In case you missed it, lymphatic drainage is all the rave in the skincare world right now.
You know all those pretty pink face rollers and gua sha tools that you’re seeing all over your Instagram feed? Yep, they’re for lymphatic drainage and everyone from Eva Chen to your favourite influencer are singing its praises.
Naturally, I’m curious (and kind of sceptical, too), so I talked to Su-Man, celebrity facialist and founder of skincare brand of the same name, Dr Ross Perry, Medical Director at Cosmedics UK, and Dr Zara Celik, chiropractor, nutrition health coach, and wellness expert at Amara Wellness Centre, to find out what it actually is and if it’s worth the hype.
“Lymphatic drainage is a therapeutic massage treatment,” says Dr Perry. “The massage uses very light pressure and long, gentle, rhythmic strokes to increase the flow of lymph and reduce toxins in your body.”
If you, like me, have no idea what Dr Perry means by lymph (read: lymphatic system), here’s a quick explanation: “The lymph system is part of your body’s immune system and helps fight infection. It is part of the immune system which is comprised of a network of tissues and organs that enable the body to get rid of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials.”
Dr Celik explains it in simpler terms: “I refer to the lymphatic system as the soldiers in the body. They look out for anything that needs to be encapsulated, filtered, and eliminated out of the body so the body’s immune system is strong.”
So, how does it relate to skin, I hear you ask? “If the system is blocked you can perceive dull skin complexion and liquid retention,” says Su-Man. “Your skin can suffer from acne, loss of elasticity, premature ageing and dryness, particularly in the winter months when central heating and the colder weather play havoc with our skin,” adds Dr Perry.
While exercising is the easiest (and cheapest) way to support your lymphatic system, you can think of lymphatic drainage as a booster to be used in times of need. “A good way to realise if you’re having an underworking lymphatic system is if you have constant under eye “bags” and overall inflammation around your cheekbones [and] neck,” says Su-Man.
But is it worth the hype? “Definitely,” says Su-Man. “The result is an instantly brighter, sculpted complexion with skin that looks and feels reborn.” What more could you want? More apparently. “As it helps to remove toxins and nasties from the body it can have a number of benefits such as a reduction in cellulite, skin swelling, scar tissue, acne, stretch marks, reducing stress, tiredness, water retention and post-exercise recovery,” explains Dr Perry.
But don’t get too excited. You need to get a professional lymphatic drainage massage if you want to see the benefits — in other words, don’t bother DIY-ing. “Small, gentle massage strokes can be done on the face and the neck but I’m doubtful you would see any real benefits other than reducing stress levels,” claims Dr Perry, who’s also sceptical of the various facial massage tools you see on social media.
Oh, and one last thing… “Lymphatic massage is not recommended for those with congestive heart failure, history of blood clots or stroke, current infection, liver problems and kidney issues,” warns Dr Perry.