In the past, we’ve mentioned some pretty interesting alternative modalities to healing skin but have you heard of lymphatic drainage massage? Celebrities claim it’s the most amazing treatment for their skin, and our holistic estheticians are crazy about this method of healing, which also benefits your entire body as a whole. (What a perk!) We’d love to introduce you to this wonderfully relaxing technique that can be easily done at home if you have a little patience. If you’re not the DIY type, some of our amazing spa partners offer lymphatic massage as a service in the treatment room. (Just let us know your location and we’ll point you in the right direction.) If you’re here to learn more about this seemingly mystical practice, we’ll share with you how it works, the benefits of adding it to your skincare routine, and our best tips for using the lymphatic drainage technique at home.
Real talk: it’s surprising, sometimes, how little we can know about our bodies; like how our lymphatic system works, or what it even does for us! Just like the veins in our bodies that carry blood throughout our system, the lymphatic system is much smaller and acts as a waste factory for our immune system. It’s made up of lymph vessels (pathways), and lymph nodes (filters) that carry a colorless fluid called lymph liquid throughout our bodies and detoxify them before entering back into our bloodstream.
Nerd talk: as blood circulates throughout the body, plasma (the water and protein content of your blood) leaves the blood vessels and enters the tissues, feeding oxygen, food, and hormones into the cells. The plasma becomes tissue fluid (or interstitial fluid) and surrounds all of our body’s tissues which then collects waste products (extra water and toxins) from the cells. Most of this fluid (90%) passes back into the blood, and the rest (10%) is left behind, which becomes lymph. Our body needs a system to regulate this lymph liquid so that we don’t swell up like balloons and that’s why the lymphatic system functions in our bodies. The lymph fluid then travels to the lymph vessels in one direction to the lymph nodes throughout your body. Within the nodes, which act as filters to the system, are white blood cells or lymphocytes which help break down the bacteria, viruses, and even cancer cells in your body. These nodes are super important for keeping these toxins out and spreading to other parts of your body. Once the white blood cells do their work, the toxic lymph is then carried to your neck where the thoracic duct (the main vessel of the lymph system) empties the lymph back into your blood circulation. And lastly, the bloodstream removes the waste products from the body. Using its best friends the spleen, thymus, tonsils, and adenoids, this system works to help you fight off infections from bacteria and other substances that could make you sick.
Lymphatic drainage benefits for skin
Now that you know how the system works, you might be wondering why you need to have a lymphatic draining massage in the first place if it’s naturally occurring in the body. If you’re someone who has a sedentary job, doesn’t have a regular exercise schedule, has your tonsils removed, or gets sick often, the lymphatic system sometimes can break down or stop working. When you get a cold, you know how your doctor always checks to see if the lymph nodes on your throat are swelling? This swelling is a good indication that your immune system might be compromised. In addition to sickness, swelling in the face can be uncomfortable and cause your skin to look inflamed.
When you’re practicing an exercise that gets your heart rate up and your face turns red, it’s actually a good sign that your lymph system is working! To mimic the lymph system without breaking a sweat, a trained esthetician can mimic the movement of pumping over your lymph vessels to get the fluid moving again by using their hands, facial cups, or a machine. When the treatment is complete, you’ll experience:
– A reduction in puffiness and inflammation.
– An evening and brightening of the skin from detoxification.
– Increased hydration by moving stagnant fluid from the system.
– Decongesting the skin at a cellular level by nourishing your cells with fresh lymph fluid instead of toxic fluid.
-You’ll also experience whole-body immune system support which is the key to health and other body benefits from lymph drainage.
Signs that indicate that you could be having poor lymph circulation can include the following:
– Acne with inflammation present
– Allergies with puffiness and water retention
– Slow wound healing
– Ear congestion
– Sore throats
– Stiffness in the morning
– Joint pain
– Rashes and eczema
– Sebaceous filaments
– Skin that lacks brightness or a murky complexion
The do’s and don’ts of at-home lymph massage
If you’re ready to add this technique to your skincare routine, we highly recommend taking classes or watching professionals using the technique during a treatment. We love our spa partner Allyson of Tend and Nourish Skin Therapy, and watching her practice lymph techniques on Instagram!
Here are a few tips that we’ve learned while using this healing modality in the treatment room:
– Start with clean skin and apply a small amount of facial oil all over your face and decollete to provide a slip during the massage.
– Starting beside your nose and over your cheeks with feather light pressure and using the motion of undulating waves, slowly move your fingers in one direction in an upward flicking type of motion towards your ears and hollows of the collar bone. How you want to think about it is using the pressure it would take to move a coin across the surface of a table.
– Stretch and pump slowly over the lymph vessels until you reach your ears and neck and begin stimulating the nodes with a gentle pumping motion. Breathe in and out deeply while you’re doing this.
– Using your fingers in a Spock-like fashion, (with your ring and pinky finger in front of your eyes along your cheeks and the middle and index finger on the backside of your ears along your hairline), pump downward in gentle and undulating pressure five times while deeply breathing in and out. If you notice yourself swallowing a lot, it’s working!
-Make sure to drink at least a glass of water after this massage.
Here’s what to avoid while practicing lymphatic drainage at home:
– Don’t use a gua sha stone or a dry brush. They’re not the right tools to activate the lymph vessels properly and you could be squishing the vessels down if too much pressure is applied. (Like stepping on a hose.)
– Don’t use circular motions or move in multiple directions. The lymph vessels move in only one direction so they don’t get backed up.
– Don’t press down onto the skin. This can stop the flow of lymph from moving. You want to mimic the gentle pumping of your heartbeat along the lymph vessels to move the fluid.
There are so many benefits from practicing lymphatic drainage for both the skin and the body! You’ll have a higher immunity when the immune system is stimulated. The cells in your body will be created with no waste which is massive for living a healthy life. The interstitial fluids (the liquid that surrounds your tissues) in your body are clean, helping to create a brighter, more hydrated skin appearance. Adding in breathwork and gentle exercises like walking, stretching, or yin yoga can also help aid the process of lymphatic drainage. Let us know if you’ve tried it!