Facial Cupping: What Is It, Benefits, Risks & How To Do It At Home
If the word "cupping" evokes images of Olympic athletes and painful-looking bruises, you're not alone. However, there's a gentler version of the ancient practice that's said to leave you with sculpted, glowy skin: facial cupping. What is this cheekbone-carving procedure, and how does it work? Here's our deep dive.
What is facial cupping?
Cupping is a practice with roots in traditional Chinese medicine, where the skin is suctioned away from the rest of the body in order to stimulate the flow of chi (routinely applied on the back and legs as a way to decrease inflammation, rejuvenate fatigued muscles, and alleviate aches). And as you may guess, "facial" cupping follows the same beat—it's just targeted to, well, your face.
Specifically, "facial cupping is a great way to increase blood flow to the face and rejuvenate the skin," says esthetician and founder of Glowbar, Rachel Liverman. By suctioning your skin with the small, soft cups, you can also sculpt the neck and jawline; think of it as a step above gua sha—by moving in upward strokes, you can help decrease puffiness and move lymph around. That increase in blood circulation can also spur the production of collagen, which as we know keeps your skin looking firm and taut, delaying the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Facial cupping versus body cupping.
If you're familiar with body cupping, you're probably thinking: Uh, won't I get bruises on my face from using a cupping tool?
But facial cupping isn't exactly the same as what you may have seen dotting the backs of athletes. Both procedures promote blood flow and circulation, yes, but facial cups aren't static. Meaning, they're moved around quite a bit in order to promote blood circulation—they aren't sitting on your face for an extended period of time. "Body cupping uses cups applied to specific areas for a longer period of time, which creates the bruising we are accustomed to," notes celebrity facialist and founder of Cecilia Wong Skincare, Cecilia Wong.
Facial cups are also typically made of soft silicone, while the ones meant for your body are usually larger in size and made of glass. So before you write off the procedure for fear of leaving the house covered in welts, know that facial cupping is way less intense.
Who shouldn't do it?
Despite it being gentle enough for the face, some people can still experience bruising associated with cupping—especially around the thinner-skinned areas of the face (more on that later). That said, those with supersensitive skin might want to proceed with caution. Wong agrees, who warns that cupping can cause broken capillaries and broken blood vessels for some. As holistic esthetician Britta Plug previously warns, you'll also want to steer clear of cupping if you have any blood disorders, anemia, or a history of blood clotting or embolism issues.
As always, check in with your doctor before attempting any new skin care procedures, at-home or otherwise.
How to do it + tips.
Sure, facial cupping is a noninvasive procedure, but it can be quite intensive. That said, you might want to wait for a professional, if you can. "A professional can advise whether this is the right treatment for you, especially if you have sensitive skin," says Liverman. Again, be sure to chat with your derm or esthetician before diving right in with the tool.
There are a number of facial cupping kits you can purchase at home, providing you with different-size cups to use for larger areas (like the forehead, cheek, neck, and jawline) and for the smaller, more delicate places. Like many at-home beauty tools, they might not give you the same targeted results you'd see from a professional (looking at you, dermaplane), but you can try it out for yourself for a little jaw-sculpting routine. Here's what many of those kits recommend:
- Apply a nice facial oil on freshly cleansed skin (like during gua sha, you'll want enough slip to make sure the tool easily glides across your face).
- Squeeze the cup and suction it to the face, then use your free hand to hold the skin taut before sweeping upward with gentle strokes. (This prevents you from pulling on the skin.) Release and repeat for a few strokes before moving to a different area.
- When finished, wash the cups with gentle soap and water, letting them air dry.
In terms of tips, be sure to keep it slow and steady: "It's important not to rush the process and be gentle on your delicate skin," says Wong. That said, beware of bruises! Always keep the cup moving, as letting it sit in one place for too long can cause those shiners to pop up—especially on the more delicate areas of the face. As Plug tells us, the forehead and eye areas are more prone to bruising; the thicker, fleshy areas, less so. She also recommends sticking to facial cupping once a week in order to avoid negatively affecting the skin's elasticity with overuse.
Facial cupping can give you the toned, sculpted jawline of dreams, but it also has the potential to give you a face full of hickeys. Be mindful of the risks here, and if you have any questions or concerns, it's probably best to see a professional. Or, you know, stick to gua sha.
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