a crucial role in maintaining skin health. When stimulated, these glands produce and release more sebum, which acts as a natural moisturizer for the skin.

Sebum is a vital component of the skin’s natural moisture barrier. It helps to lock in moisture and prevents excessive evaporation, which is essential for keeping the skin adequately hydrated.

By maintaining the even distribution of natural oils and supporting the skin’s moisture barrier, dry brushing can help prevent dryness and flakiness, especially in areas that are prone to becoming excessively dry, like the knees, elbows, and heels.

The removal of dead skin cells will also ensure that you’re getting the most out of your moisturizer, which will sink into the skin better.

a woman in a white robe dry brushing her leg

6. Mind-body connection

Dry brushing is not only about the physical benefits it offers us, it’s also a mindful practice that encourages us to become fully present in the moment.

By focusing on the sensations of the brush against the skin, we can turn this into an exercise that cultivates presence-awareness to nurture self-awareness and self-care.

a practice of Self-Care & connection

Like all Ayurvedic practices, these regular commitments show that we are willing to prioritize ourselves and nurture our own physical and emotional well-being, instilling a sense of responsibility for our body, mind, and spirit.

Therefore, dry brushing serves as a self-care ritual that sends a powerful message: we are willing to take time for ourselves.

In a world that encourages us to overlook our own needs, this is a massive act of self-compassion and self-love, ultimately enhancing the relationship that we have with ourselves.

More on ayurveda

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Liz is a Qigong and Yoga teacher based in Gloucestershire with a love for all things movement, nature & community. She strives to create a trauma-informed space in which everyone is empowered to be their authentic selves. www.elizabethburns.co.uk

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