The pursuit of smooth, silky, soft skin is one shared by many and can be achieved both in the spa and at home. Dry body brushing and body scrubs are the most common ways to exfoliate the skin on the body, and while there are similarities and differences with how they work, there are distinct benefits of each. While many varieties of both are available, not all body brushes and body scrubs are created equal. Should you dry brush or scrub? Today, we’ll share the pros of both, plus what to look for when purchasing and using both, and then you can decide for yourself.
Pros of body scrubs
One of the biggest challenges throughout the cold and dry winter months is how to maintain smooth, supple skin. Between forced heat, hot showers, and the lack of moisture in the air, cold winter weather can wreak havoc on your chapped skin, especially your elbows, shins, and feet. Cell turnover slows down as you age, so just like you would exfoliate the skin on your face, your body can use a little attention too. Banish those pesky flakes and restore your skin to a velvety texture again by adding a body scrub to your routine which can feel like a welcomed spa ritual with those lovely smells wafting in your shower.
The main ingredients of a body scrub are usually sugar or various types of salt, which are blended with oils such as jojoba, almond, olive, or coconut and can be naturally fragranced with essential oils, lemons or coffee. The friction of the granules gently massaged against the surface of your skin slough dead surface cells and wash them down the drain where they belong. The massaging oils nourish and fortify the skin’s barrier, while gentle massage strokes help improve circulation.
A body scrub treatment in a spa is also delightful as it allows you to enjoy the benefits sans the cleanup. An aesthetician might begin a body exfoliation treatment with dry brushing to get blood and lymph flowing, then gently polish the skin as you relax and enjoy the aromatic experience. While this can be done at home, having it done at the spa ensures a more thorough technique and brings pampering to a whole new level.
What to look for in a body scrub
There’s a dazzling array of body scrub options on both the professional and retail markets today. The trick to choosing a natural body scrub that will have you and your clients singing its praises, is selecting one with exfoliating granules and carrier oils that are right for your skin type, a scent that appeals to your senses and a price point that fits your checkbook.
The texture, density and composition of the exfoliating granules is often the factor that makes the biggest difference in the body scrub’s performance and your experience. Dead sea salt is typically a larger, coarser option for a deeper more vigorous scrub. This can be great for someone with oily, thicker skin or for for anyone targeting particularly rough spots like heels and elbows. Salt has detoxifying properties but can can be drying and/or irritating to sensitive skin. If that’s the case for you, try finely ground sugar. Sugar is a natural humectant and provides a more gentle scrub. Honey provides gentle enzymatic exfoliation for the most delicate of skin, and also provides antioxidant nourishment and hydration.
Body scrubs also make a great DIY project. You can find (or make) salt or sugar scrubs with other exfoliants like rice bran, corn kernel meal, apricot kernels, jojoba beads, walnut shells and coffee grounds. When making a DIY scrub, it’s important to be aware of the quality of the granules–we recommend more finely milled grains to avoid minor skin abrasions from jagged edges. Once you’ve chosen your granules, you’ll add them to your carrier oil of choice and scent your mixture with essential oils.
When purchasing pre-made body scrubs, read the ingredient list carefully and make sure that the product’s base is a fit for your skin type. Most skin types are best served by a non-comedogenic oil for whole body use. The addition of thicker, more emollient butters like shea can help dry skin feel happy after scrubbing.
Whichever scrub you choose, make sure that you follow proper storage and usage guidelines. Most natural, anhydrous products are made with antioxidants, but not preservatives. If not stored properly, they can become contaminated with mold, bacteria, and yeast when exposed to a steamy shower environment. Store your body scrub in a cool dry place, and use a clean, dry scoop small bowl to take just what you need to the shower (or keep exfoliant and oils separate and mix up a batch prior to use).
Pros of dry brushing
When you dry brush your body with long, firm strokes, you instantly boost exfoliation as well as circulation. You’ll feel tingling as blood circulates to your skin, and if you run your fingers across it, you’ll notice that the brush makes it baby soft. But the benefits of dry brushing go even deeper. The practice is known to increase circulation of lymph, the waste-removing fluid that runs underneath our skin, supporting detox and optimal health. When lymph flow stagnates or slows down, skin can lose its glow and become more prone to congestion issues like cellulite or water retention. A regular dry brushing session ensures that lymph flows optimally within your body, which you may notice in healthier, more toned skin on the surface. And while you’re at it, the calming, methodical practice of dry brushing offers a powerful dose of self-love as well.
What to look for in a body brush
There’s such a wide variety of body brushes available, it’s hard to know which type is best. Natural or synthetic? Wood or plastic? Short or long? Though synthetic bristles might be preferable in other types of brushes, we do recommend natural bristles for body brushes, since synthetic bristles can be sharp and leave abrasions–albeit minor ones–on the surface of the skin. Body brushes are often made of boar hair or sisal– which is a type of grass–so whether you’re vegan or not, there’s a natural bristle brush for you.
In terms of wood or plastic, short or long, the material is up to you. We do recommend that you get one with a handle long enough to give you access to harder to reach areas, plus enough leverage to use long, firm (yet gentle) strokes. However, it’s also important that it’s short enough to be able to handle with convenience. Sometimes shorter handles are better for using on clients during a body treatment in the spa, whereas longer handles are better for personal use.
Body brushing is most effective when done dry, before a bath or shower. Different practitioners prefer different techniques, but a good rule of thumb is to brush in long, firm–yet gentle–strokes, from the extremities inward towards the heart. It’s OK to go over the belly, buttocks, or outer thighs a second time with gentle circular strokes. Avoid brushing over areas of the skin that are bruised, broken, or have visible varicose or spider veins, or broken capillaries (telangectasias). We don’t recommend using a dry brush on the face or breasts.
When finished, don’t wash it–simply tap the dry brush over a waste basket to remove shed skin cells, and store in a closed, dry drawer or cabinet. This is important because exposure to heat and humidity can cause microbial contamination. It’s also important that every member of the household who uses a body brush has his or her own for hygienic reasons. In the spa, it’s a great idea to send the brush used on client during a treatment home with him or her, as part of the client’s homecare recommendations. Follow a dry brushing with a soothing bath or shower, then massage the skin with aromatherapeutic oils.
Are you a body brush or body scrub fan? Or do you use and recommend both? Please tell us in the comments below.