The utilitarian body brush is sadly neglected in the presentation stakes. No seasonal colour range or flavour of the month celeb endorsements. I am yet to see a body brush handle peeking from designer bags of the rich and famous. But for those of us who spend time with these cactus and plywood understatements, they are up there with the haute couture of skin care.
It is almost 20 years since I decided to step my health up a notch and had my first visit to a naturopath. Among a raft of life changes that day was my introduction to the wonders of dry body brushing. Seemed an odd thing to do - to dry brush my skin and then shower - but thought I may as well give it a go.
The experience was a watershed. Where did all those dead skin cells come from? I felt like I had morphed into Little Miss Snake at shedding time. I soon learned that when we are children our skin turns over skin cells very quickly, but as we move through adulthood the process slows and these past-their-use-by-date cells hang around, building up on our skin, and impacting on our health and vitality - not to mention the feel and appearance of our skin.
Luckily we can do something about this, by brushing most mornings, or every few days if you prefer. Start out gently - no scratches please! Your skin should feel tingly and may take on a pink glow, although you can expect a fine white powdery coating. This is perfect - your brushing is working and you can rinse away those dead cells under the shower - no soap necessary. For an extra boost turn off the hot tap at the end of your shower and give your body a nerve-tingling cold snap. Towel dry and massage with a skin-friendly natural oil like olive or coconut. I use organic coconut oil - one that is ethically produced and has a lovely coconutty smell. Allow around 10 minutes for the oil to soak in and - ah - feel the bliss. If you have a signature essential oil then you might like to add a couple of drops for a soft and subtle all over body perfume.
Like everything, it takes time to develop the body brushing habit but after a month of your skin becoming smoother and silkier by the day you won't want to go back to having those pesky dead cells doing their leather-look layering ever again.
And the health benefits are more than just skin deep. As our skin becomes less active in sloughing off dead skin cells we are also less efficient in removing toxins from our body. Having these build up can contribute to many problems, not the least being accelarated ageing.
One of the systems in our body that often gets overlooked but plays a crucial role in eliminating toxins is the lymphatic system - our sewerage system is a good way to describe it. Word is that it also plays a role our immune system by producing certain white blood cells and generating antibodies. But the lymph system doesn't have an inbuilt pumping system like our cardiovascular system, and instead depends of the movement of muscles to keep it working. Perhaps this could be the basis of the term 'feeling sluggish', when we have slowed down our pace and aren't having a best-ever kind of day.
When body brushing, pay attention to the areas that hold the greatest number of lymph nodes - the inner thighs and armpits - and brush towards the heart because this is the direction of the flow of lymph. I must admit that I am a little random with this.
I find that an early morning run, building up a sweat, coming home and cooling down with some stretches before dry brushing, then a warm shower followed by a quick burst of cold water, and rounding off with a coconut oil self-massage is the perfect way to start my day.
So if you aren't already a devotee of body brushing then grab yourself a brush and get glowing!!