Scan almost any spa menu, and you’ll likely find an offering that mentions dry brushing. The practice—which involves scrubbing down your dry skin with a scratchy brush—sounds far from pampering, if not a bit austere. But spa pros and enthusiasts alike swear by it and sing its praises for supposedly doing everything from exfoliating to reducing cellulite. Sounds a bit too good to be true, so learn the facts.

How does dry brushing work? 
The exfoliation part is easy to understand. “Gentle dry brushing will slough off dead, dry skin, improving its appearance and allowing it to hydrate more efficiently when moisturizer is applied afterward,” says Francesca Fusco, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City.

As for detoxifying, dry brushing is similar to massage. “The light pressure against your skin and the direction in which you brush helps move lymph fluid into the lymph nodes so this waste can then be eliminated,” says Robin Jones, spa director at Lake Austin Spa Resort in Austin, TX. Your body naturally does this, but dry brushing speeds up the process and at the same time boosts circulation, delivering oxygenated blood to the skin and other organs, which helps them do their jobs better.

But can it really reduce cellulite? 
Because dry brushing helps eliminate toxins, many pros claim it can smooth those unsightly lumps and bumps for good. Annet King, director of global education for Dermalogica and the International Dermal Institute, says the procedure helps remove “stagnant toxins” that break down connective tissue, leading to cellulite.

But there’s no conclusive scientific evidence that dry brushing can permanently reduce cottage cheese thighs, which are caused by a combination of fat and connective tissue. Fusco believes the reduction is more of a short-lived benefit caused by temporary skin plumping and swelling. Our, um, bottom line: Temporary or not, we’ll take fewer derriere dimples any day.

So how do you dry brush? 
First you need a proper brush, which you can purchase at most health food stores. Look for firm bristles—typically cactus- or vegetable-derived—or else the process won’t work, King says. A long handle is also handy to help you access hard-to-reach areas such as your back. Try Bernard Jensen Skin Brush Natural Bristles Long Handle.

Because dry brushing energizes and stimulates the body, most pros suggest doing it in the morning before you shower, but you can do it any time of day you prefer. Using long, upward strokes, start brushing your skin at your feet and work up your legs one at a time. Then move up your mid-section (front and back) and across your chest. Finish by brushing up your arms toward your armpits.

 Now it’s shower time, with an added bonus: “You’ve just opened up your pores, so any of body treatments you apply in the shower and afterward will penetrate better,” Jones says.

How can I tell if dry brushing is helping? 
Your skin should feel softer and smoother after just one session. Some people even say the detox and circulatory boost helps with digestive issues and skin problems such as acne; others claim to feel more energized, most likely a result of the increased blood flow.

And King says you can test if you’re releasing toxins: Wipe your body with a dry washcloth right after brushing, then store the cloth in a sealable bag. After a few days later, give it a whiff. According to King, “you will recognize that toxins were released.” A tad icky, but if that’s your thing, go for it!

Have dead winter skin to slough off before spring? Luckily, it takes about two seconds to create a DIY scrub to leave skin super-soft. (More home remedies that save winter skin.)

“These salts draw out the impurities, replenish nutrients, and relax muscles while they remove dead skin and open your pores so that you absorb the essential oils deeper into the layers of your dermis—sugar is just sugar, there’s no therapeutic effect,” as Hope Gillerman, author of Essential Oils Every Day and founder of H. Gillerman Organics luxury essential oils remedies told our sister site Better Homes and Gardens.

 Pass on the basic table salt and pick a more therapeutic option like Epsom salts, dead sea salts, Himalayan salt, or sea salt. As for the oils, try lavender, clary sage, orange, bergamot, and cedarwood, which are sleep enhancers and promote relaxation.

The Recipe

Place 1 cup of salt in a glass, metal or ceramic bowl. Using a whisk, stir in ½ teaspoon of your favorite relaxing essential oil until thoroughly blended.

The Method
Add 1/2 cup to a drawn bath and swish with your hands to dissolve. Hop in and soak for 5 to 15 minutes, then use the salt to scrub calluses on feet.

Bonus: The essential oils are an excellent way to practice some self-care. “This is the absolute best ritual to do before bed if you have trouble sleeping or unwinding after a particularly challenging day,” says Gillerman.

Grab a bottle of shampoo, lather, rinse, maybe repeat…right? Eh, not quite. Turns out there are some super-common mistakes that people make every step of the way. Ahead, top hair pros weigh in on everything you need to know to suds your strands correctly. Follow their advice and a good hair day is just a shower away.

Choose the right product.

Not all shampoos are created equal, so when it comes to finding the best one for you, “think of your hair the way you would your skin,” advises Eddie Parra, stylist at Sally Hershberger|Tim Rogers Salon in NYC. If it’s dry, look for a moisturizing formula or one labeled as reparative, and free of drying sulfates, he says. On the flip side, if your hair tends to get greasy or oily, a clarifying shampoo is best. If you’re one of the lucky ones whose hair is fairly normal, then go ahead and choose a shampoo based on the style you want to achieve—a volumizing variety if you want more fullness or a smoothing option if you want a sleek look, he adds. Not sure where your strands fall on the spectrum? “Your stylist is a great resource who can help you determine your hair type,” he says.

Expensive isn’t always better.

You can spend $3 on a bottle of shampoo, or you could spend $30. The choice is obviously up to you, but keep in mind that there are only so many ways to manufacture shampoo, and many of the bigger beauty brands own both high- and low-end lines, points out Parra. “It’s more important to pick the right type of shampoo for your hair, rather than be guided by the price tag.” In other words, if your hair is dry, a bargain moisturizing formula is a better bet than a pricey, trendy variety that’s not moisturizing. “As long as you’re using the right kind of shampoo, feel free to experiment with products that fall in different price ranges,” Parra adds.

Master the right technique.

Start by rinsing your hair and massaging your scalp even before you reach for shampoo. “This kick-starts the process of removing dirt and residue,” explains Parra. Use a quarter-size squirt of shampoo (slightly more if you have longer or super-thick hair), and work it into the crown of your head, directly above your forehead, rubbing it in for 30 seconds or so. Repeat with another dollop of shampoo, this time applying it at the nape of your neck. The massaging is key: “Shampoo isn’t going to do anything if it just sits there,” says Parra. “It’s the friction of your fingertips that’s lifting off the oils and dirt.” That being said, you *don’t* want to pile up all your hair on top of your head and start rubbing, shampoo commercial style. “This causes more tangles and damage. Your scalp is where most of the dirt, oil, and other junk collect, so concentrate your efforts there and then pull shampoo down toward your ends,” explains Eric Spengler, senior VP of research and development at Living Proof. You can do that with your fingers or with a wide-tooth comb.

Condition every time you shampoo.

It’s a non-skippable step that protects hair from styling damage, says Spengler. Fine-haired girls may be tempted to pass on conditioner for fear that it will weigh down their hair, but, “for them it’s even more important, since fine hair is more prone to damage and tangles,” he adds. Apply conditioner only from mid-shaft to ends (never directly on your roots or scalp), and your strands will be left smooth and snarl-free, without ever looking or feeling weighed down. (Here, more on how to wash your hair to prevent breakage.)

Reconsider how often you wash.

For most people, daily washing is too often, says Spengler. Parra agrees: “Unless you’re hard-core sweating every day, try to wash your hair every other day.” Overwashing—especially if you’re using the wrong shampoo—can actually end up stripping your hair and scalp of their natural oils, leaving both feeling dry. To stretch out your style for an extra day or two (um, or even five) there’s no better option than dry shampoo. Just make sure you’re using it correctly. More on that next…

Rethink how you use dry shampoo.

Yes, the beauty of dry shampoo is that it’s fast and easy. But for the best results, you want to do a little more than just spray and go. “People easily OD on dry shampoo, leaving hair looking matte and feeling gritty,” says Parra. To avoid this, keep the bottle at least 6 inches away from your scalp when spraying. “Hold it any closer and you’re going to get an overly concentrated amount of product that’s going to be hard to get rid of,” he explains. Tousle with your fingertips to break up the particles, then give your hair a thorough brushing to remove any residue, but do both immediately after spritzing. “If you wait, the dry shampoo can start to harden, making it much more difficult to comb out,” cautions Parra. (Here, more dry shampoo mistakes you might be making, plus how to find the best post-workout dry shampoo for you.)

Inflammatory Foods

If your daily meals are filled with foods that cause chronic inflammation, such as vegetable oils, margarine, red meats, white bread, or sugary, processed foods, you’re not doing your skin any favors. These foods can cause inflammation in your body, which may accelerate wrinkle formation. To prevent premature aging, stock up on foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) such as flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, avocados, salmon, and and olive oil. These foods will help your skin maintain its soft and supple look.

Be sure to load up on fruits and veggies, too. Fresh produce is abundant in zinc, selenium, vitamin C, and beta carotene, all of which are key players in the body’s production of collagen (which keeps skin firm), as well as protecting against free radicals. Two good options are red bell peppers and carrots. Simply slice them up for a convenient on-the-go snack you can take anywhere. Not a fan? Try upping your intake of broccoli—just 1 cup has 100 percent of the total daily recommended value of vitamin C.

Lastly, make sure you’re getting enough protein—recent studies show that an insufficient amount of protein can cause tears, wrinkles, and cracks in your skin. Aim to get at least one protein-containing food (for example, eggs, lean beef or poultry, beans) at each meal.

Loss of Human Growth Hormone or HGH

Your body produces human growth hormone (HGH) in the pituitary gland. Among its many functions, HGH works with collagen to maintain skin and muscle composition. As you age, your body’s natural production of collagen slows, which can lead to looser and thinner skin. While you may not be able to stop time completely in its tracks, you can slow its effects: The results of a 2012 double-blind study on supplement brand SeroVital suggests that certain combinations of amino acids can actually stimulate the body’s production of human growth hormone, which in turn, can help promote collagen production and help you maintain your firm, smooth skin. Both male and female patients given a special blend of amino acids saw a mean increase of more than six times the levels of HGH they started with at the beginning of the study. The patients also experienced faster metabolism and increased endurance. Learn more about this promising anti-aging supplement here!

Anecdotal evidence also seems promising: People who have taken HGH supplements or injections report brighter skin, better hearing, and having more energy.

Stress

Nothing takes its toll on your body faster than constant worry, anxiety, or stress. In fact, a 2012 study suggests that job-related stress can have a harmful effect on DNA in your cells. According to an article published by Huffington Post, researchers measured the length of DNA sections called telomeres and found that people with the most work-related stress had the shortest telomeres, causing cells to die or become damaged, which may speed up the aging process. Additionally, stress can age your brain, increase your blood pressure, and disrupt your sleeping habits, all of which combined can make you look older, as well.

It’s hard for most people to reduce the amount of work-related stress they face (and if you can, we want to work where you do!), but hopefully, you can dial it down with just a few simple lifestyle tweaks. Limit the amount of caffeine you drink, avoid processed foods, which can put stress on your digestive system, and try taking up a weekly yoga or meditation session to boost your mood and calm your mind. Not your thing? Try these one of these seven stress-relieving workouts instead.

Too Little Sleep

More than a third of American adults don’t get the recommended amount of sleep per night, which can cause big-time negative effects on your health, such as weight gain, impaired immune system, decreased focus, sallow skin, and compromised memory.

If you can, try to get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. But be careful: Sleeping too long on one side of your face can cause wrinkles and “sleep lines”, according to an article by Allure. The best way to avoid fine lines and wrinkles is by sleeping on your back or purchasing smooth pillowslip cases. “Satin or silk is best,” Fransesca Fusco, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical center in New York, told the magazine. “Or buy the softest, highest-thread-count fabric you can find.”

Sunbathing

As amazing as that sun feels on your body, sunbathing or tanning is one of the worst things you can do for your skin. Besides the risk of cancer, excessive UV ray exposure weakens your skin cells and blood vessels, which causes that tanned, leathery look you see on people who’ve spent their entire lives outdoors. Interestingly enough, it can even make your skin more susceptible to bruising.

So how do you protect yourself? Sunscreen. All day, every day. It may seem obvious, but a recent four-year Australian study just officially confirmed what experts have long suspected: That the regular, daily application of sunscreen can fight wrinkles, reduce the risk of developing skin cancer, and keep your skin smooth and resilient.

To make sure you’re maximizing the benefits of sunscreen, use about 1 ounce (that’s the size of a standard shot glass) of SPF 30 sunscreen for your entire body, with a nickel-sized amount for your face, and remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours, especially on those hot summer days when you’re constantly in and out of the pool.

If you skipped the sunblock and are already burned, there may not be a lot you can do, but the next time you go out, arm yourself against the sun’s harmful rays by combining your daily moisturizer with a vitamin C serum, such as Youth Corrider Boost 2.0 to reverse the damage. “Studies have shown that if you put vitamin C on the skin, it somewhat prevents the skin from getting burned,” Gerald Imber, M.D., a plastic surgeon practicing in New York and author of the Youth Corridor told SHAPE. “If you add vitamin E, the effect is a little bit better. And if you add melatonin to the mix, it dramatically protects your skin.”

Cellulite is just a part of life—it happens to everyone, even models like Ashley Graham, fitspirational trainers like Anna Victoria, and all those perfect-looking people you see on your Instagram feed—and is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Cellulite is simply fat beneath the skin—and no magical remedy will get it to completely go away. (More on the science of cellulite and the most common cellulite myths right here.)

 But if you want to boost circulation, smooth the appearance cellulite, and reduce the look of bloating using essential oils? Try this recipe from Hope Gillerman, author of Essential Oils Every Day and founder of H. Gillerman Organics luxury essential oils remedies.

The Recipe

  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 2 teaspoons grapefruit oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cedarwood oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon geranium oil
  • 5 drops of peppermint oil

The Method
Mix the ingredients in a glass cup or bottle and swirl to blend. “Before entering the shower, dry brush your skin with a rough washcloth, lightly going over both legs and hips using a circular motion and upward strokes,” says Gillerman. Mimic the same process in the shower with a mild soap. Then, once you’re out of the shower while your skin is still damp, apply your body oil cocktail to your legs, hips, abdomen and the tops of your feet in long upward strokes. For even better results, do this during your post-workout shower after crushing this cellulite-smoothing legs and butt workout. (Next up, try Gillerman’s other genius essential oil recipes: an energizing serum, DIY body and feet scrub, a refreshing rosewater skin-care spray, and a moisturizing trick for dry and brittle nails.)