The treatment, of course called lymphatic drainage facial massage, has been making the rounds online thanks to beauty influencers who started to speak about this magical technique that claims to calm the skin by draining toxins and reducing puffiness.
The practice has actually been on the menus of spas for a while now, with many dermatologists swearing by the method. Many use a technique called Gua Sha (more about that here) but it can be done with the hands too.
Here, we break down everything you need to know.
What is lymphatic drainage facial massage?
The lymphatic network is a network of vessels and organs—lies under your skin. It’s a crucial part of the immune system and works kind of like a garbage disposal.
“It acts like a sanitation system for our body by getting rid of ‘waste’ that our body naturally produces, or other things that can invade our body, like bacteria,” says Linda Koehler, PhD, an assistant professor of physical therapy and rehabilitation medicine at the University of Minnesota told Women’s Health. “It’s what protects us from getting an infection.”
Traditionally used to treat lymphedema, a condition marked by chronic swelling that can occur after lymph node removal, beauticians started incorporating facial lymphatic drainage into their regimen as a weapon against puffy, dull complexion and skin irritation. Some have gone so far as to call it a nonsurgical facelift.
Why would I do it?
If you’re puffy, sick, achy, exhausted, unclogging the pipes may help.
How do you do it?
Using the palms of your hands, start at your forehead, applying gentle pressure to slowly stretch the skin down toward the lymph nodes in your neck. Keep going, moving all the way down your face.
For under your eyes, switch to your ring finger and use a rolling movement.
Repeat. Repeat the process around five times in each area.
The actually massage is “almost like moving a pen across a table”, Sia Psicharis, a board member with the Australian Hair and Beauty Association explains. “This treatment encourages the lymph to circulate … encouraging waste and toxins to be pushed out via the lymph nodes.”
What are the benefits?
“Lymphatic drainage treatments accelerate the absorption and transportation of lymphatic fluids which contain toxins, bacteria, viruses, and proteins,” says certified lymphedema therapist Lisa Levitt Gainsley, noting that the treatment is also helpful for conditions such as acne, eczema, and digestive disorders.
When can you see results?
You should expect to see results immediately after treatment and in the days that follow (look out for less puffiness and breakouts clearing up faster than normal).
Does it actually work?
It’s tough to know what’s for real and what’s pure fiction when it comes to the remedy.
Beauty company Shiseido, together with a professor from Osaka University, Japan, were actually the first to find a link between the skin and lymphatic vessels in 2015. They concluded that reduced functioning of dermal lymphatic vessels resulted in skin sagging. But instead of lymphatic drainage, they recommended pine cone extract as a remedy.
Yet dig further and it seems while even though lymphatic drainage was the focus of a study by researchers at Australia’s Flinders University, the results surrounding the technique’s effects on the eye area weren’t actually published.
In an article published by the Journal of Clinical InvestigationTrusted Source, dermatologist George Cotsarelis questioned whether people even have lymphatic drainage issues in their facial area.
“If you do, you’re certainly not going to get a facial to solve them,” he said, adding: “A normal person does not have lymphatic problems on their face.” Keep in mind, however, that people can develop lymphedema in the head or neck.
Fellow dermatologist Michael Detmar did admit in the article that the aging process, coupled with sun damage, can result in fewer lymphatic vessels and a deterioration of lymphatic function.
“You might be able to make a case that you could reduce fluid buildup by having a facial to encourage drainage when your skin has fewer lymphatics. So promoting lymphatic flow can have benefits,” he said. “Whether or not this is achieved with a facial is a different story.”
Should you be doing it at home or with a professional?
We always recommend having the facial done by a trained professional to ensure the correct technique is used. In saying that, there a bunch of YouTube tutorials showing you ways to do it to yourself, and you can’t really do any harm.
If you have a medical condition, you should consult your healthcare provider before undertaking this massage, at home or with a professional