Some years back, I heard Bernard Jensen, one of our country’s great nutritionists and author of over 50 books, tell the story of Samson, “the Saxon Giant.”
Samson was a weight lifter and wrestler who was brought to the United States by Florenz Zeigfield in the 1920s as one of the featured acts in the “Zeigfield Follies.”
Besides his strength, Samson was also known for his baby-soft skin, a feature that Samson attributed to his daily regimen of dry skin brushing—a fact that greatly intrigued Jensen.
One year after Samson arrived stateside, so story went according to Jensen, Samson lost the world’s championship heavyweight weight-lifting contest by just 10 ounces. Jensen was able to find and examine Samson’s diaries, and found that Samson had a novel theory explaining his defeat. Samson attributed his loss to the fact that he had neglected to dry brush his skin for three weeks prior to the contest.
Jensen decided to do a little experiment of his own to see why Samson would have reached such an unusual conclusion. Jensen bought a skin brush and stood on brown wrapping paper while he brushed his own body.
After enough debris had fallen onto the paper, Jensen sent the material to a lab. The lab found a lot of dead skin, which, of course, was expected. But the lab also found dried catarrh, urea, sodium chloride, sebum, and metabolic acid wastes.
From his little experiment, Jensen came to understand that when these substances are not removed from the skin, they can become backed up in the muscle structure, and can consequently cause a loss of vitality. Jensen became a great advocate for daily dry skin brushing.
One of the most wonderful things about our bodies is that its largest organ—the skin—is on its outside. We can, and do, automatically and continuously both nourish and detoxify our bodies through the skin.
The ability of the skin to accept substances and deliver them to the bloodstream is well-known. The skin serves as a direct link to all the other organs. Contemporary physicians have revived the age-old practice of delivering medicine through the skin. Heart patients use nitroglycerin patches; cigarette smokers try to break their addiction through the use of nicotine patches.
So great, in fact, is the ability of the skin to absorb substances that one drop of essential oil placed on the fingertip will show up in hair analysis 10 minutes later.
The skin’s ability to excrete toxins, however, is not as well emphasized. In natural health circles, the skin is referred to as the body’s third lung or third kidney. It aids tremendously in throwing off all toxins from the body. We absorb more impurities, and eliminate more waste through the skin than any other organ in our bodies (including the colon).
Two pounds of waste are eliminated every day through the skin. The skin works hand in hand with the kidneys. On hot days, we do a lot of our elimination through our skin, and our kidneys don’t have to work as hard. Conversely, on cold days, our kidneys take over this function of the skin because the skin is not eliminating as much.
The body organizes itself, in part, through a continuous dance of creating new while simultaneously shedding old, and it does this process especially efficiently with skin cells.
The skin is often the first place that biological imbalance appears. When the other systems are overloaded in dealing with too many toxins, the skin is utilized as an additional organ of detoxification. Sometimes old cells can cling to the surface of the skin, trapping pathogenic microorganisms like bacteria within. As well, new cells are inhibited from breathing.
Eruptions, blemishes, odors, and colors may appear as the skin tries to do overtime in ridding the body of waste.
Toxicity can gather just beneath the skin’s surface from a variety of everyday habits. Improper pH levels can result from an accumulation of toxic body soaps, skin creams, and anti-perspirants. Even synthetic fibers worn next to the skin can contribute to the absorption of toxins into the skin.
Skin brushing is especially useful for lymphatic cleansing. Cleansing the lymphatic system is essential because the lymph glands serve as one of the body’s primary defense mechanisms. The lymphatic system cleanses out cellular debris that the bloodstream has not been able to take care of, such as viruses, bacteria, and dust.
The lymphatic system is like the circulatory system: It moves a fluid—which makes up about 80 percent of total body fluids—throughout the body. This lymphatic fluid picks up debris as it moves along its path. Normally, excess lymphatic fluid is excreted through the skin, the kidneys, and other eliminative organs.
Unlike the circulatory system, which has a pump—the heart—to keep the fluid moving, the lymphatic system has nothing to keep the fluid moving other than your own movement. When there is toxicity from improper diet or elimination, clothing worn too tightly, or not enough exercise, the lymphatic fluid gets blocked.
Improper lymphatic drainage is one of the main reasons that so many women are plagued with cellulite. The dimples that form on the thighs and buttocks are due to the accumulation of fats, proteins, and other waste products that are not being excreted from the body efficiently.
These unwanted products are usually carried out of the body by the lymphatic system. Dry skin brushing helps to kick-start the lymphatic system by stimulating the lymph canals, which helps detoxify the blood and reduces the toxic buildup that causes cellulite.
Dry skin brushing has a wide range of benefits:
- Tightens skin
- Improves digestion
- Aids in diminishing cellulite
- Stimulates circulation
- Increases cell renewal
- Cleanses lymphatic system
- Removes dead skin layers
- Strengthens immune system
- Improves exchange between cells
- Stimulates the glands, thus helping all the
bodily systems to perform at peak efficiency
Jensen himself was testimony to his own theory. When he was 88, he appeared at a conference I was attending. He rolled up his shirt sleeves and pulled up his pants legs, showing us the skin on his arms and legs. There was not a single wrinkle, line, or blemish anywhere on this man’s body that we could see.
Jensen, like Samson, attributed the beauty of his skin—its tautness, smoothness, and elasticity—to his daily regimen of skin brushing.
How to Do Skin Brushing
- Buy a natural bristle brush with a long handle (available at most health food stores).
- Brush skin before showering or bathing, at least once per day. Do not wet your skin first, as this stretches your skin.
- Always brush toward the heart.
- Brush the soles of your feet first because the nerve endings there affect your whole body. Next brush your ankles, calves, and thighs.
- Brush across your stomach and your buttocks, and lastly brush your hands to your arms. Do circular, clockwise strokes on your abdomen—going up the right side, across the belly, and then down the left side. This is the same direction of movement that waste passes through the colon.
- Do lighter strokes over and around your breasts, and do not brush the nipples.
- Repeat the whole process. Brush each part of your body several times vigorously.
- Take a warm bath or shower, which should always be followed by a cool or even cold rinse at the end. One good practice is to gradually change a warm shower into a cold shower, and tolerate the cold water until your body starts to create its own internal heat to meet the challenge of the cold water. This helps renew the cells in your body.
- Wash off your brush every few weeks in water and allow it dry completely.
Jane G. Goldberg, Ph.D., is a psychoanalyst, owner of La Casa Spa, a holistic wellness center specializing in natural cleansing therapies and energy medicine therapies, located in the Gramercy Park area. Jane is the author of eight books, a regular blogger for Huffington Post, and has her own blog, “Musings from 20th Street,” which she invites you to subscribe to. LaCasaSpa.com