If your skin is breaking out, looking blah, or feeling irritated, chances are good that your lymphatic system has something to do with it. This network of organs, tissues, and nodes help the body get rid of toxins, ensuring that lymph — a fluid that contains white blood cells — is being transported around your body, fighting infection and disposing of unwanted waste along the way.
If this system is not functioning properly, your skin shows it. Your lymphatic system has to be stimulated in order to drain the fluid and protect against build up. One of the best ways to do this? Lymphatic massage. This clever little technique fights puffy eyes and dull skin, plus it’s become a staple for aestheticians and beauty gurus alike.
“Lymphatic draining massage helps move the lymph along to carry harmful toxins that can cause acne, cellular damage, and skin irritation out of your body,” says Sara Akram, a Washington D.C. based master aesthetician.
Lymphatic draining has a slew of proven benefits, from keeping you healthy to alleviating muscle pain to reinvigorating tired eyes. “[Lymphatic massages] are great to do in the morning if you wake up with any puffiness or in the evenings at the end of the day to decompress,” says Stephanie Zheng, CEO and founder of Mount Lai.
As for what causes that lymph build-up, reasons vary. The first (and most likely) is dehydration. Despite doctor’s order, most of us are simply not drinking enough water. The recommended amount is at least eight 8-ounce glasses, which equals about half of a gallon and doing this alone will help immensely. “Most people don’t realize how critical daily water intake can be,” says Akram.
If you are ultra-hydrated yet still red and puffy, then it may also be a lack of sleep or an intake of high sodium foods that can cause fluid buildup or a general stagnation of the lymphatic system. Outside of the physical side effects, don’t discount the effect stress can have on skin. “Stress causes the body to release the hormone cortisol, which increases sebum production and can lead to inflammation and clogged pores,” says Zheng.
Lymphatic drainage helps address all these reasons and it can be done at home with the help of a few tools (you can pick from gua sha’s, jade rollers, and even plain old spoons). Here is Zheng’s go-to lymphatic massage how-to:
- Move in one direction, “outwards away from the center of the face,” says Zheng.
- There is no need to press down very hard at all. “The lymphatic system is located just below the skin, so you don’t need to use hard pressure,” says Zheng.
- Make sure to clean your face thoroughly and use a product, like the skin-plumping Avocado Melt Retinol Sleeping Mask, that will allow your tool to glide across your face effortlessly. The silky, gel-like texture gives you some slip that will make sure the tool doesn’t tug or pull delicate skin. Bonus: This application method helps important ingredients like the encapsulated retinol and avocado extract penetrate deeper into the skin, so you wake up with a noticeable glow.
You can also use this technique on the eye area, which is a prominent place for puffiness. Start by applying the Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Sleeping Eye Mask to the eye area. Then, using the Mount Lai De-Puffing Eye Massage Tool, gently glide the tool under the eye, from the inner corner to the temple and repeat 3-5 times. Then, glide the tool above the eyelid from the corner of the eye to the temple, again repeating 3-5 times. “For lymphatic drainage, glide the tool from the inner corner of the eye to the temple and then down the neck. Then, gently roll the tool across the brow bone to release forehead and facial tension,” says Zheng. This technique also helps if your sinuses are clogged and you feel the beginnings of a cold coming on. To clear congestion spend some extra time on the area in between your nose and undereye area.
Lymphatic drainage can be customized to suit a range of goals, whether you are winding down with a nighttime massage, recovering from a long flight, or in need of an energizing pick-me-up in the morning (in which case we recommend replacing Avocado Melt with the Pineapple-C Bright Serum for a blast of fresh citrus). Start by doing one side of your face and when you look in the mirror, you’re bound to see a difference. “At the end of every lymphatic drainage massage, I always recommend drinking a glass of water to flush out the toxins,” notes Zheng. Bottom’s up!