If you’ve been following along with the Cellulite Investigation, you know dry brushing is an effective component of a holistic anti-cellulite strategy. The simple act of brushing the skin with a dry body brush is an easy way to enhance lymphatic circulation. It also removes dead skin cells which helps the skin perform its function as a secondary detox pathway.
Yet no matter how consistent I am with my dry brushing regimen, for me, dry skin brushing is not enough to properly exfoliate the skin. My skin is not particularly dry, but often after a soak in a hot bath, I am amazed at the amount of dead skin cells that slough away when I lightly scratch my fingernails against my skin. A loofah is not effective at removing these dead cells, so I went in search of a better bath tool. That’s when I came across the strigil.
A strigil is a common bath instrument used in ancient Rome. After a workout, Roman athletes would cover their skin in oil and then scrape off the excess with a strigil. Considering how effective oil is at cleansing the skin, the Romans seem to have been onto something that we have since forgotten (for more, see this post on Oil Cleansing).
A strigil is a metal tool with a handle on one end and a curved metal arc at the other. You can see a depiction in the artwork to the right, a painting called “Strigils and Sponges” by Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema. Strigils were an important part of the bath culture in ancient Rome. They are often depicted in statues of Roman athletes and related artwork of the time (such as this Roman sign for a public bathhouse. The text translates as “a bath is good for you.”)
The only legacy left of strigils in our modern culture is the word streak, which comes from the Latin strigilis, meaning “to touch lightly.”1 Other than word etymology and ancient art, the strigil is no where to be found in modern society.
My search for a strigil to use in my bath routine has been largely unsuccessful. A similar tool is used to scrape water and dirt from horses, but it has a different arc than strigils. I suspect it would not be an effective tool for exfoliation. The blade has to be thick enough not to cut the skin but sharp enough to effectively lift the dead skin cells.
Most of the info I’ve found about strigils claims they are no longer used because, unlike in Roman times, soap is now widely available. But I think there’s still a place for strigils in the modern cleansing regimen. What do you think? Any ideas on where I can find a strigil to test out for our investigation?
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