“Why don’t you start taking French baths?” suggested my healthy living guru, brushing his luxurious long hair aside, a testament to his wholesome lifestyle.
I immediately imagined something erotic when he said French because this is just how my mind works.
“What’s that?” I asked, fully present to the conversation, sipping the green smoothie he had whipped up with a dozen ingredients I had never heard of.
“A French bath is one without water—skin brushing, with a dry brush. It invigorates the lymphatic system and makes our skin beautiful!” He proceeded to show me his array of natural bristle brushes, how they were used and gave me a complete pseudo demonstration of the process. Clothed, mind you.
As he spoke, I continued thinking that this could be part of some erotic love ritual.
And there is something erotic about being healthy and vibrant, participating fully in life, and finding ways to give back to the body we live in.
A French bath or dry skin brushing is not to be confused with the other meaning for a French bath, washing only the essentials at one’s sink with a washcloth. This was a common practice in earlier times, akin to washing in a cabin in the woods without running water.
Here is the quick run-down on how to take a French bath.
It’s easy to do in the morning (but doing it in the evening is okay too). Sometimes I do it before I head out for my early morning hike, and I shower later. It didn’t take long before I became addicted to this feel-good practice, much like oil pulling or brushing my hair 100 strokes before bed.
Healthy rituals are an enriching way to be present with ourselves on a daily basis. It is a gift to the hard-working body—our sacred vessel.
It’s been 20-odd-years since I first started skin brushing, and my skin is still glowing and velvety at 56 years old. (Other benefits are listed below.) Every time I skin brush, I feel my body responding with a grateful rush of energy. Try it—you’ll love it!
What you will need:
A natural bristle brush with or without a handle, depending completely on your comfort level. That’s it—no other supplies required.
Why it works:
The lymphatic system is a circulatory mechanism in the body, similar to the heart circulating blood, except that lymph fluid doesn’t have a pump to move it along. Exercising and skin brushing does the work of moving lymph fluid and draining lymph nodes. The lymphatic system relies completely on our attention to remain healthy.
The more we move, the better our lymph health. We are made of energy which must move. As soon as we become stagnant, our health declines. This can be extrapolated to our thoughts and emotions as well. Keep it moving!
The skin is our largest organ and also our first system of defense from outside influences. We spend a lot of time and money wearing clothes and applying makeup over our skin. Skin brushing is way to be nakedly beautiful.
How to do it:
Although exfoliating in the shower with sugar scrubs and mitts is also good, the French bath is done on dry skin with a dry brush.
Use circular motions, working toward the heart. Switch to upward strokes as needed. I used to get so frustrated with the circular motions because I’m uncoordinated. I finally found a system that works for me and went with it. Doing it at all is more important than doing it perfectly. As long as we’re working with the natural flow of lymph fluid toward the heart, we’ll be golden.
Begin with the bottom of the feet, (soles of feet and palms give a bit of a rush), then work your way upward. It may feel a bit rough at first but your skin will get used to it. Vary pressure as you go along.
Some people avoid the breasts but in my holistic practice, I have always thought that the lymph nodes around the breasts welcome gentle brushing, as they are held hostage by our bras all day long and moving toxins from the area is of utmost importance.
Brushing the neck area and underarms are also important. These tender places that require a softer touch with the brush are packed with lymph nodes.
Use a downward stroke from the upper back to lower (you’ll be stroking down instead of up, as the heart is below).
Shower off, finishing with a cold blast if you like, and moisturize with something organic and non-toxic. Olive or coconut oil are great in lieu of prepared moisturizers.
Something Important to Remember:
The goal of this skin brushing is to move toxins, but one thing that is often overlooked is the importance of keeping the bowels moving as well. Eventually, all these toxins will end up in the bloodstream and then move to the colon—and sorry to get all poopy on you—so it’s important to move it all out. Take special care to brush over the tummy and colon.
Water, exercise, and detoxifying foods like greens, vegetables, and fruit are our allies. Hydrating vegetables like celery and cucumber are excellent as are apples that are full of fiber and pectin, another toxin binding agent.
Lymph node and metabolic toxin drainage.
Exfoliation of dead cells to reveal new healthy, glowing skin.
Reduces cellulite storage, another area where toxins hide.
Stimulates the nervous system.
Increased muscle tone and smoother skin.
Increases digestive function and helps detoxify organs such as the liver, kidneys, and gallbladder.
Stimulates elimination and colon function.
A French bath is one of the best self-care practices we can add to our daily routine.
May it be of benefit.