I Tried Facial Cupping And Here’s How It Went
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As a beauty writer, I’ve never met a facial gadget or treatment that I wasn’t game to try. I’m always down to test out the newest and most viral beauty trends, tools and ingredients. And while there seems to be a buzz-worthy new product or device introduced every day, sometimes it’s the ancient tools and methods that come back into the spotlight and remind us why they’re still around. So when I was tasked with testing out the centuries-old art of facial cupping, I was excited to see what all the buzz was about.
What Is Cupping?
Cupping is a form of therapy that uses suction to stimulate skin, muscles and blood flow. Dating back hundreds of years, it is a practice that is deeply ingrained in Traditional Chinese Medicine but has also been traced back to ancient Egypt. It can be done on the face and the body to treat pain, relieve muscle tension and reduce swelling and water retention. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine practices, cupping improves the flow of “Qi,” the Chinese word meaning “circulating life force” or “energy.” In other words, it’s a revitalizing treatment that can reduce pain and swelling (puffiness) by stimulating the tissue just below the skin to help move excess lymphatic fluids and toxins.
How Is Cupping Performed?
My first introduction to cupping therapy was in the early 2000s when photos of celebrities walking red carpets with big, circular red marks exposed on the skin of their backs went viral. While these circles looked like the result of something mysterious (and painful), word quickly spread that these were in fact the result of an ancient form of therapy called cupping.
The body treatment uses glass cups suctioned to the skin by negative pressure created with an ignited material. In other words, a tiny fire is lit inside the opening of a round glass cup and the partial vacuum created by the removal of oxygen from the cup draws (sucks) the skin tissue into the cup, and the cup is left to sit for several minutes. The cupping method works by stimulating and promoting the free flow of Qi in the meridians (energy highways). This creates blood flow, thus eliminating the stagnation that may be causing pain from a deeper layer in the muscle. By creating this suction and negative pressure, cupping may drain excess fluids and toxins, loosen adhesions, lift connective tissue, bring blood flow to sluggish skin and muscles and stimulate the peripheral nervous system.
With that in mind, I was a little nervous about performing facial cupping on myself. What if I ended up with big red welts all over my face? Fortunately, the possibility that I would end up with bouncier, brighter, more glowy skin outweighed any of my trepidation.
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While the concept is the same, facial cupping is done with silicone cups that suction to the skin with no heat or glass involved. The treatment is said to have a powerful effect on microcirculation, detox and lymphatic drainage. In other words, my dark circles and puffy undereyes will be replaced by soft, glowy and smooth skin if all goes well. The motion of the cup is said to circulate and drain toxins that build up under the skin — in the same way lymphatic massage and gua sha can stimulate the detoxing of stagnant fluids (aka puffiness).
As facial cupping is becoming more popular, it’s definitely easier to find a practitioner who performs it. My Chinese Medicine doctor has been doing it for years and sees benefits with her patients who “want to try more natural treatments to help revitalize their skin and … maybe soften lines and wrinkles.” Because it’s non-invasive, many patients like the idea of trying it since it’s more gentle than, say, injectables and laser treatments. One quick warning, though, whether you’re doing it at home or at a spa, wait four to six weeks post Botox or filler.
DIY Facial Cupping
Always consult a professional before starting any new skin care treatments or techniques.
I ordered a set of rubber cups online. The package included two large cups and two small ones — more like a cone shape than a “cup” and thick but pliable — in other words, very different from the glass balls I’d seen used on the body. The large cones were designed for the majority of the face — like the cheeks, forehead and jawline — and the small ones for the more delicate skin around the eyes. I watched a few YouTube videos to get a feel for the process and felt ready to give it a try.
I started with a cleansed face. Next, I applied a light layer of face oil. I decided to go with the Facial Recovery Oil, which is one of my favorites and a texture that I thought would work — not too thick, not too thin, just the right amount of glide. The big caution I gleaned from my research was that the cup is never to stay in one place, but rather to be moved (slid) from start point to end point to avoid creating those red bruise-like marks. This is why it’s important to choose the right oil. Then it was time to start the process. A bit nervous, I stuck the first cup to my cheek, held my breath (not recommended) and got to work.
I don’t know what I expected, but I was pleasantly surprised. I squeezed the cone between my thumb and index finger and touched it to my skin. While I felt a tight suction, it wasn’t overwhelming or painful. At the first sensation that the cone was properly adhered to the skin, I started sliding it up the contours of my face. I began at my chin and moved up my jawline to my earlobe, repeating the same motion about 10 times (only moving up, never down). Then I did the same from the outer corner of my lip to the top of my cheekbone and then from the apple of my cheek up to my temple. Next, I switched to the smaller cone and started on the inside corner below my eye and swiped out toward the temple. Again, with slow, repeated motions, concentrating on one area at a time. And finally, I switched back to the bigger cone and slid down from my temple, under my chin to the important chain of lymph nodes on the neck and collarbone. This action may help drain lymphatic fluid. Then I repeated the entire process on the other side.
I immediately noticed energy, almost like I could feel the fluids being released and moving through the pathways under my skin. Nothing aggressive or painful at all, just a flow. I guess my Qi was activated.
When I was done, I took a closer look in the mirror and was pretty impressed by my handiwork. My skin was flushed in a good way — rosy and glowy. And I think my face looked lifted and taut, especially my jawline. But I think the biggest change I noticed was the way the skin under my eyes was plumped and smooth. The bags were gone and I looked refreshed and bright, like I’d had 10 hours of sleep and zero glasses of wine last night!
I guess the redness could be considered a side effect, but it’s a welcome one. While the glow and “lift” lasted all day, the rosy hue was gone in about an hour. But I will say that I can see how this DIY treatment could go awry. When my phone rang and threw off my rhythm, I let the cup sit still on my cheek for a few seconds and a faint red circle formed underneath. It wasn’t painful and it faded within minutes.
Many of the YouTube tutorials I watched recommended combining facial cupping with gua sha — another ancient practice that plumps the skin, stimulates lymphatic flow and amps up the detoxification process. The two practices together (on alternate days or one after the other) complement each other nicely and keep the puffy eyes and the look of fine lines and wrinkles to a minimum.
My Final Verdict
Treating puffy eyes, adding plumpness where fine lines existed, giving my skin a rosy glow and achieving a youthful, awake and radiant complexion are the benefits I saw. Not bad for literally five minutes of my morning. I’ve been alternative between the Facial Recovery Oil and the Rosehip Triple C+E Firming Oil, and a few weeks into my new routine, I feel like my skin has a more vibrant appearance and that any dullness is gone. I’m also less puffy, especially under the eyes, which is a big deal. Overall, my face feels reenergized, refreshed and lifted. I’ll take it. I will definitely continue to carve out time in my morning routine to make this happen.
Have you tried facial cupping or other treatments that could help lift and revitalize your skin? Let us know in the comments below or tell us on social media.