As a massage therapist I was often asked if massage could “cure” cellulite. My answer was always in two parts:
- If it could, I would be charging you a lot more for this session.
But I do know of a technique that can improve the appearance of cellulite, as well as do highly beneficial things for your skin and your overall health: dry brushing.
Dry brushing is pretty much what it sounds like: take a soft body brush that you’d use for the bath (softer is more comfortable and more effective than very scratchy) and use it to gently brush your entire body. This can be done whenever you like, but it best done just before a shower or bath, when you’re already unclothed.
Some of the benefits of dry brushing include:
- exfoliation of dead skin cells
- encouraging the flow of chi
- stimulating your skin’s touch receptors
- encouraging lymphatic drainage
That last one is the one that reduces puffiness and improves the appearance of cellulite.
Here’s a ridiculously brief and incomplete explanation of your lymphatic system: it’s an open system of vessels that carry a clear fluid called lymph directionally toward the heart. Lymph is essentially recycled blood plasma, and your lymphatic system carries from your tissues back into your circulatory system. It’s a key part of your immune system, so before it returns the lymph back into your blood, it does is check it for problems: debris, bacteria, viruses, etc. It contains “nodes” where a great deal of this immune activity takes place. Stub your toe and it swells up? That’s lymph. Tender lumps in your neck when you have a cold? Lymph nodes fighting the virus. (They can swell up when they’re busy.) Sit for a long time and your feet get puffy? Lymph.
About 80% of your lymphatic system is located near the surface of your skin. It has a passive circulation system (as opposed to your blood which is directly pumped by your heart) which pumps an average of seven times an hour. But here’s a cool thing: When you gently and systematically stretch your skin, you can increase the average circulation of your lymph up to 20-30 times an hour. Lymphatic drainage massage is one of the ways this is done. Dry brushing your skin is another. This speeds up and improves your lymphatic circulation so that puffiness can be diminished. This puffiness is sometimes what causes the ripply appearance of what we call “cellulite”.
There is an art to dry brushing which can take a bit longer to explain that I have space for, here, but here are some basic tips:
- Use a soft brush
- Always brush toward the heart.
- Use an extremely light touch (“mashing” down on your skin directs the pressure down past your lymphatic vessels and defeats the purpose)
- DO NOT perform dry brushing if you have any sort of active infection. This could spread the infection and/or make you sicker.
So, what do you think? Have you tried dry brushing before? Did you notice the benefits? I’d love to hear your stories in the comment box below.