Korean Body Scrubs Are Bad - Pick Up A Dry Brush Instead

By Minji 

  • The Korean Body Scrub, aka "ddemiri," is an aggressive exfoliating technique that can do body skin more harm than good
  • Instead, try dry brushing, adhering to the holy grail of gentle exfoliation+maximum moisturization
  • Make sure to join our newsletter for free access to other exclusive skincare tips - be in the know and spark a glow! 

As a child growing up in Seoul, one of the Korean traditions that freaked me out the most was the Korean body scrub, aka “ddemiri.”  It’s an intense cleaning process where, after soaking your body in hot water with a bunch of other naked people at a public bath, you climb onto a small ratty bed for a no-nonsense Korean woman with uncanny strength to scrub your entire body down with an exfoliating cloth interestingly named the “Italy towel.” 

Typically, rolls of brownish-gray dead skin will start to come off of you, revealing softer and smoother skin.  It can be painful and not so elegant, but many people in Seoul are addicted to it – once you see that baby-like radiant skin emerge with your own two eyes, it’s hard to give up.  

These days, Korean spas are having a moment in LA as well so it’s not surprising to hear about Western celebrities who’ve now embraced this Korean tradition.  

My thoughts are – don’t do it.  I’ve personally stayed away from ddemiri my entire adult life.  Sure, one of the reasons is the discomfort I feel from being in a huge tub with a bunch of naked strangers.  But the more important reason is the negative effects that this type of aggressive body exfoliation can have on your skin.  

Almost no dermatologist in Seoul will recommend this – I hear rumors that there was once even an active movement by Korean dermatologists who banded together to educate the general Korean public on the risks of overdoing ddemiri. 

Dr. Yoon is against it as well.  He cautions that ddemiri can result in excessive removal of the skin’s good protective barriers, resulting in skin losing good moisture and elasticity, and prematurely aging.  He notes that although the normal pH level of skin is 4.5-5.5 (so slightly acidic), after ddemiri, the pH level of skin is pushed up into alkaline zone which disrupts your balance and impairs the natural protective functions of the skin. 

I’m a huge believer in gentle exfoliation and maximum moisturization when it comes to skincare.  That’s why I love dry brushing instead.  Not only is it a simple way to gently exfoliate your body skin, it can help with lymphatic drainage and boost circulation, similar to what a face massage does for your face.  

I use a firm, natural bristle brush with a removable long handle.  This way I can reach my entire back area but also hand hold just the bristle part for the rest of my body which makes it easier. 

I try to dry bush for about 3-5 minutes before I hop in the shower 3-4 times a week. I’m also careful to immediately moisturize my entire body as soon as I get out of the shower, adhering to the formula of gentle exfoliation and maximum moisturization. 

The main rule is to make sure you're brushing toward your heart everywhere except your back. On the back, brush downward toward your kidneys and liver. The idea is to gently assist lymphatic fluids to move along to major organs like the liver and heart, for detoxification and rejuvenation.

I like starting with my inner feet and brushing in medium-pressure, short, overlapping strokes up toward the core, moving to the inner calves and especially the inner thighs. For the belly, I move the brush in circular motions both ways in addition to the upward motion.  

Any area of you body that’s dimpled – like the back of your knees, collar bones, inside of your elbows are areas where lymph fluid can easily get congested so it’s good to focus on those areas. 

If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend you invest in a solid brushing tool and incorporate dry brushing into your body skincare routine.  You’ll feel the subtle benefits and save yourself the hassle, pain and potential skin problems that can be associated with a naked public scrub down session!

Make sure to join our newsletter for free access to other exclusive skincare tips - be in the know and spark a glow!