I’m often asked by patients that seek natural skin remedies or treatments about skin brushing. It’s important to understand the risks and benefits to decide if it’s worth trying.
Skin brushing is often performed with a bristle brush that is brushed across the body. The method itself focuses on brushing ‘towards the heart’ and claims to exfoliate, improve lymphatic circulation, reduce cellulite and remove toxins.
There is little no scientific evidence to support this practice.
Using a bristle brush over the body will clearly exfoliate dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. If performed gently and not too aggressively this is not necessarily harmful. However, over exfoliating has its own issues. It can lead to sensitive, inflamed skin. It can stimulate excess pigment to be deposited in the skin to lead to discoloration. If performed over open wounds, cuts or eczema, bacteria and yeast may overthrow and lead to infections.
Any type of massage or manipulation of the skin will likely stimulate the lymphatic system in the skin which serves to remove excess fluid from tissues but this does not necessarily require a brush to do so.
Massage of areas of the body with cellulite can improve the overall appearance of cellulite but, again, but this does not necessarily require a brush to do so.
Although I cannot find a study that evaluated the amount of bacteria that builds up in bristle brushes, there are studies that show that bacteria may start to build up in loofah sponges if not maintained and can spread infections.
I tell my patients that if they feel a benefit to skin brushing and they do not have any underlying skin conditions then it is likely harmless to do.
I simply recommend cleaning the brush routinely to reduce the risk of infection and switching it out as frequently as a toothbrush, every few months. If someone is seeking simple exfoliation then using a body scrub containing sea salt or sugar or an apricot scrub that is rinsed down the drain as opposed to reused will have less risks associated with it!