We’ve all heard of body brushing — how svelte celebrities such as Elizabeth Hurley and Elle Macpherson dry brush their skin to help detox, and keep their circulation moving and thighs dimple-free.
Which is probably why so many of us have one of those scratchy skin buffers languishing unloved in our bathroom. Faced with the prospect of scrubbing skin with bristly sisal cactus fibre, it’s not hard to see why many of us live with the cellulite.
But now we don’t have to, because there’s a new beauty tool on the block — the body comb.
This blunt-toothed sliver of jade is said to improve skin conditions such as cellulite, water retention, dryness and those ‘chicken skin’ bumps that appear on the upper arms.
Like a body brush it promotes lymphatic drainage, sweeping toxins out of the body. But it feels more like a delicious back scratch than a hair shirt. Used on the head it is said to release stress, soothe headaches and improve hair growth. And perhaps most notably, it claims to help shift those diet-defying extra inches, too.
The woman responsible for bringing the body comb to the UK is Chinese medicine specialist Katie Brindle, founder of wellbeing company The Hayo’* Method.
Katie, 47, teaches Chinese well-being techniques, chief among them gua sha, a type of therapeutic self-massage where you ‘press stroke’ the skin, usually the face, with a flat-edged tool — the basic principle behind body combing.
The movement gives a natural anti-ageing glow by increasing the microcirculation to the face. Beyonce and the Duchess of Sussex are fans. You can do it on the body, too, with a metal scraper, but the jade comb is gentler and more pleasurable.
Katie encountered the body comb in Shanghai 18 months ago when she had a massage. ‘The therapist used a jade comb all over my body, focusing on my abdomen and thighs,’ she says.
‘Since having my twins, who were seven then, I’d been overweight and couldn’t shift the pounds; I felt exhausted and had such heavy legs. But afterwards, that heaviness went and I felt invigorated.’
Digging deeper, she learned that body combing — or meridian combing, as it’s known in the Far East — was gaining ground in spas across Asia for its toning and weight-loss benefits.
‘In Chinese medicine, the channels in which energy, or qi, flows are called meridians. They travel up the front of the body and down the back,’ explains Katie. ‘The comb works to unblock energy channels and release stagnation of qi. When you stimulate your blood flow or move your lymphatic fluid, your qi is also stimulated.’
‘Acupuncture and acupressure work on the meridians, too.
‘When you body comb, you follow the meridian lines to stimulate the smooth flow of energy. Chinese medicine doctors provide gua sha prescriptions and body combing for you to do at home, just like physio in the West,’ she says.
Katie claims body combing with jade morning and night has zapped an inch of fat and cellulite from each thigh.
The body comb not only works to get qi and lymphatic fluid flowing, but works on a deeper level, says Katie. ‘It draws blood up to the surface of the skin.’
The result is a temporary, but harmless rash-like redness — a good thing, apparently.
‘Where normal cellulite massage pushes the fluid and toxins inwards, gua sha draws it out. You free up the movement of the circulation for toxins to be eliminated as heat, using the normal excretory function of the skin. The results are smooth, svelte-looking limbs.’
But what do Western medical experts think?
Dr Sophie Shotter, a cosmetic doctor with a background in A&E, says that manual lymphatic drainage massage has proven benefits and is often recommended after surgery to speed up healing.
‘A jade body comb, when used properly, may help to improve lymph movement through the body and aid detoxification by prompting more rapid removal of cellular waste products from the tissues,’ she says.
The basic body-combing routine takes five minutes and can be used on bare, unbroken skin so long as you use a body oil, says Katie who sends me home with a piece of jade.
First, the scalp. I start at the hairline and press the comb down and jiggle it a bit following a meridian over my crown line to the nape of my neck. I repeat this from my temples to my neck, and if any areas seem particularly stimulated, I linger there — as Katie says, it’s my body telling me what I need.
The meridians connect with the head and scalp, so I’m treating my whole body, rather like reflexology, explains Katie.
I draw the comb from my ear to my shoulder and from the centre of the chest towards the armpit eight times each side.
I then comb along the belt line or ‘dai meridian’ from my lower spine around to my ribs and then down the front of my tummy 20 to 30 times. ‘Fat accumulation in these areas is often due to blockages in this belt channel,’ says Katie.
On the rest of my body I simply follow the meridian lines which run down the outside of the legs and up the inside, and the opposite for the arms.
Afterwards, I’m covered in red striations, but they quickly disappear. I take this as a good sign that heat stress and toxins are being released. It has also given my thin hair more volume, as if I’d used dry shampoo.
Who knows if we can all can achieve dramatic results from body combing. But if nothing else, it’s a back-scratcher that looks great in your bathroom.