It’s not long now till holiday season is officially upon us and like many people, I’m less than brilliant at maintaining my limbs when they’re encased in winter layers. I’m not really a tanner – fake or otherwise – and I have no real problem with blinding the odd passerby with the flashing brilliance of my pasty white legs. But I do feel much better if that glow is the result of well-tended, healthy skin.
Today’s post is the first of a three-part series on skin prep for summer exposure – the natural way – and I’m kicking off with dry body brushing. Part 2 will cover natural body scrubs and part 3, body moisturisers.
I needed a bit of convincing on the body brushing thing to begin with. It just sounds weird and I couldn’t quite get the image of horse grooming out of my mind. It’s really doesn’t look that dissimilar. However, with a bit of will power and 2-3 weeks of religious ‘grooming’ behind me, I can really see the benefit.
The benefits of skin brushing are down to two distinct effects. Firstly, gentle skin brushing has a mild exfoliating effect, lifting away dead skin cells and smoothing the surface, helping to prepare the skin for any products you will apply later. Secondly, it helps to eliminate toxins by increasing blood flow to the skin’s surface and stimulating the lymphatic system – the body’s waste disposal mechanism. The two things combined really do lead to clearer, brighter skin over time.
There are two really important things to remember about skin brushing. Number 1 – be gentle! Repeat after me….’I am not a horse. I am NOT a horse.’ Even if you don’t suffer from sensitive skin or an inflammatory condition like eczema, there’s no need to be heavy handed as dead skin cells slough off surprisingly easily. Number 2 – always brush towards the heart. This action allows you to work with your circulatory system, rather than against it, and also ensures you’ll be brushing in the direction of lymph glands where toxins can be filtered out.
Start brushing on the tops of the feet and gently work up the legs and over the buttocks and hips. Brush your arms in the same way, starting at the fingertips and moving up to the shoulders. I tend to avoid brushing my chest area because the skin there is really delicate and I also avoid any bits that are particularly prone to or suffering from eczema (for me that’s usually the top of my back).
Choosing a brush is a very personal thing. Some bristles are quite stiff and spiky, others are softer and more pliable. I’m a softer brush person but try out a couple on the back of your hand or forearm and see what you think. Natural bristles are best, either way. You can also choose between a palm-held brush or one with a longer handle. I prefer the control of a palm-held brush but many brushes have a longer detachable handle so you can get the control while still being able to get at the small of your back without dislocating a shoulder.
My favourite brush is Liz Earle’s, for feel and adaptability. (£7.40 from Liz Earle’s website.)
Some other good options out there include:
Green People spa body brush £10.75, available at Lovelula.
Neal’s Yard body brush, £8.75, available from the Neal’s Yard website.
Temple Spa’s ‘Giving It The Brush Off’, £16, available from Victoria Health.
The Body Shop’s body brush round, £7, from The Body Shop stores and website.
Come back on the 16th for body scrubs…