As a beauty writer and serial product tester, I thought I had tried everything in the name of preventative skin care. Over the years, I habitually reached for microcurrent tools, studied the art of facial massage, and applied various vitamin C and retinol serums to my skin. Basically, I was game for anything that could keep dullness, sagging, and signs of aging at bay.
Lately, however, I’ve been trying something that doesn’t involve strong active ingredients at all, and my skin is better for it. I’m talking about facial cupping, which is an effective holistic practice that can lead to a more lifted, sculpted, and radiant complexion (I am proof). The practice, which has its roots in traditional Chinese medicine, can be practiced safely and efficiently at home as long as you have the tools and the know-how. “The practice of cupping originated in traditional Chinese medicine,” says Karina Sulzer, founder of Skin Gym. “It was originally used as a method in traditional Chinese surgery but evolved into a more therapeutic practice over time.”
Like body cupping, facial cupping involves adhering small glass or rubberlike cups to the skin via suction—except, for the face, the cups don’t sit motionless on the skin. Instead they’re kept in perpetual motion, being swiped across specific areas of the skin in upward and outward motions. So, no, you don’t have to worry about deep purple bruises blooming across your skin…
According to Sulzer, facial cupping involves a little bit of everything when it comes to skin benefits. It encourages lymphatic drainage, boosts circulation, reduces muscle tension, brightens skin, decreases puffiness, and lifts and sculpts your face. I’ve only been practicing it for a few weeks, but I can see a visible improvement in the look of my skin. Not only are my expression lines faded, but my cheekbones and jawline appear firmer and more sculpted.
Dr. Ava Shamban, the owner of SKINFIVE, AVAMD, founder of The Box by Dr. Ava, and co-host of the Gist, says the science behind cupping’s efficacy has to do with the skin’s connective tissue, called the fascia. “The slow movements of cupping grab and lift the fascia that is hugging our muscles,” she explains. The fascia can interfere with “optimal circulation and metabolic functions, like drainage,” which is why grabbing and lifting it a small distance away from the skin can be beneficial.
“As you move cups, it promotes drainage of any excess fluids stored in the cells, which reduces facial puffiness,” Shamban says. “As circulation improves, the skin oxygen levels increase,” which gives the added benefit of glowing skin.
“My favorite benefit of facial cupping (besides how relaxing it is) is the glow that it warrants,” says celebrity aesthetician Candace Marino, better known as the L.A. Facialist. “The increased circulation allows for oxygen-rich blood to re-energize the cells, giving that ‘lit from within’ type of glow.” The other benefits she lists include improved tone, regulated oil production, and even improved product penetration.