Lymphatic health is the next frontier in wellness


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Hate to break it to you, but your body leaks. Fluid seeps out of your cells and tissues into the spaces between, where it can build up and cause swelling. It’s the job of your lymphatic system to collect all of this excess liquid, filter out nasties like cellular waste, bacteria, and pathogens, and return it to your bloodstream. In the past few years, we’ve seen a rising awareness of just how important this system is for reducing inflammation, staving off disease, and promoting good digestion (the wellness trifecta, if you will), and accordingly, there’s been an uptick in services and treatments meant to promote lymphatic health. In 2020, these spa offerings and workout classes will hit the mainstream, and “lymphatic health” will become the wellness buzzword on everyone’s lips.

Because the lymphatic system doesn’t have a central pump (the way your circulatory system has your heart), it relies on you to keep things moving. Sometimes, this takes the form of “someone manually squeezing the tissues,” says Jonathan Leary, DC, founder and CEO of Remedy Place, a wellness club that opened in Los Angeles in November. Manual lymphatic drainage (or lymphatic drainage massage) has become a popular offering at Remedy Place and is at the core of a crop of bodywork studios that have opened in the past few years, including HigherDOSE in New York (which will open a west coast outpost in 2020), Ricari Studios and Upgrade Labs in LA, and Shape House, which is planning four to six new locations in 2020. “I’d say over the past three to four years, people became more aware of the lymphatic system,” says Ricari Studios founder and lymphatic massage expert Anna Zahn, who points to the rise of dry brushing, another means of stimulating lymphatic movement, as a major catalyst. “But only in the past year do I feel the conversation has become mainstream.”

Excess fluid in your face can cause puffiness and a dull complexion, so it’s not surprising that the beauty industry is also embracing treatments that promote lymphatic drainage. “I’m seeing the facial industry go from traditional facials using extraction to those that are based fully on massage,” says celebrity facialist Thuyen Nguyen. He points to the debut of “fitness” centers for your face like FaceGym (which opened three new outposts in New York and one in LA in 2019) and FaceLove Fitness (opened in 2018) as further proof of the rise of facial massage. And then there are at-home solutions, which have been rising in popularity for the past few years. People who are interested in stimulating their facial lymph at home can now choose from thousands of tools—such as crystal rollers, sculpting bars, and gua sha stones—from Sephora, Ulta, or Amazon. Annie Jackson, co-founder of Credo Beauty, says she’s seen an uptick in sales of facial rollers and gua sha tools in recent months.

Also booming in popularity are nanocurrent and microcurrent skin-care devices, like the NuFace and Ziip, which use an electrical current to facilitate lymphatic drainage. “The Ziip stimulates excess or stagnant fluid in the face to help move it along your lymphatic pathways,” says Ziip founder Melanie Simon, who reveals that the brand is getting ready to launch a “new electrical treatment designed specifically around this in early 2020.”

For a lower-tech way to promote a healthy lymphatic system, try exercise. “Movement is the most important thing we should be doing to avoid stagnation within the body,” says Dr. Leary. While all muscle contraction stimulates your lymphatic system, water exercises and rebounding workouts (ones that include jumping or a trampoline) are purportedly especially good for this purpose—and studios that offer these modalities have seen a boost in attendance in recent years. LEKFIT founder Lauren Kleban began teaching rebounding workouts in her LA garage in 2014, but her popularity skyrocketed with the launch of LEKFIT’s online workouts in 2016 (regular shout-outs from celeb devotees like Busy Philipps didn’t hurt). In early 2020, Kleban plans to open the doors of a new flagship location in LA, which will include her signature trampoline classes as well as a “wellness floor” dedicated to massage therapy, stretching, and other treatments promising better lymphatic health. Fans of the workout will also be able to purchase LEKFIT trampolines for at-home use in mid-2020.

Other studios touting their lymphatic health benefits include The Ness, a new trampoline-based workout that opened in New York City this year, and AQUA, a water cycling studio that opened in 2013 but has seen growth in new members and membership subscriptions in the past year. According to AQUA founder Esther Gauthier, water workouts are great for lymphatic health because they create what she calls a “double stimulation“ for your lymphatic system. “Internally, you get muscle contraction, which happens with any form of exercise, and externally, the water pressure on your skin works on the entire surface of your body,” she says. “Every time you move, it creates this wave that stimulates your skin and your lymphatic system.” In 2020, Gauthier says Aqua will introduce a “lymphatic roll and release” class as well as massage treatments to its slate of offerings.

Gua sha and facial rolling tools were certainly the first wave of the lymphatic massage craze, but the second wave of 2020 is set to be a biggie, and we’re willing to bet there’s a lymphatic massage and a lymph-focused fitness class coming to a salon or studio near you.

Watch what a lymphatic drainage treatment looks like IRL, below.

But wait, there’s more! Click here to read the rest of our 2020 Wellness Trends predictions.

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