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What is dry brushing? Dermatologists explain the popular exfoliation method

Experts weigh in on the safety, benefits and efficacy of dry brushing.
You can use your dry brush to exfoliate the skin, improve circulation and help with lymphatic drainage.
You can use your dry brush to exfoliate the skin, improve circulation and help with lymphatic drainage.Olivia Ott

Scrolling on social media, you might’ve come across the term “dry brushing” as one of the best modes to exfoliate your body. But what is dry brushing, and is it actually safe to do it? If you’re looking to remove dead skin cells from the surface of your skin and help even out any texture, this may be the option for you, according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Liza Moore

As its name suggests, dry brushing involves swiping a soft brush in gentle strokes over your body to physically exfoliate your skin and help it feel soft and smooth, according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Lily Talakoub. To help you learn more about dry brushing, we spoke to experts about what to consider when purchasing a dry brush, how to use one effectively and how often you should use it. We also rounded up their picks for the best dry brushes to shop.

SKIP AHEAD The best dry brushes in 2023 | How we picked the best dry brushes | How to properly dry brush?

Selected.Our top picks

How we picked the best dry brushes

When using a dry brush for the first time, always adhere to the brand’s recommendations (we go more in-depth about how to properly use a dry brush below). Here, we highlight the main considerations our experts recommend when shopping for a dry brush:

  • Design: Consider a dry brush with a hand strap to make it easier to focus on specific areas like your arms and legs, says Talakoub. Also, a dry brush with a long handle can make all areas of your body easily accessible, including those hard-to-reach places like your back, says Dr. Arash Akhavan, a board-certified dermatologist. 
  • Bristles: You should opt for dense and soft natural bristles, which are gentle on the skin, according to our experts. Avoid ones with synthetic or plastic bristles because those tend to be a little bit more abrasive, which can cause irritation, according to Talakoub.

The best dry brushes in 2023

With our experts’ guidance in mind, we rounded up dermatologist-recommended dry brushes and some highly rated ones to consider for your exfoliating needs.

Elemis Body Detox Skin Brush

This dry brush is recommended by Talakoub and board-certified dermatologist Dr. Arash Akhavan because of its soft bristles, hand strap and long detachable handle. The brush has cactus fiber bristles that feel soft against the skin, according to the brand. Keep in mind that, in order to prevent bacteria from growing on the brush, do not store it in the bath or shower, and you should use it without any product, according to Elemis. 

Earth Therapeutics Far-Reaching Body Brush

With an extra-long handle, this dry brush helps you get all those hard-to-reach areas of your body, says Akhavan. The 19-inch wooden handle has natural boar bristles to exfoliate and can even help improve circulation, according to the brand. Earth Therapeutics recommends rinsing your brush and hanging it to dry after each use. You should also replace your brush after three months for hygiene purposes, according to the brand. 

Osea Plant-Based Body Brush

Although it doesn’t have a long handle, this dry brush does have a hand strap to make exfoliating easy since it moves in natural motions with you, according to Talakoub. With its plant-based sisal fibers, this brush can help remove dead skin cells prior to showering, according to Osea. To clean, wash the bristles with warm, soapy water and rinse before letting it air-dry with the bristles facing down, according to the brand. 

Goop G.Tox Ultimate Dry Brush

This dry brush comes recommended by Akhavan for its firm bristles made of natural fibers and curved ergonomic wooden handle, which makes it easy to control your strokes while using it. Use this on dry skin prior to taking a bath or shower and gently stroke it across your body for three to five minutes, according to Goop. 

Kitsch Body Dry Brush

This Kitsch dry brush has soft, dense vegan bristles that remove dead skin cells, promote lymphatic drainage (which helps reduce swelling in the body) and improve blood circulation, according to the brand. This brush, which has a 4.5-star average from over 100 ratings on Amazon, has a palm-sized bamboo base with a convenient strap, according to the brand.

How to properly dry brush

Our experts recommend certain best practices to get the most out of your dry brushing routine. 

  • Dry brush prior to showering. Ideally, you want to begin your dry brushing routine prior to showering because dead skin cells will likely wash away while you bathe, says Akhavan. 
  • Move from top to bottom. When it comes time to apply the brush to your skin, start at the neck and work your way down to the feet, says Akhavan. Avoid dry brushing highly sensitive areas like the face and genitals, she says. 
  • Move the dry brush in specific motions to exfoliate. If you’re looking to focus on exfoliating, move the brush in an up-and-down motion and go over each area twice, says Talakoub. The reason you don’t want to move the brush side-to-side is that the bristles can move against the skin and may end up causing small tears, according to Talakoub. 
  • For circulation and lymphatic drainage, move the dry brush away from the heart. If you’re looking to focus on circulation and lymphatic drainage, you don’t want to work the brush toward your heart because you’re not moving the fluid outwards, says Talakoub. Instead, you’ll want to move the fluid under the skin away from the center of your body, she says. 
  • After dry brushing, cleanse the skin. Your next step is to wash your body in the shower. However, keep in mind that dry brushing can strip your skin of its natural oils and cause dryness. For that reason, you should use an oil-based cleanser because a lathering soap would strip your skin even more, says Talakoub. 
  • End your dry brushing routine with a body moisturizer. Once you exit the shower, you should apply a body moisturizer to prevent any dryness as a result of dry brushing and cleansing, says Akhavan. Consider using a cream moisturizer rather than a lotion because the latter tends to be thinned out with alcohol, which can be drying. Check to make sure your moisturizer is thick, creamy and contains hydrating ingredients like ceramides to help repair the skin barrier after dry brushing, says Talakoub.

Meet our experts

At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Dr. Liza Moore is a board-certified dermatologist and clinical director of Luxe Dermatology and Aesthetic Centers in Tysons, Virginia. Her areas of expertise include medical, cosmetic and laser dermatology among others.
  • Dr. Arash Akhavan is a board-certified dermatologist and founder and director of The Dermatology & Laser Group in New York City. His areas of expertise include non-invasive and minimally invasive procedures on the face, neck and body. 
  • Dr. Lily Talakoub is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of McLean & Potomac Dermatology and Skincare Center. Her areas of expertise include pediatric and adult skin disorders, skin cancer surgery and cosmetic dermatology among others.

Why trust Select?

Bianca Alvarez is an associate reporter and has been covering beauty, including eye creams, leave-in conditioners, and body lotions. For this piece, she interviewed three dermatologists and researched many dry brushes on the market. Bianca recommended products the dermatologists shared with us and met their shopping guidance.

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