What is a Lymphatic Drainage Massage and How Does It Work?

Five minutes a day with this massage technique can help you get a glowing, lifted, brighter and smoother complexion. 

If you've ever had a professional facial, you may have noticed the esthetician using her fingers to perform gentle yet firm, almost rhythmic strokes on different areas of your face. What was she doing? The technique is called a lymphatic drainage massage, and when done regularly it  supports the appearance of healthy, glowing skin. Even better: You don't have to book an expensive facial to reap its benefits. Lymphatic drainage massage is something you can—and should—do at home. Here's what you need to know.

What is lymphatic drainage?

To understand how lymphatic drainage works, it helps to know a bit about the body's lymph system. "The lymphatic system works to get rid of toxins that the blood has filtered out," says Ritu Chopra, M.D., surgeon and co-founder of Solvasa. However, the lymph system doesn't work well as we age. Drainage gets a bit sluggish, so those toxins and waste sit there longer. "This is because some of the smooth muscle around the lymphatic channels deteriorates, and they become more porous," says Dr. Chopra. The good news is that by applying pressure to the little valves within the lymphatic channels, you can manually direct the toxins toward the lymph nodes to eliminate them. This is where a lymphatic drainage massage comes into play. 

What is a lymphatic drainage massage?

A lymphatic drainage massage is a type of massage that helps to stimulate the flow of lymph fluid in the body. A lymphatic massage typically involves gentle, rhythmic strokes and pressure applied to the skin in the direction of the lymph flow. This type of massage is often used to help reduce swelling, improve circulation, and boost the immune system. Body lymphatic massages may also help with conditions such as lymphedema, a swelling of the limbs caused by a build-up of lymph fluid.

Why It’s an Important Daily Ritual 

Lymphatic massage is gentle and safe enough that you can do it every day, even twice a day. And it’s not just beneficial for your skin, lymphatic massage is self-care. It’s an almost meditative process, says Dr. Chopra. “Doing something over and over again, even massaging your skin, gets you into this state of mindfulness,” he says. Dr. Chopra suggests doing the massage for two minutes twice daily. You can even add a mantra in as you’re doing the repetitive motions, he says. 

Benefits of a lymphatic drainage massage

So, what does a lymphatic drainage massage actually do for your body and skin? Aside from the decrease in toxins, you can expect a visible reduction in puffiness and swelling. Other benefits of lymphatic drainage massages include

Improved blood circulation

A lymphatic drainage massage can help to improve micro-circulation, promoting blood flow which helps to bring oxygen and nutrients to the cells in the skin.

Boosts the immune system

Lymphatic drainage massages can help to boost the immune system by removing toxins and waste products from the body, which can help to improve overall health.

Relieves muscle tension and pain

Getting a lymphatic drainage massage can help relieve muscle tension and pain by promoting relaxation and reducing muscle inflammation.

Reduces stress

Feeling stressed out? A lymphatic drainage massage can help to reduce mental stress and promote a sense of well-being by promoting relaxation and reducing tension in the body.

Improves skin tone and texture

A lymphatic drainage massage can help improve the skin tone and texture by promoting the flow of lymph fluid, which can help to remove toxins and waste products from the body and can also help reduce the appearance of cellulite.

Tools to use for a lymphatic drainage massage

Special tools and serums are required for a proper lymphatic drainage massage to target specific body areas. If you're looking to DIY your own lymphatic massage at home, consider using a vibration tool, one of the best tools for improving the effectiveness of a lymphatic massage. Some therapists use vibration tools to help relax the muscles and increase blood flow. If you're considering using a vibration tool at home for lymphatic drainage, make sure to include a high-quality serum with your routine. Still trying to figure out where to start? For facial massage, we recommend the Solvasa Crystal Energy Wand with our Destressance serum. 

Solvasa Crystal Energy Wand

This wand's vibrating genuine rose quartz crystal tip feels soothing while still providing enough pressure on the skin. The Solvasa Crystal Energy Wand stays cool to the touch to help reduce puffiness and redness. Unlike other crystal tools, there is no rolling. "If you're rolling your skin, you're not getting constant pressure," says Dr. Chopra. "You're just rolling over the lymph channels without pushing the fluid," he says. 

The tip is stationary and vibrates gentle pulses to stimulate the drainage process, and it can even help to smooth the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. "For example, massaging in a circular motion on the glabella muscles, the ones that give you those '11 lines,' will help relax the muscles, making lines look less apparent," he says. 

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Solvasa DeStressance Serum

The Solvasa Crystal Energy Wand works best when paired with a high-quality serum like Destressance. This potent serum was designed with clean ingredients that help boost your skin's radiance, texture, and ability to fight inflammatory stress. When used with the Solvasa Energy Wand, most people report seeing fewer wrinkles within 24 hours.

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How to do a lymphatic drainage massage at home

The massage can be done using your fingertips or, preferably, with  a crystal wand such as the Solvasa Crystal Energy Wand. 

Step 1: Apply serum

On a washed and dried face, smooth a couple of pumps of the DeStressance Serum over your skin. You don't want to skip this step - the wand will glide over your skin while helping to diminish visible signs of aging.

Step 2: Gently massage from center of face to ears

Using your fingertips or Crystal Energy Wand, gently move and massage toward the lymphatic channels, which run along both sides of your neck and the sides of your face by the ears.

Step 3: Gently massage under your neck

Starting with your neck, place the wand under your chin and drag it down the length of your neck, repeating the movement three to four times. Then turn the wand horizontally and smooth the skin going toward your ear several times. Repeat on the other side.

Step 4: Massage your jaw line toward your ears.

On your face, move the wand up your jawline up toward the ear line on both sides. You can also rotate the wand just under your cheekbone and pull it up toward the ear. 

Step 5: Gently massage under your eyes

For the eyes, use the tip of the wand to gently press into your under-eye bags from the inner corner to the outer corner. 

Techniques and tips for lymphatic drainage massages

Before trying any lymphatic massage treatment at home, it's a good idea to consult with a licensed massage therapist or healthcare professional first. If you're trying a vibration massager for the first time, know that different products have different settings and intensity levels. Your therapist or doctor may recommend adjusting the vibration settings depending on your specific needs. Below are more tips to consider before your first lymphatic massage:

Use firm pressure and avoid tugging the skin

Lymphatic massage should be performed with firm, consistent pressure and strokes in the direction of the lymph flow, which is generally toward the heart. A treatment serum performs double duty, allowing for sufficient pressure without tugging while infusing skin with beneficial ingredients.

Use long, rhythmic strokes

Using long and repetitive rhythmic strokes to help relieve lymphatic congestion and move the lymph fluid 

Be consistent

Regular massage sessions are more effective than occasional ones. Lymphatic massage is gentle and safe enough to do every day, even twice daily. It's an almost meditative process, says Dr. Chopra. "Doing something daily for 21 days will help it become a healthy habit. Continuing for 90 days to see ongoing and meaningful benefits," he says. 

Hydrate before and after

Hydrating with a serum at the start of the massage supports the process.  Hydrating after the massage can help to further nourish the skin and extend the benefits of the massage.  

Bottom line 

A lymphatic drainage massage is not just good skincare, it's self-care too. Carving out just a few minutes a day to apply this easy-to-master technique not only helps boost your glow and reduce puffiness, but it's also a simple way to be more mindful and intentional in your beauty routine and in your daily life.

Celebrated Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon Dr. Ritu Chopra is recognized as a top doctor and key opinion leader in the areas of both aesthetic and reconstructive medicine.