Start an At-Home Dry Brushing Routine
This self-care ritual stimulates the lymphatic system, boosts immunity and improves your skin's appearance.
There’s a reason wellness enthusiasts often cite dry brushing as a regular part of their morning routines: This ancient cross-cultural beauty ritual boasts some pretty impressive health benefits.
Dry brushing stimulates the lymphatic system — a complex network of tissues and organs that plays a pivotal role in immunity and overall well-being. Its chief function is to carry infection-fighting fluid containing white blood cells throughout the body. But as important as it is, the lymphatic system can get sluggish, whether from lack of movement or accumulated cellular debris.
That’s where dry brushing can help. It is a simple and effective technique for revving up your lymphatic system, which also decreases fluid retention, boosts circulation and aids in muscle fiber tonicity, giving skin a healthy glow.
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Your Body’s Built-in Detox Program
The lymphatic system runs parallel to your venous blood circulatory (aka cardiovascular) system. The heart works as the pump in the cardiovascular system, but the lymphatic system doesn’t have that mechanism. Instead, its vessels are responsible for carrying important immune cells around the body, picking up debris (like fats and waste) and filtering it.
Lymph fluid is a watery, milky-white liquid that contains two types of lymphocytes: B-cells, which tag germs to signal to the immune system that those cells need to be killed off, and T-cells, which either destroy germs or keep track of your body's number of immune cells. The lymph nodes are the gatekeepers that regulate what cells are allowed passage.
Think about when a doctor checks the lymph nodes in your neck when you’re feeling sick — they’re looking for swelling or inflammation, which indicates that your body is potentially fighting an infection.
How To Dry Brush
For best results, dry brush in the morning before showering or applying any products — the process can be stimulating, so it may keep you up if you do it at night. Ideally, you want to brush your entire body each time, but if you’re strapped for time, simply doing a section (such as your lower legs or arms and torso) will still have a very positive effect. After dry brushing the entire body, lather on a body oil, like these from THE WELL, before jumping in the shower to add extra nourishment for the skin.
Before you begin brushing, gently tap on the lymph node in the area you want to focus on. This opens up the lymph node and prepares it to flow. Then use light, sweeping, purposeful stokes. Follow each brush stroke with a hand stroke, which is calming to the nervous system. Go over each area two or three times.
Work From the Ground Up
I recorded this video to demonstration the following steps:
Lower Legs: The lymph node that governs this area is the popliteal (located in the soft area behind the knee). You want to use the brush moving from your feet to the back of your knee covering your entire lower leg and repeating each stroke as needed.You can spend more time on areas with visible fluid retention.
Upper Legs: Next are the inguinal lymph nodes — a cluster right next to your pubic bone deep in between your groin and the start of your frontal thigh. You want to sweep the thighs front and back right into the inguinal nodes, this includes the glute area from the back to the front.
Stomach: In this area, we want to treat the digestive tract with the “I Love You” massage before sweeping the lymph to the inguinal lymph nodes. In the “I Love You” massage you brush an “I,” an “L” and then a “U” on your stomach towards the inguinal lymph nodes to stimulate the colon. Begin with a downward brush stroke (the “I”) tracing the descending colon, followed by a sweeping movement (the “L”) to cover the transverse, or horizontal, colon. End by working the ascending colon through the transverse and down the descending colon with arching brush stroke (the “U”). Once you treat your digestion with the “I Love You” method, brush your stomach down towards your inguinal lymph nodes.
Upper Body: Tap the lymph nodes in the inner arm (opposite your elbow) and brush the lower arm to this lymph node. Then do the same with the upper arm, draining the lymph toward the axillary lymph nodes (armpit). Continue by brushing the breast area in circular motions (avoiding the nipple) and drain lymph towards the axillary lymph node.
Chest and Neck: Drain the décolleté to your clavicle lymph nodes with very gentle strokes since this is delicate skin. Finish by dry brushing your neck to the main neck cluster right under your ears. You might notice an increase in saliva when tapping these lymph nodes which is common and healthy as you activate your glands.
Well-being is rooted in small rituals and practices that we do every day. Try dry brushing daily for two weeks and you will be amazed at the changes in your body, your skin, your energy and your mood.
Vivianne Garcia-Tunon is VP of Spa Development at THE WELL and a 23-year veteran in the spa industry.