Dry brushing for cellulite: does it work?

Cellulite is not just water retention...

Every year, come spring, I have to endure endless articles, printed or on the web, that suggest body brushing as a method to help you "rid of" cellulite. In the past, due to our limited knowledge of the problem, cellulite was assumed to be just a circulation and lymphatic drainage impairment.

That assumption lead to the myth that manual lymphatic drainage massage (MLD) can "get rid of" cellulite, or to the even more ludicrous claim that dry body brushing (also known as body brushing) can also achieve the same thing.


...and besides, body brushing does not even reduce water retention or provide lymphatic drainage to your legs

However, this could not be further from the truth. Dry (or even wet) skin brushing is not even a valid lymphatic drainage method. This is because all that skin brushing can do is exfoliate the skin. And that's all. Not much else.

If you follow the direction of the lymph flow when you dry brush your skin, you may be able to achieve a VERY WEAK lymphatic drainage effect, but that doesn't even come close enough to the strong, cellulite-specific lymphatic stimulation massage needed to significantly boost the body's natural lymphatic drainage and blood circulation.

And it doesn't even come close to reducing cellulite, a multifactorial aesthetic condition, comprising fat accumulation, connective tissue deformity, skin looseness, impaired microcirculation, glycation, inflammation and oxidative damage.

It is a bit naive to believe that with a 10-minute, superficial exfoliation of the epidermis you can treat deep tissues on the subdermis, which 60-minute, deep professional cellulite massages treat with difficulty.


You can massage your legs with a dry brush until you bleed, yet your cellulite will still not be affected in the slightest

Unfortunately, the vigorous, cellulite-specific massage needed for effective cellulite reduction, cannot be applied with a body brush without making the skin bleed first. This is because skin brushing works by literally scraping off the epidermis, i.e. the top layer of the skin, while for cellulite reduction the subdermis (i.e. the bottom layer of the skin) needs to be manipulated.

Therefore, a strong cellulite-specific massage applied with a body brush will lead to skin bleeding long before it's application has any effect on the cellulite structures that lie deep inside the skin. Clearly, a massage that works specifically on the cellulite tissues, without damaging the surface of the skin is needed, and dry brushing is definitely not such a type of massage.


All dry brushing can do is help the absorption of anti-cellulite creams

In summary, body brushing is a waste of time, when it comes to cellulite reduction. However, if you have bought into the hype and purchased a body brush, all is not lost. Dry skin brushing can still be used to exfoliate the skin prior to applying a good, concentrated cellulite cream, so at least you can use your body brush to boost the effectiveness of a more valid cellulite reduction method. 

Just do the body brushing first, have a hot shower afterwards (not the other way around) and then apply the cream.


Go easy with exfoliation and body brushing - it's not as good as the hype suggests

And don't become overzealous with the body brushing. Your epidermis is there for a reason: to protect your skin from external aggressions (natural and artificial chemicals, high / low temperatures, UV / infrared light, mechanical damage and transepidermal water loss / TEWL). If you continuously scrape it off, with daily and/or aggressive exfoliation, skin allergies and sensitivities are guaranteed to follow.


(Have you ever wondered why more and more women complain about sensitive skin? Yes, it is the constant exfoliation, the easy (but not always cheap) trick to look beautiful for a day or two: AHAs, chemical peels, ablative laser treatments, microdermabrasion, body brushing and the like. But that is hot material for another article.)