Our skin does not just protect everything that is underneath it – like muscles, organs, joints, bones, and vessels – it also works as a large detoxification mechanism. The average adult human body has a surface area of between 1.5 and 2 square metres and it varies in thickness depending on the body part we look at, and it is also differs based on sex and age. Our skin consists of several different layers that are made of different types of cells. The very top layer, called epidermis, works like a waterproof barrier that protects the other layers beneath where vessels, sweat glands, and nerve endings are located. The other two main layers are called the dermis and hypodermis. The dermis is where we can find both blood and lymphatic vessels.
The lymphatic system is a major part of our immune system. Lymphatic vessels create a network in the body that carries lymphatic fluid (or lymph for short; lympha means water in Latin) all around the body, flowing towards the heart, into lymph nodes. Swollen lymph nodes are usually a sign of infection, typically due to a buildup of bacteria. Lymphatic fluid can also be found in various cavities in the body, like joint cavities, where it works as a lubricant. Lymph is derived from intestinal fluid and its composition is similar to blood plasma, with the addition of white blood cells called leukocytes. It constantly changes its composition depending on our diet or exposure to toxins. Lymph delivers proteins to the bloodstream, and transports toxins and bacteria to lymph nodes where they are destroyed by lymphocytes. After the lymph is cleaned, the purified fluid goes back into circulation in our blood stream.
Compared to blood, lymph circulates through the body pretty slowly, largely because there is no central pump that would help the speed (the heart serves as a pump for the cardiovascular system), and it is important for our health to keep the lymph moving in its natural, slow pace in order to prevent clogging and maintain good health of the whole system. Because the lymphatic system works almost like a sewer in the body, collecting (and removing) toxins and unfriendly bacteria from our tissues, it is a major part of our natural detoxification processes. And because our toxic load is huge in the modern world, this is something we should really keep in mind. We all know how important blood is in our body, but we often forget about lymph. A great way to stimulate lymph flow is through gentle manual massaging of the skin, and dry brushing is a perfect technique to not only to do this, but also to remove all the dead skin cells from the surface of our skin that might prevent new cells from thriving.
SKIN CELLS AND EXFOLIATION
All cells in our body constantly renew themselves and skin cells are no exception. For a healthy body, it takes around thirty days for all the cells of our epidermis to turnover. As we age, this process slows down gradually, and it is also affected by our health. We learned quite a lot about skin health so far, so we know that conditions like oily or dry skin are very often caused by something not-quite-right happening on the inside. The old cells that rise to the surface, replaced by the new ones beneath them, need to be removed, otherwise they would pile up, clog pores, and make your skin look patchy, dry, and dull. A process called exfoliation is basically a massage of the skin using some rough material or ingredient (like a wash cloth, sugar, coffee grounds, sea salt, or baking soda), getting rid of the dead skin cells and exposing the new, young and strong cells to the world. Exfoliation also promotes blood and lymph circulation and also helps your cells with nutrient absorption, so it is ideal to exfoliate prior to applying your favorite nourishing skin care products, oils, or serums.
But just like with everything else, exfoliation has to be done correctly in order to work and not cause damage. Even though our skin is very strong, it is also quite fragile, and when you put too much pressure on it, using a very rough exfoliator too often and actually scrubbing your skin rather then gently massaging it, you can damage your cells, cause irritation, redness, broken capillaries, or even permanent scarring. Dry brushing is very gentle, you can perform it daily to increase the benefits – some people even do it twice a day, morning and night. I recommend dry brushing before showering or taking a bath, preferably in the bathroom (standing in the shower/tub is ideal) if you don’t want to end up having dead skin cells all over the living room carpet.
HOW TO DRY BRUSH
Dry brushing treatments are available in some beauty salons or spas, but it is a very simple way for you to pamper yourself at home. All you need is one simple, inexpensive tool – a brush. I like to use this very simple brush, but this one is also very popular. Some people like to use a brush with a long handle, which helps you to reach all over your back area, and to brush your legs without needing to bend over (if you have reduced flexibility or range of motion, the long handle version is ideal). No matter which type you choose, always make sure you are using natural bristles, not synthetic (those can be too harsh on the skin and cause irritation). Massage gloves are also a good option and easy to work with.
Start at your feet and continue up your legs all the way to your stomach, lower back, torso, and arms, using either short swiping strokes or a circular motion (clockwise), always towards the heart to follow the natural lymph flow. Increase or decrease pressure to your preference and continue to brush your skin all over the body. Make sure to never brush away from the heart, so once you reach your neck, brush down away from your face. There is no time limit for dry brushing, you can dry brush for 10-15 minutes if you like the sensation, but a brisk 5 minute brush just to get the juices flowing is okay. At first, you might not find this process very pleasurable, especially if you are not used to exfoliating your body, but once you get used to it, you will love it, and your skin will feel super soft and refreshed.
As you massage your skin, you may notice a dust-like fallout flying away from your brush as you go; don’t panic, those are just your old skin cells that are meant to be removed. If you have dry elbows or knees, don’t be afraid to add more pressure to those areas or go over them multiple times. Dry brushing also helps to remove cellulite, which is basically toxic deposits stored in our fat tissue that are difficult to eliminate; dry brushing promotes detoxification through the lymphatic system, breaks down these deposits, and eliminates the toxins in the lymph nodes.
Adding dry brushing into your natural skin care regime will reward you with healthy, glowing, younger-looking skin, and combined with the diet that best suits your metabolic needs, with a focus on skin health, your skin will not only look flawless, it will be flawless, without photoshop or Instagram filters. And as a bonus, you will feel like you are getting a free luxury spa treatment every day in the comfort of your own home!