Why Gwyneth Paltrow Swears by the Benefits of Dry Brushing – 7 Facts About this Effective Ayurvedic Ritual

Why Gwyneth Paltrow Swears by the Benefits of Dry Brushing – 7 Facts About this Effective Ayurvedic Ritual

“It's an amazing way to exfoliate your body. You take the dry brush and, starting at your feet and working up, sweep it all over your body in light, firm strokes, always brushing toward your heart. It's fantastic for circulation and it helps smooth cellulite. I do it every night before I get in the bath” – Gwyneth Paltrow, in an Interview to Redbook.

Dry brushing is polarizing. People either love or hate it. Or then, they start off hating it, but grow to love it, like I did. At first, this Ayurvedic ritual felt too abrasive and rough for my liking. I felt it was scraping my skin too hard and I worried about causing tiny skin tears as a result. I soon realized, however, that I was doing it all wrong. Here are the 7 facts I learned about Dry Brushing that may help you get on board with this highly effective Ayurvedic ritual:

1. Dry brushing needs a good brush

Sounds obvious, right? But figuring out what the right brush should feel like is less so. We recommend a brush with bristles that are soft but firm. The bristles should be flexible and easy to push or bend with your fingers, but they should also stand upright and feel firm and strong to the touch.

We use Goop’s G-Tox Ultimate Dry Brush which is made from natural sisal fibers. Sisal comes from the Agave Cactus which produces a stiff, strong, non-static fiber. It’s considered to be the perfect natural fiber for exfoliation to improve skin tone and condition. We also love that sisal is a sustainable resource that’s produced with minimal environmental impact as it doesn’t require any chemical fertilizers, is manufactured mechanically and provides valuable forage for honey bees because it has a long flowering period.

2. Dry brushing should feel firm yet gentle

As the brush will do most of the work, your job is to manage the upward direction of the strokes and the consistency of the pressure. The level of pressure is the same as what you’d apply to rub lotion into your skin. Firm but gentle. The single most important rule of dry brushing is that the strokes should be upward, toward the heart. Small, circular strokes are fine too as long as you’re keeping them moving upward. We do long upward strokes on our limbs and small circular strokes around our joints - i.e. our heels, ankles, knees, elbows and shoulders. You start from the feet up and end at your neck and shoulders.

Check out this video for a more visual tutorial.

3. You shouldn’t do dry brushing every day

There are mixed opinions on whether dry brushing should be a daily ritual or not. Remember that the purpose of all exfoliation is to remove dead skin cells. While skin cells die and shed every minute of day, you’re looking to exfoliate away a buildup of dead skin cells. So, dry brushing every alternate day or twice or thrice a week is plenty. Exfoliating every day may strip off your healthy skin cells too and is probably too harsh for normal and sensitive skin types. Moreover, too much skin stripping may make your skin feel injured which may it grow thicker over time.

Dry brushing is a stimulating practice, therefore a daily practice might benefit those who are predisposed to fatigue.  If you just feel a little sluggish from time to time, it is more ideal to dry brush four to five times per week.  If you are naturally energetic, two to four times per week is enough for you.

4. You should shower/bathe after dry brushing and moisturize after showering.

As you slough off dead skin cells and reveal a layer of younger cells, it’s best to cleanse afterward in order to ensure that you’re minimizing the risk of bacteria getting into you’re your opened and exposed pores. Unfortunately, ordinary soaps are harsh and drying. They strip away the natural oils in your skin. And dry skin loses its natural protection against bacteria, which can then slip in through cracks and fissures in your skin. We recommend using a gentle, natural body wash that’s free of sulfates, parabens and phthalates – our favorite of course, is the Lime Vetiver Body and Hand Wash. Post shower moisturizing is always essential but particularly so after you've exfoliated your skin and stripped away its natural oils. We moisturize by spraying on our lightly emollient Lime Vetiver Dry Silk body oil or slathering on our creamy, rich Lime Vetiver Body and Hand Lotion…or do both, with the lotion first and oil second, if we’re feeling particularly dry.

5. Why dry brushing is better than wet exfoliation

Dry brushing is generally more effective at shedding dead skin cells than wet exfoliation is. Water causes the skin to plump up, reducing friction and making it more difficult to shed as many dead skin cells.

6. Dry brushing won’t get rid of your cellulite, but it WILL exfoliate your skin and make it feel smoother, softer and healthier

While it’s great at exfoliating and does stimulate blood circulation, dry brushing probably isn’t going to solve your cellulite woes, according to Dr. Andrew Weilwhich reside far deeper in your epidermis than a dry brush will ever get to (and that’s a good thing). Your skin will feel and look better – smoother, with less in-growth, and if you’re good with moisturizing, even more glow and shine.

7. Dry brushing may help you detox, but only a little

While some claim that dry brushing helps with lymphatic drainage, it’s probably does so to infinitesimally smaller degree than exercising or a deep tissue massage would.  As Dr. Sarah Larsen reminds us “The skin is the largest most important eliminative organ in the body and is responsible for one-quarter of the body’s detoxification each day.”  Dry brushing is a wake-me-up, energizing and highly effective exfoliation technique that makes for a wonderful, feel-good, self-care ritual. For us, that’s more than enough! 

Be sure to save this cheat sheet to your Pinterest board for quick access to your dry brushing ritual.




Tejal Ramnathkar Engman is the co-founder of Malavara. Having left India at 17, she has come full circle to her herb-mixing granny's Ayurvedic beauty traditions. Tejal lives in Washington, DC, and her new year's resolution is to squeeze more hot yoga into a schedule that is currently consumed by a rambunctious 4-year-old, a day job in real estate, and her passion, Malavara.

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