The Shower Sitch: To Brush or To Scrub?

Clearing up confusion about the latest in body exfoliating

It’s no secret I’m a devout supporter of exfoliating. I’ll scrub every little pore until it’s ridiculously baby soft and smooth without waiting for my skin to get dull, dry or drab. I’ve also been known to try just about any form of scruffing: candy colored mesh sponges, naturally recyclable, unbleached loofah mittens, and even the occasional heavy duty Scotch bright sponge with a dollop of shower gel to soften the grit.

Today body exfoliating goes beyond learning to loofah. Dry body brushing (an ancient Japanese ritual) has been on the radar for quite some time now, and despite some critics’ doubts about the benefits of daily brushing, it’s clear to beauty fans (and me) that working a brush over your limbs does seem to enliven the mind and skin. I’ve become pro brushing over the past year, but still can’t manage to give up those prettily scented body scrubs, as sent often plays a huge factor in my ritualistic choosing of products. This got me thinking: Do I need both a brush and a scrub? And if not, which one should I stick with?

I chatted with Ole Henriksen Spa master therapist Briony Behets, who has been buffing out celebrity skin for nearly 15 years, to help me figure out the answer. Not only has she tested a myriad of scrubs and textures along with skincare pro Ole (Barbara Streisand was his first A-list client), but she has also witnessed the trendy rise of the recent body brushing phenomenon.

“A dry brush treatment doesn’t just exfoliate, it stimulates vascular and lymphatic activity for health. It also enhances overall health benefits like improving circulation, helping relax sore muscles, and improving the appearance of cellulite by breaking down toxic body deposits and the distribution of fat deposits,” she says. “All of these lead to an overall feeling of physical well being.”

So, do I need to add a body scrub? “A scrub normally exfoliates and moisturizes, but it can also stimulate vascular and lymphatic activity, depending on how vigorous you get. If you use an oil-based scrub, you get a moisturizing effect that can have mood enhancing qualities,” she says. “It also has a greater exfoliation factor for rough dead skin, which is great for removing an old tan.”

If both work and share benefits, how do we know when to use one over another? “A scrub is normally recommended once a week—twice at the most—because it can damage new skin, which can lead to dryness and abrasions,” says Behets. “But, you can dry brush every day without causing skin damage.”

I tried dry brushing for a week and can say one benefit I noticed was the quality of my sleep improved. I used the Aromatherapy Associates Polishing Body Brush ($22) for three minutes every night before hopping into the shower, and in addition to getting some good zzzs, I liked that it’s not terribly messy or time-consuming. The natural cactus sisal bristles weren’t too stiff or abrasive. (Always opt for natural brushes, as synthetic ones can be way too harsh and scratch up your skin.)

If you want to get spa-style beauty on a weekly basis, try Ole Henriksen African Red Tea Exotic Body Scrub ($65), made exclusively for the spa. The sugar-based, moderately gritty treatment is super moisturizing with honey and sweet almond oil. Plus, it doesn’t leave your shower floor with an unwanted oil slick and won’t leave your skin feeling razor-burned. The light citrus scent from grapefruit and tangerine essential oils is faint enough to allow you to use dollops at a time.

The best part of combining the two DIY exfoliating methods? It practically solves in-grown hair problems—a skin-smoothing beauty boon on whole other level.


A native Angeleno, Navdeep Mundi is a Leo, hates cilantro, and has studied beauty products for more than 18 years. She spends her days directing media and strategy and her nights sniffing out slightly quirky yet impeccably pretty things along with her German Shepherd, Le Tigre.