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Skin problems are commonplace for people with a thyroid disease like hypothyroidism. Your thyroid health certainly impacts your skin, from dry, scaly skin and even changes in sweat glands and hair thickness. One of the ways you can deal with these changes is through dry brushing. This practice is particularly effective for removing dry skin, but the benefits of dry brushing may even go well beyond the skin.
This technique of caring for your body has been around for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. Dry brushing is where you or a practitioner take a somewhat coarse brush and exfoliate your skin. The brush is usually rubbed in a specific circular pattern from your extremities toward your heart to help improve circulation.
Behind this practice of exfoliation is the expectation that toxins can be eliminated through the pores more effectively once you remove dry and dead skin cells from the epidermis (or the top layer of the skin).
There is little clinical research to show how dry brushing impacts your health. What we do know about dry brushing comes from centuries of using it in Ayurvedic medicine and anecdotal support from practitioners and users alike.
Thyroid conditions impact every organ system in the body, and the skin is perhaps the most obvious area where we can see the effects of an underactive thyroid gland. When you do not have enough thyroid hormone in your body, your sweat glands can change, making your skin drier.
Thyroid-related skin changes include:
- Coarsened, thin, scaly skin
- Pale or yellow skin
- Coarse, brittle, dull, thin nails, and
- Dry, brittle, coarse hair
- Hair thinning
Other signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism may include:
- Cold intolerance
- Weight gain
- Muscle weakness
- Elevated blood cholesterol level
- Muscle aches, tenderness, or stiffness
- Joint pain, stiffness, or swelling
- Heavy or irregular menstrual periods
- Slowed heart rate
- Impaired memory
- Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)
The best thing you can do to treat these symptoms is to normalize your thyroid hormone levels, as no amount of dry brushing will likely improve your skin health. However, dry brushing may support your efforts to better skin health by offering the following benefits.
Exfoliates the skin
Most notably, dry brushing removes dead skin cells from the top layer of your skin. By removing these cells, your pores will be more effective at releasing toxins and other waste products. Exfoliation also gives the skin a brighter, healthier look because it removes the layer of dry cells covering the skin's surface.
Boost lymphatic circulation and toxin removal
While there is little evidence to support this potential benefit, perhaps the most intriguing component of dry brushing is its potential for boosting lymphatic circulation. The lymph system carries some toxins and wastes from the immune system, and indeed, it plays a crucial role in helping us fight off infections.
One of the ways the lymph system may get rid of these toxins is through sweating. Through the process of exfoliation, dry brushing may increase a person's ability to sweat (which again is problematic for those with hypothyroidism).
When performed in a particular pattern, dry brushing may also help move lymphatic fluids, so toxins do not stay in the body for too long.
Doing manual lymphatic drainage with a dry brush may temporarily lessen the swelling that accompanies hypothyroidism, but there is little research to support this theory.
Increases blood flow to the skin
People with hypothyroidism often struggle with getting sufficient blood flow to their extremities, so practices that may help improve circulation could help in several ways. Because dry brushing exfoliates and may slightly irritate the skin's surface, it is normal for blood flow to increase in the skin following treatment. Aside from decreasing paleness, which is so common in hypothyroidism, this temporary boost in blood flow can provide more nourishment to skin cells, making them healthier.
Reduces the appearance of cellulite
One of the reasons many people get hooked on dry brushing is that it may help reduce cellulite. Known to affect primarily women, cellulite is where an accumulation of fat cells and collagen bands create a rippled appearance on the skin.
Because massage may reduce the appearance of cellulite (temporarily), it is possible that dry brushing could as well. There is no evidence to support this, but if a person feels it is helpful, there is likely no reason not to try it.
Dry brushing is safe for most people to try. However, if you have sensitive skin, it can feel irritated and may even cause skin breakage. And, for people with skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, it can exacerbate your medical condition and make it worse.
Also, dry brushing may be particularly damaging because many people with skin conditions use topical medications like steroid creams. It is best to consult your dermatologist before trying this practice.
Certain areas of your body should also be avoided, including the face and upper chest (unless you have a soft brush specifically meant for this area). Furthermore, it would be best to avoid any areas with rashes, cuts, and wounds.
There is some skepticism around whether or not dry brushing has any benefit to your health. Some people are big proponents of it, whereas others don't buy into this practice.
We know that dry brushing probably doesn't inflict much harm on the body unless you have severe skin problems or are too aggressive with your brushing. Therefore, most skin experts and health care professionals conclude that if you enjoy dry brushing and it makes you feel good - go for it!
And, if you are using dry brushing to improve your skin health with a condition like hypothyroidism, you should know that no amount of dry brushing will match the benefits of stabilizing your T3 and T3 hormones. Ensure your thyroid function is optimized by doing an at-home complete thyroid blood test to verify that your thyroid health is optimized.