According to skin gurus, there are all kinds of culprits behind those dreaded jawline breakouts—haywire hormones, dairy, and even cell phones have all been indicted. But there’s one equally guilty party that deserves a mention: the lymphatic system.
First, a little biology lesson: “The lymphatic system carries nutrients and waste material between the body tissues and the blood,” explains esthetician Sadie Adams, who treats clients such as Sophia Bush and Alessandra Ambrosio at her Take Care spas in New York City and, as of this winter, Los Angeles. “Lymph nodes filter the fluid, trapping bacteria, viruses, and foreign substances. Stagnation or blockages in these nodes can mitigate the filtration process, increasing the amount of toxins in the blood and lymph.”
Add a lag in filtration to pores already struggling with excess sebum and you’ve got the makings of a serious acne attack—particularly around the ears, neck, and jawline, where the lymph nodes are highly concentrated.
Fortunately, lymphatic stagnation is a pretty easy fix, and you don’t even need to book a facial to get things moving again.
Jawline breakouts be gone! Here’s how to stimulate your lymphatic system and prevent acne.
Don’t rush through your skin-care routine
Adding a quick facial massage to your nightly skin-care ritual can go a long way toward waking up sluggish lymph nodes, says renowned dermatologist and advocate of lymphatic drainage facials Dr. Barbara Sturm. “The stimulation of lymph node drainage is highly recommended for acne. With regular treatment, the symptoms of a congested lymphatic system can be dramatically reduced, improving the skin’s appearance.”
Adams advises that you focus your rub-down around the ears, along the jawline, and down the neck to the collarbones. “Try working pressure points without oil or use a high-quality facial serum with a good slip.” Her favorite? Sönage’s Vitality nourishing facial serum, which is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and includes circulation-stimulating ginkgo biloba and rosemary oil.
She also says it’s important to exfoliate the skin once or twice a week—and not just to clear out the pores (although, that’s totally necessary, too). “[Manually exfoliating] can support effective circulation of the lymph,” she explains.
Relax your jaw
If you’re stressed out on the reg—and, really, who isn’t?—chances are extra tension is being held in your neck and jaw, which can manifest as clenching or tooth-grinding.
“Excessive muscle contraction can lead to tightness in all of the tissues, restricting the flow of lymph,” says Adams. To loosen up, she suggests sitting with your elbows resting on your knees and your cheekbones resting on the heels of your hands, letting your jaw fall open towards the ground. “As much as possible, feel the disk at the temporomandibular joint moving forward and down while opening the mouth.” (That’s where the cheekbone meets the jawbone, FYI.)
Another fix for this: Address your stress at its root. “Meditation and breath awareness are powerful and empowering tools [that] help to dramatically reduce day-to-day stress and tension,” Adams says. This will also help calm the stress-induced hormones that can contribute to acne—bonus!
There’s a lot more to your lymphatic system than what’s above your shoulders—it actually extends throughout your entire body, so maintaining the health of the whole thing is key.
The best way to do that, says Adams, is through exercise. “Getting a cardiovascular workout for at least 20 minutes, 3 times a week, can be very supportive to the lymphatic system by helping to stimulate movement in stagnant fluids,” she says. “Muscle activity plays a role in bringing lymph [from other parts of the body] back to the drainage points.”