The Ins and Outs of Practicing Lymphatic Drainage at Home, According to Four Skin Experts

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When you picture a massage, you most likely think of a deep tissue or hot stone service, but lymphatic drainage massages are not to be slept on—if you want to de-bloat and sculpt, they’re a must. Here, four beauty experts walk us through how we can practice this technique on our own faces without having to leave the house.

What Is It?
“Lymphatic drainage is a specialized type of massage therapy that can help remove toxins and waste from bodily tissues,” says Miami dermatologist Annie Gonzalez, MD. “It has recently gained popularity in the aesthetic world as a way to combat puffiness, dullness and irritation in the face,” she adds. It also became popular due to the uptick in facial tools—like the jade roller or the Gua Sha—which both massage your face in a way that stimulates drainage. However, great results can also come from the hands—you just have to know to use them.

How to Do It
Mariam Saprichyan, aesthetician and co-owner of Kariné Kazarian Spa in New York, starts by using a gentle cleansing milk—specifically Lait VIP O2 by Biologique Recherche. “Apply it to dry skin and wet the fingertips to get some slippage,” she notes. “Using your middle and ring finger with light pressure, push down above your clavicle in circular motions.” Next, she recommends moving the fingers up to the side of the neck and—continuing in circular motions—bringing them back down.

“Move up to your chin and gently massage your fingers in oval circles across your jawline, back to your ears and then bring them back down to your clavicle to drain. Then, move both hands toward the corners of your mouth and press gently with both fingers, moving back down to the neck,” Saprichyan adds.

Now, you can make your way to the face. She urges patients to move up to the areas around the nose and massage in circular movements before heading over to the eyes with the ring finger and pressing down between them. “This helps with dark circles and puffiness,” she notes.

When to Do It
Hope Smith, founder of MUTHA, likes to begin each day with lymphatic drainage techniques. “It helps me to slow down,” she says. “If you can only do it a few times a week, that still counts.”

On the other hand, a pre-bed massage is sure to calm your mind and induce a better night’s rest. “Lymphatic drainage helps relax the facial muscles before they hit the sheets while increasing the absorption of the nighttime topicals applied,” says Dr. Gonzalez.

In terms of time consumption, “It should take about fifteen minutes,” says Montclair, NJ dermatologist Jeanine Downie, MD, who recommends this practice to her patients who like to meditate. “It helps them to get into it and relax,” she says.

Why Do it?
When the lymphatic system gets congested, the stagnation can cause acne flare ups, puffy under eyes and dark circles. “Draining the lymph nodes is extremely beneficial when done regularly to flush out this congestion,” says Smith.

Both Dr. Downie and Dr. Gonzalez often recommend it more to patients with puffiness around their eyes than with acne, as the eyes are the site of the face that tend to accumulate fluid more easily. “You can also use your fingers or a cold facial roller to massage the area around your eyes; or you can tap around your eyes and sinuses to help drain away extra fluid,” Dr. Gonzalez adds.

Here’s where the hands have a leg up: “I’ve seen people using tools such as Gua Sha and jade rollers but you must consult with an esthetician to use them correctly,” says Saprichyan. “They can be too stimulating for some skin types when used with different oils—if you know how to use your hands, that is much better for the skin,” she adds.

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