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Dry brushing is a natural skin care technique that’s thought to have a number of benefits, including the exfoliation of dead skin cells and the ability to stimulate your circulatory and lymphatic systems.

According to some practitioners, dry brushing may even be effective at diminishing the look of cellulite. But is there solid evidence to back this claim?

The answer is an emphatic no. For now, there’s no evidence that dry brushing reduces or eliminates cellulite — but that doesn’t mean you should avoid this treatment altogether.

Let’s get into the benefits of dry brushing and how to do it safely. And, if you want to know what may help with cellulite, we cover that too.

Dry brushing is an invigorating skin care treatment that involves sweeping a stiff-bristled brush across your skin with either long or circular strokes.

While it’s a relatively recent addition to Western skin care regimes, dry brushing has been part of Ayurvedic traditional medicine for centuries.

Cellulite is completely normal. In fact, around 80 to 90 percent of women develop cellulite in one or more areas around the hips, buttocks, or thighs after puberty.

Doctors confirm that while dry brushing may have several benefits, there’s no scientific support for the claim that it treats, reduces, or eliminates cellulite on the body.

It’s possible that immediately after a vigorous session of dry brushing, increased blood flow may briefly plump up your skin, but the effect is temporary.

Cellulite is caused by taut bands of connective tissue that attach your skin to underlying muscle tissue. As fat cells naturally build in the space between your muscles and skin, they push out the skin, but the tense connective tissues do not release.

The result of the push-pull between fat cells and connective tissue under the skin’s surface causes the dimpled, orange peel-like appearance that’s known as cellulite. Since dry brushing doesn’t relax those connective tethers under the skin, it doesn’t affect cellulite.

Absolutely. While it doesn’t reduce cellulite or redistribute fat cells more evenly, dry brushing can help:

  • exfoliate your skin, removing dry and dead skin cells
  • stimulate circulation
  • make you feel more relaxed or invigorated

Some people enjoy the sensation of the bristles on their skin. And, if performed gently, dry brushing can leave you feeling as though you’ve had a light, Swedish-style massage.

If you’d like to give this ancient skin care practice a try, here are some tips for dry brushing safely:

  1. Dry brush enthusiasts generally recommend that you choose a brush made with natural bristles: sisal, boar, and cactus are popular choices. Test the bristles first: You want a brush that doesn’t leave red marks, welts, or scratches on your skin.
  2. Step out of your clothes — dry brushing is done on bare skin.
  3. If you want a hint of fragrance, you can mix coconut, jojoba, or argan oil with a drop or two of your favorite essential oil, and dab the mixture on the bristles before you begin.
  4. Beginning at your feet, brush upward with gentle strokes from your foot toward your thighs. Brush up the front, back, and sides of one leg, then continue with the other leg.
  5. Next, brush over your hips and buttocks, switching to small circular strokes if it’s easier.
  6. Then, brush your arms one at a time, starting at your hand, and moving toward your shoulder. You may find that a long-handled brush helps you brush your back and shoulders.
  7. Use care when brushing over the tender skin on your stomach. Skip your nipples altogether.
  8. If you have a smaller brush, use it to gently brush the skin on your neck and face.
  9. Brush right before you plan to bathe or shower, as skin cells will be loosened in the process and you can rinse them away afterward.

Shop online for body brushes made with sisal, boar, and cactus bristles.

A word of caution

If you have psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, acne, broken skin, or any other condition that makes your skin extra-sensitive, dry brushing isn’t recommended, as it can aggravate your condition or damage your skin.

If you want to diminish the appearance of cellulite, several treatments have shown good results. However, it’s important to note that most results are temporary. Treatments usually need to be repeated to maintain the results.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the more effective treatments.

Radiofrequency (RF) treatments

With RF treatment, electrodes heat up the tissues in the targeted zones. Sometimes, massage or suction is also part of the treatment.

According to a 2019 review of studies, people who had between 8 and 16 treatments over a period of several weeks saw a significant reduction in cellulite.

On the downside, it isn’t clear how long the results last, and you may experience some bruising after the treatment.

Laser therapy

The American Academy of Dermatology reports that laser treatments such as Cellulaze reduce cellulite.

During Cellulaze treatment, a dermatologist inserts a delicate laser fiber underneath your skin. When the laser strikes the fibrous bands under your skin, it breaks them up and thickens your skin in the targeted area.

This treatment may reduce the appearance of cellulite up to a year or longer.

Subcision

Subcision is a minor surgical procedure performed by a medical professional using a special needle or blade to release the tough bands that cause the dimpling of cellulite. Cellfina, a treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is considered to be safe and effective for the treatment of cellulite.

A 2017 study showed that this treatment resulted in smoother skin. Additionally, the study reported a diminished appearance of cellulite that lasted 3 years or longer.

Electromagnetic shockwave therapy (ESWT)

Also known as acoustic wave therapy, ESWT involves the use of a steel-tipped device to deliver a series of shockwaves to the surface of your skin in the targeted area.

In a 2019 study, researchers treated 27 women with 6 to 10 sessions of ESWT. At the end of the study, all the participants had significantly improved skin smoothness and reduction of cellulite. At a 3-month follow-up, the results had held steady.

Anti-cellulite creams

There’s some evidence that creams or gels containing caffeine and retinol may be effective at reducing the severity of cellulite.

In a 2014 study, researchers tracked 44 women with varying degrees of cellulite, over a period of 3 months. The product that was tested contained both caffeine and retinol, among other ingredients.

At the end of the study, 81 percent of the participants who used the anti-cellulite gel twice daily showed an improvement in the appearance of cellulite on their hips, thighs, and buttocks.

Dry brushing can help get rid of dead skin cells and stimulate blood flow, but there’s no scientific evidence that it reduces or eliminates cellulite.

If you’re looking to diminish the appearance of cellulite, there are a number of other treatments that are more effective at reducing cellulite than dry brushing.

If you’d like to try dry brushing to boost the health of your skin, choose a brush with natural bristles, use gentle strokes on bare skin, and work up from your feet to your face. Be sure to avoid broken skin or sensitive areas. Step into the shower to rinse off dead skin cells once you’re done.