The Holistic Beauty "DIY" To Try If You Like Instant Gratification
Cupping is an ancient Chinese modality in which the skin is suctioned away from the rest of the body, often leading to a round red mark or bruise. It was probably Michael Phelps who brought cupping into mainstream consciousness when the now-trendy, circular bruises dotted his back during the 2016 Summer Olympics, visible to millions who were watching. Increased circulation, blood flow, decreased inflammation, rejuvenating fatigued muscles, lymph drainage, and detoxification are all reasons people, superhuman Mr. Phelps included, turn to cupping.
Plot twist: Now you can get cupping for your face, or you can do it yourself at home. If that sounds like a scary but intriguing prospect, it's because it is! But don't worry—like gua sha, facial cupping is a less intense version of the classic body treatment that utilizes small silicone cups (instead of larger glass ones used on the back) for similar benefits: detoxification, increased circulation, lymph drainage, and as a result, younger-looking, glowier skin.
I had to try it. I'd experienced facial cupping once or twice in holistic-leaning facials but certainly hadn't tried it myself. I took to the internet, which led me to Lure Essentials, a company that manufactures the GLAM Face Cupping System. You, too, can get it for a cool $30 on Amazon. To be honest, the packaging is dated: Pinker-than-pink branding, a strange '90s-esque glamour facial shot on the front, all complete with before-and-after photos on the package itself. But that was no matter, because the cups were effective. The kit includes two sets of cups, one large and one small each, one facial scrubber, and a small bottle of 100 percent cold-pressed sunflower seed oil. The cups themselves are long and cone-shaped; the small one is roughly the length of a pinky finger and the large one is about as long as your index or middle fingers. I didn't use the facial scrubber and could only use one cup at a time, so half the amount of cups and no facial scrubber would have been perfectly sufficient if you're in the market and want to save a couple of bucks.
Here's how I did "facial cupping"—and the unexpected results.
You're not supposed to do facial cupping every day according to the package, so I did it every two to three days for two weeks...and I noticed something unusual. The best, most visible benefits seemed to occur directly after the cupping session versus over time. Don't get me wrong; I did notice some favorable changes to my face after two weeks, but the instant gratification of a facial cupping treatment in a holistic beauty world where time is usually the most magical ingredient was pretty epic.
Using the cups was enjoyable. I opened my front-facing camera on my iPhone or photo booth on my computer to do the treatment, as you must have some way to see yourself to be effective. To start, you need a whole lot of oil so the cups can easily glide across your face. We're talking at least two droppers full…if it feels like too much, it's the right amount. The big cup is for larger areas of your face like the cheek, forehead, jawline, and neck. The smaller one is for the eye area, and concentrating on spots you want to change, if any. I was experimenting with my nasolabial folds, forehead lines, eye area, and lips. To begin, I gently squeezed the cup and applied it to my face. Then I dragged the cup across the lines of my face and kept it moving, releasing when I finished. I did this several times, making sure to apply gentle suction. It was harder than it looks! My face is quite contoured and uneven, so the large cup was more difficult to use because it kept breaking contact with my skin. I ended up using the small cups for most of my treatment.
After about eight minutes of cupping, four on each side, I immediately noticed how it lifted and rejuvenated my face. It made me look hydrated, vital, and energized when I hadn't felt that way in quite a long time! Especially around the mouth area—my nasolabial folds relaxed, my lips puffed up quite a bit, and the jawline looked more defined, likely because of lymph drainage.
The do's and don'ts of facial cupping, from a professional.
Beware: I also gave myself a shiner on my left eye! (You should see the other guy.) I'm not sure if I was holding the cup in one place for too long, revisiting the same section of skin one too many times, or had too much suction from the cup, but I bruised. This is a very real risk for DIY at-home facial cupping, which is why it's important to consult the professionals. Britta Plug, holistic esthetician, gua sha expert, health coach, and professionally trained facial cupping therapist has some pointers if you want to avoid giving yourself a face hickey:
DO lube up the skin. Get a lot of slip on there—more than you think you need. You can even use your oil cleanser if you wanted to do a quick cupping treatment (note: you don't want to leave oil cleanser on for more than a couple of minutes). A high-quality jojoba oil works well too. Don't be afraid to be REALLY liberal; you can always washcloth it off afterward.
DON'T let it sit in place; that can cause bruising. Keep it moving! The forehead and eye areas are more prone to bruising, and the thicker fleshy areas are less so.
DO use low suction. With clear silicone cups, you can see how much skin you're taking up with the suction. Keep the little mounds very low, especially if it's your first time doing it at all or doing it yourself. To use a metaphor, if you were vacuuming the carpet, you'd want it to be on the lowest setting possible.
DON'T do facial cupping with certain conditions. Don't do cupping on any areas that have broken capillaries. If you're prone to broken capillaries, facial cupping probably isn't for you. If you have blood disorders, anemia, or if you're prone to bruising, you want to check with your doctor before trying facial cupping. Also, if you have a history of blood clotting or embolism issues, you should also steer clear of cupping. Don't go over the veins in your neck. They have their own job to do, and the cupping will interfere with that.
DO move along lymphatic pathways. Moving down with the cup will help move stagnant lymph. You can also move out toward the sides of the face or up for lifting.
DON'T do facial cupping more than once a week. It's a very effective treatment but also very intensive and can negatively affect the skin's elasticity with overuse.
All things considered, facial cupping is something I'll add in rotation when my skin is feeling dull or if I simply want to inject a little joy into my routine. It was quite fun to do, and the immediate results are uplifting both in face and in spirit.
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Lindsay Kellner is a freelance writer, editor and content strategist based out of Brooklyn, NY. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism and psychology at New York University and earned a 200-hour yoga certification from Sky Ting. She is the co-author of “The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide to Ancient Self Care,” along with mbg’s Sustainability Editor, Emma Loewe.