How A Beauty Expert Practices Facial Cupping & Benefits
I'm no stranger to facial tools or the nightly massage: I often talk about the immense benefits of tending to your skin with gentle, thoughtful physical manipulation. Not only are there notable aesthetic outcomes (hello, increased circulation, sculpting, and brightened tone!), but I believe it's just fundamentally a good idea to show your skin some love. I also don't think this should be a special treat or only on rare occasions: Make a habit of touching your skin with care and intention.
And there are many ways that you can fold this into your routine. Gua sha is a popular choice, as is jade rolling. Handheld tech devices and gadgets can offer micro-currents or vibrations to do some of the heavy lifting for you. Of course, you can simply use your fingers and palms to get the job done—no extras necessary.
Or you can try facial cupping. Cupping inspires images of circular-bruise-adorned bodies, but much like facial gua sha is a gentler version of the body counterpart, so is facial cupping. And it's so easy to do on your own—especially with Wildling's new Lumin Collection.
I tried face cupping at home—here's what it felt like.
Cupping is an ancient modality with roots in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), where the skin is suctioned away from the rest of the body using cups. This ritual is used to stimulate the flow of chi. In body practices, these cups are often made of glass, but in facial cupping they are made with a more malleable silicone, allowing for a more gentle application and usage. In the body, they're routinely applied on the back and legs as a way to decrease inflammation, rejuvenate fatigued muscles, and alleviate aches. Facial cupping targets, well, the face, and it uses a slightly different technique than its body counterpart. If this sounds intimidating, I assure you, it's not—in fact, it's downright pleasurable and oh-so-satisfying.
I've been cupping as part of my nighttime routine (when I routinely gua sha or do a facial massage anyway). And it all starts with the Three-In-One Oil. It's called a three-in-one product because it can be used as an oil cleanser, lubricant for cupping, and nighttime treatment to top and seal in hydration. It's made of a blend of passion fruit seed oil, jojoba oil, and sea buckthorn—a sophisticated pairing that is safe for acne-prone folks (jojoba oil is noncomedogenic) and full of anti-inflammatory antioxidants.
Oil cleansing isn't for everyone—some people just don't like the sensation and prefer a gel or cream product—but I do recommend at least trying it in drier, colder weather. Oil cleansing can help keep your lipid layer intact and condition vulnerable, parched skin. Around this time every year, I typically switch over to an oil or oil-based cleansing option since I notice my skin drying out faster.
Once clean, I go ahead and reapply the same oil on my skin—this time around I use a much more generous amount. As is key with most facial manipulation techniques, you want to make sure your skin is properly coated with oil so your tools have plenty of slide. A hint: If you feel your tool tugging at the skin, you may not have used enough oil.
How to practice facial cupping.
And then, I go in with the cups. Wildling's two cups are made of 100% food-grade silicone, one larger (for the neck, cheekbones, and forehead) and one about as thin as a marker (for delicate areas like the eyes and lips, or even for targeting individual lines). If you've never used a cup before, I recommend practicing on your forearm to nail down the technique—even though it's quite simple. Slightly pinch the middle of the cone, and then place it on the skin before releasing: You'll feel the skin being pulled into the cup. From here, there are two main movements. The first is that you can quickly go back to re-pinch the cup and release the skin. (Then do this a few more times in the same area.) The second is that you grab the cup and slowly drag it across the skin until it naturally releases on its own.
On the body, the cups are placed and not moved—a still process that is about release. The face, however, is more fluid and is about circulation and flow. There's no perfect facial cupping process that everyone must follow, but for beginners, a simple routine acts as a good foundation. And as you get used to the process, you can make adjustments and tweaks that feel good to you.
Start at the base of the neck, just above the collarbone; use the suction-and-release technique. This, experts note, can help kick-start lymphatic drainage and circulation. Do this several times on both sides of the neck. Then repeat this action just under the ear, right next to the jawbone on both sides.
Once you've done this (it helps open the circulation in the face and neck), you can move on to the gliding technique. If you're one to gua sha or facial roll, you'll see a lot of similarities in the movements. For example, you want to start to lift up and out as you drag the cup across the skin—you also want to make sure you're keeping your other hand gently resting at the beginning point, to limit aggressive tugging.
I start at my chin and sweep across the jawline, slowly moving up to my cheekbones with each passing stroke. Then I skip over the eyes (I come back to them later with the smaller cup) and go to my brows and forehead. I start with the cup at the center of my brows and move out just above the brow bone on both sides. Then I work my forehead by pulling the cup into my hairline.
Switching cups, I then tend to my eye area. The skin around the eyes is very thin and requires extra care. You can use either technique when working here, but if you do glide the cup across the skin, do so extra lightly. You'll find that the smaller cup doesn't allow for much suction, which is the exact purpose for using it around the eyes: I cannot stress enough that you should be cautious here.
So often I get asked about how long you should do this for, and my go-to answer is whatever feels right! You certainly don't want to overdo it, but you shouldn't feel that there's a singular, perfect routine that works for everyone. The best thing you can do is learn the basics, what you shouldn't do (don't be too hard), and the rest is, quite literally, in your hands.
The kit comes with a cloudlike cloth made from viscose bamboo and certified organic cotton, which I use to pat off excess oil post-cupping. There's also a small round 1005 white jade stone, perfect for depuffing eyes. I've been keeping mine in the freezer, and using it in the morning when my bags are swollen. The cooled rounded end simply glides over my lids and under eyes, making me look and feel more awake in the process.
Should you add this to your routine?
I pretty regularly make the case for a regular facial massage practice. It has proven benefits in the skin, encourages circulation, can temporarily sculpt and depuff, and just feels great. (The last point is reason enough!) Certainly, I'm one to play around with how I do this, from my go-to gua sha stones and techy devices to now this facial cupping set from Wilding. I love encouraging people to try techniques and rituals that they can fold into their routine with ease and enjoyment—this set is no exception. Not to mention: I found my complexion looked brighter and my face more sculpted after just a week of doing it.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.