Skin brushing is often done as part of a sensory diet. Skin brushing provides tactile (touch) input as well as deep proprioceptive input. Skin brushing can be done to provide increased input for the ‘seeker’ as well as help to desensitize to certain touch/input for the ‘avoider’. Click here to learn more about sensory processing and how it affects people.
What to Use?
If you have a skin brush to use, great! You can buy one we like here. If you don’t happen to have one, you can use a soft bristled hairbrush, a paintbrush, or even a fleece blanket.
This technique provides the most input for your child on bare skin, but if you would not otherwise get it done, feel free to go over the top of clothes.
Some kids that are hypersensitive may not tolerate directly on the skin and performing over clothing first may help them become more tolerant to this new type of touch. Most importantly, if your child pulls away or asks you to stop, don’t force it. Encourage them to participate by letting them brush you or their favorite stuffed animal. If your child doesn’t want to hold still for this process, that’s okay! Find a toy, a book to look at, or just sneak skin brushing (or even part of it) in while they play.
How to Skin Brush
Skin brushing is done in long, firm strokes and always in the same direction as the hair. Generally, avoiding brushing the belly and face as some children can react very strongly and/or negatively to this if their nervous system isn’t processing tactile input well. However, if the child asks to have you brush or brushes their own face or stomach, this is fine.
Start by firmly brushing from the top of the shoulders and neck in long strokes down the back, towards the hips, repeating this motion to cover the entire back, only brushing in the direction of the hair. Brush all sides of the arms and legs, starting at the shoulders and hips and work down to fingers and feet.
Brushing the hands and feet can work well to desensitize if your child is sensitive to textures, sock seams, and nail trimming. Also, if your kiddo struggles with haircuts and hair brushing, use the skin brush starting at the neck, gradually starting each stroke higher up the head and scalp as they become more comfortable with it.