Dry Skin Brushing and Detox

April 1, 2008

By johnmac

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At this time of year, I am frequently asked about the effectiveness of various detoxification products and protocols. It is definitely a good idea to do some spring cleaning of the body (mind and soul too!); however, before undertaking a detox program, it is important to support the body’s eliminative channels.

Why is this important? A detoxification program stimulates the body’s tissues to release various toxins – it “puts out the garbage” so to speak. When working properly, the eliminative channels act as sanitation engineers, collecting and disposing of the “garbage”.

Can you imagine what would happen if every household in your neighbourhood started putting out more garbage than usual and the sanitation engineers couldn’t handle the extra work load?

Garbage would start piling up and rotting, compromising the condition of your neighbourhood. The same can happen to the body when we detoxify before considering the health of our eliminative channels.

So, what exactly are the eliminative channels of the body? Most of us are familiar with the more common ones, such as the colon/large intestine, the lungs, the kidneys, the lymphatic system/lymph nodes and the liver. There is one other very important eliminative channel that is often overlooked, and that is the skin.

The skin is the largest organ of the body and is responsible for approximately 25% of the body’s daily detoxification. For an average adult, the skin weighs 6 pounds and covers approximately 2 square yards of surface area! It is often called the “third kidney” due to its important eliminative role.

A very beneficial practice that promotes the health of the skin and encourages circulation to the skin so that it can carry out its eliminative role is daily dry skin brushing.

Dry skin brushing is quick and easy. It requires 5 minutes of your time and a natural bristle brush (pictured below). Here’s how to do it:

It is best done immediately before a morning shower or bath – the skin must be dry and the body fully naked
Using small circular motions, start by brushing the sole of one foot, then the other (it may be a good idea to do this part sitting down)
Next, brushing one leg at a time, start at the toes and move upwards to the ankle, then the shin/calf, then the upper leg/thigh (it may be a good idea to stay seated to do the area between the ankles and the calves)
Next, brush up the stomach and buttock areas
Continue dry skin brushing in this manner, working up the front, side and back of the torso, always keeping the direction of brushing towards the heart
Next, do the arms, one at a time. Hold the arm you are brushing up and outwards (above the heart) and brush from the fingertips up the hand towards the wrist
Continue up the arm, brushing the area between the wrist and elbow first, then move up to the upper arm, brushing from the elbow up to the shoulder
Finish by brushing the upper chest area from the shoulder towards the heart

When you are dry skin brushing, make sure you cover the entire surface area of the body part you are brushing. You may repeat the same area one or two times. Use moderate pressure – it should not hurt – in fact, it should feel wonderful! Lighten the pressure around sensitive areas such as the breasts and neck. Do not brush the nipples or the face. While there are special, softer brushes for the face, you can simply use a clean, dry face cloth and use the same circular “brushing” motion all over the face, applying light pressure.

Always avoid areas of broken skin and/or any areas affected by rashes that can be spread by contact, such as poison ivy and poison oak.

Remember to always brush towards the heart.

Once you are finished dry skin brushing your entire body, take a shower to wash off the dead skin cells and any toxins that have been brought to the surface. As an extra health benefit, try ending your shower with 3 short cycles of hot and cold water. Avoid being too extreme with the temperature cycles – while you want to notice a difference in the water temperature, you also don’t want to shock yourself with scalding hot and freezing cold water. Make the experience enjoyable so you will do it! These hot/cold cycles will further invigorate the skin by stimulating circulation, bringing more blood to the outer layers of the skin.

In addition to supporting the skin’s eliminative function, daily dry skin brushing will leave your skin looking and feeling healthier, as it removes dead skin cells and promotes cell renewal. It also supports the health of the lymphatic system, another important eliminative channel.

A few other suggestions that are beneficial for the skin include:

Drinking plenty of pure water and eating high water foods (e.g. watermelon, cucumbers, celery)
Ensuring adequate amounts of essential fatty acids (e.g. omega-3) via food and/or supplements
Wearing clothes made of natural fibres
Avoiding anti-perspirants. They block the skin’s eliminative function, therefore putting stress on other eliminative channels. Many commercial brands also contain aluminum, which should be avoided. Use a natural deodorant stick instead.
Activities that promote sweating such as brisk exercise, saunas or steam baths
Massage
Epsom salt baths (no longer than 20 minutes). Epsom salt baths are also beneficial for the lymphatic system
Note that the skin is equally efficient at absorbing toxins as it is at excreting them, so be careful what you put on your skin! My rule: If I wouldn’t eat it, I avoid putting it on my skin. High quality coconut oil is my year-round body lotion and bath oil.

High quality, natural bristle brushes and coconut oil are available at very reasonable prices at both my locations.

Finally, I would also suggest getting a filter that takes the chlorine out your shower and bath water. Some sources claim that during a 10-minute hot shower, more chlorine is absorbed into the body compared with the amount that is absorbed by drinking 8 glasses of the same water. This is because during the shower, in addition to being absorbed through the skin, the chlorine in the water evaporates into a noxious gas which is inhaled.

You can purchase a wide variety of water filters for your shower, bath and drinking water at WaterMart, located in Bells Corners in the Town Hall Plaza, 3825 Richmond Road, 613-768-9676. (www.watermartonline.com). Their knowledgeable staff will help you find the products that best fit your water usage and budget.

I hope you will make dry skin brushing a part of your daily personal care routine.

Enjoy!

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