Lymphatic Drainage Massage + How To Do It At Home

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If you’re dialed into the latest on skincare, then you’ve almost certainly heard whispers of a lymphatic drainage massage as the cure to your puffy skin woes.

Used to release fluid buildup from the lymphatic system and facilitate flow throughout the body, this massage is said to decrease bloating and swelling within the body and even help with cosmetic skin issues such as acne and eczema. While it is traditionally practiced on the arms and legs, where more lymphatic issues occur, more estheticians have begun to integrate this technique into facials to aid in the reduction of puffiness and dark undereye circles. But what does science say?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the lymphatic system is “a network of tissues, vessels, and organs that work together to move a colorless, watery fluid called lymph back into your circulatory system.” Basically, the primary function of the system is to rid your body of waste and buildup and act as part of your immune system to protect from bacteria and illness. When the system is clogged, your body becomes more prone to sickness and swelling.

When your lymphatic system ceases to function properly, a condition called lymphedema can develop, where the lymph nodes become chronically swollen. It is with this condition that a lymphatic massage can be most beneficial as the light pressure and movement allow for toxins to flow to the lymph nodes more quickly, decreasing the swelling that can accompany lymphedema. Lymphatic drainage is the process of guiding lymph fluid to the nodes, thus cleansing the body of buildup.

Unlike a traditional massage, which uses more pressure to soothe tight muscles, a lymphatic massage requires a lighter touch to gently guide the skin in the direction that the lymphatic system flows, increasing circulation. According to a 2007 study on dental surgery, lymphatic draining is useful in decreasing swelling after a surgical operation.

Within the beauty world, lymphatic drainage face massages have become popularized for their ability to decrease puffy skin and dark undereye circles. Increased circulation can create the effect of a brighter appearance, so your undereye area will thank you for the extra attention.  However, according to Medical News Today, lymphatic drainage has more lasting health benefits than aesthetic ones. The treatment certainly can reduce puffiness and bloating, but the cosmetic effects are likely short-term.

While lymphatic face massages are most frequently given by specialists, try it out on yourself at home with this DIY hack from Healthline. Begin by applying a facial serum to your fingertips so that you can work into your skin. Starting at the forehead and moving outwards, apply light pressure and start to stretch your skin down to the lymph nodes in your neck. Under your eyes, be sure to use a lighter touch, using only a finger or two so as not to tug the delicate skin. Once you have reached your neck, repeat the massage three more times. If you struggle with blood clots or heart or kidney issues, check with a doctor before trying out lymphatic drainage to ensure that it won’t cause a flare up or prove detrimental to your health. Below is a video of an at-home lymphatic face massage to use as a guide.

At the end of the day, anything that you deem as self-care, at the very least, may have a positive effect on your mental health. While lymphatic drainage massages seem to have more benefits for those with lymphedema or other health issues, the massage can provide a relaxing effect as well as temporary reduction of bloating, puffiness and dark undereye circles. The proper functioning of your lymphatic system is key for your body’s overall well-being, so manually increasing the flow of lymph can only make you feel—and look—your best!

by Camila Alves McConaughey