Meet the lymphatic drainage facial, where the bliss-inducing circular motions have benefits that go way beyond a relaxing hour on the spa table.
"[Facial] massage is super powerful in terms of positively motivating and creating momentum for lymphatic drainage to help your body detox and renew," says Rachel Lang, co-founder of FaceLove Fitness in New York City.
Here, experts break down the way your lymphatic system works—and how a facial massage could be the pick-me-up treatment your skin (and body) needs.
The 411 on your lymphatic system
Lang shares a quick refresher in Biology 101: Your lymphatic system is an important part of your immune system because it's responsible for eliminating toxins and waste from your body. "[It] works parallel to and within your own vascular system" to circulate an infection-fighting fluid called lymph to all parts of your body, she says.
"Your lymph [nodes] filter the fluid-trapping bacteria, viruses, and unsupportive foreign substances while specialized white blood cells destroy them," explains Sadie Adams, celebrity aesthetician at New York City's and Los Angeles's Take Care spas. "Stagnation or blockages in the nodes mess with the filtration process, which increases the amount of toxins in the blood and lymph system. An excess of these fluids can cause acne, increased sebum levels, and blockages in the pores." Eek.
But unlike your cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system has no pump to keep the lymph moving and prevent buildup. Instead, it depends on mechanical experience like exercise, inversions, breathing techniques, and, yes, massage to keep it flowing, Adams says.
How lymphatic drainage facials work
If your lymphatic system isn't in tip-top shape, it'll show in your complexion. "You can always tell when someone has lymphatic fatigue because they have darker circles and puffiness around the eyes, sometimes more fine lines, and duller skin," says Lang.
Since a large number of lymph nodes are located under your chin, near your clavicle, and behind your ears, a facial that's specialized in lymphatic drainage can help revitalize your skin (and immune health) on a deeper level than topical treatments can reach. "A lymphatic drainage facial involves a lymph-specific massage that moves from the center line of the body towards the lymph, filtering areas on the perimeter of the body with press-and-release touch," Lang says. "This then creates muscle movement, which clears the lymph, improves cellular communication, and leads to healthy nourishment while eliminating toxins."
The result? Cue Beyoncé's "Flawless".
The many benefits of the feel-good facial
The facial itself feels like your typical face treatment, minus the slathering on and off of numerous masks and serums. Instead, it's typically done with zero products at all—just the aesthetician's hands applying strong pressure to your face. The massage component is more intense than your standard facial because the whole point is to stimulate certain lymph points, but it still feels good (believe me).
All of this touch opens up more space for circulation and improves your "face posture," according to Lang. "Good circulation and coherence in the various layers of tissue is reflected in healthy, glowing skin," says Adams. To truly reap the benefits, Lang recommends scheduling a lymphatic drainage facial for once a month (it'll set you back $80-100 for an hour treatment).
If there's no room in your budget for extra spa treatments, the good news is you can do it yourself at home. "A daily self-massage focusing around the ear, jaw line, and down to the collarbones can be helpful in clearing blockages," Adams adds.
Beyond a radiant complexion, lymphatic drainage facials act as a face workout: The massage strengthens your facial muscles, boosts oxygen flow, and releases endorphins, says Lang. "This offsets negative affects of adrenaline, like stress. With pumping lymphs, you'll look amazing and feel amazing."
Originally posted July 14, 2017, updated August 21, 2018
A massage can give you better skin and more energy—can a sticker do the same? Also, psychodermatologist exist...and they could take your complexion to the next level.
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