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The Benefits of Lymphatic Drainage for Skin Health

The Benefits of Lymphatic Drainage for Skin Health

If you’ve ever had a professional facial, you’re familiar with the basic steps— cleanse, steam, exfoliate. Perhaps you’ve had extractions and, most likely, you’ve customized your facial based on your skin type or concern. But what makes a facial stand apart from the rest is the esthetician’s touch, that gentle butterfly dance of the fingers across the face and that melt-into-bliss moment—the facial massage. While the art of the facial massage feels amazing, the science behind it is equally impressive. In this article we explore how your facial massage affects your lymphatic system and skin health. 

What is the Lymphatic System?

To understand how a facial massage benefits skin health, let’s start with the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of lymphatic vessels, tissues, organs, and glands that lie beneath the skin and work together to drain a watery fluid called lymph from throughout the body.¹

How does the Lymphatic System Work?

Your lymphatic system plays a major role in your overall health. It’s a vital part of your immune system and protects the body against infection and disease. It also transports proteins throughout the body which help detox any toxins or bacteria. The functions of the lymphatic system can be divided into three main roles:

  • Keeps your body’s fluid levels balanced. One of the lymphatic system’s jobs is to drain extra lymph fluid from body tissues and return it to your bloodstream. If the lymphatic system didn’t drain it, this extra fluid would build up in the tissues and make them swell, leading to a higher risk of infection or illness. 
  • Absorbs fat-soluble vitamins. While most nutrients travel through pores in your capillaries, some molecules and fats are too large to do so. Your lymphatic system absorbs fat-soluble vitamins so they can make their way into your bloodstream. 
  • Supports your immune system. The lymphatic system produces and releases lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) and other immune cells that defend the body against infection. These cells destroy bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi that may enter your body.²

As mentioned, if the lymphatic system gets clogged or isn’t working correctly, that can cause swelling throughout the body and compromise your immune system. Great ways to keep the lymphatic system healthy are to drink plenty of water and exercise. Another way is lymphatic drainage. 

What is Lymphatic Drainage?

Lymphatic drainage, which is sometimes called manual lymphatic drainage, or MLD, involves gently massaging areas of the body to help move lymph fluid to an area with working lymph vessels. The process encourages the natural circulation of lymph through the body, helping our bodies filter out waste and toxins. 

DIY Lymphatic Massage

There are two types of lymphatic drainage: manual and simple. A qualified therapist or practitioner will perform manual lymphatic drainage. A simple lymphatic drainage is a technique you can use at home.

Like its name, the DIY technique is quite simple. As explained in Cedars-Sinai’s FAQs, “The idea is to use very light pressure to massage the area and push fluid that’s causing swelling back toward the heart. Move your fingers in a motion that creates the letter “C,” gently massaging tissues that are NOT swollen.” ³

Lymphatic Massage Tips:

  • Use gentle pressure and do not press hard enough to feel the muscles. These massage movements should affect only the skin. 
  • Keep the hands relaxed.
  • Do not massage areas with swelling or infection.
  • Do not massage areas of the body that have undergone treatment for cancer.
  • Drink extra fluids, ideally 2–4 glasses of water, after each massage to help flush the body.
  • During the massage, there should be no pain or skin reddening.
  • Do not use lotions or other products, only the hands.⁴ 

Professional Lymphatic Massage Treatment

A professional lymphatic massage consists of precise, skillful gestures that sweep stagnant ‘waste’ towards the lymph nodes, which makes it easier for your body to eliminate the toxins. This also isn’t like your usual massage, which works to loosen knots and tension. A professional lymphatic massage combines firm pressure with a specific set of motions to give your lymphatic system a boost and release benefits.

Benefits of Lymphatic Drainage for Skin Health

Improves Circulation and Skin Tone

One of the most significant benefits of lymphatic drainage massage is that it improves blood circulation. Improved blood flow to the skin helps deliver essential nutrients and oxygen to the cells, which promotes healthy skin tone.

Detoxification and Removal of Toxins

Lymphatic drainage massage helps eliminate waste products and toxins from the skin, resulting in a reduction of puffiness, dark circles, and dullness.

Reduces Inflammation

Inflammation can lead to various skin conditions such as acne and rosacea. By eliminating excess fluid and waste from the body, lymphatic drainage massage helps reduce redness and swelling in the skin, leading to a clearer complexion.

Hydrates the Skin

Lymphatic drainage massage can help hydrate the skin by promoting the flow of lymphatic fluid. The lymphatic system helps regulate the body’s fluid balance, and when it’s functioning properly the skin is better hydrated and nourished.

Reduction in the Appearance of Fine Lines & Wrinkles

Lymphatic drainage also stimulates collagen and elastin production and can improve the overall texture of the skin, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and promote a more radiant complexion.

Enhanced Immune Function and Overall Skin Health

The rhythmic movements and gentle pressure applied during the massage stimulate the nervous system, promoting relaxation and reducing stress levels. This can have a positive impact on overall well-being and contribute to a healthier, more balanced complexion.

Coming Soon: Lymphatic Sculpt & Lift Facial

What’s better than exploring all the benefits of a lymphatic drainage massage? Offering one! Which is why we are thrilled to announce our Lymphatic Sculpt & Lift Facial will be available at Greenwich Medical Spa locations this summer. Get ready to book yours and experience the best of both worlds—our expert lymphatic drainage technique for detoxification and our sculpting techniques for an elevated, youthful appearance. Available August 2024. 


¹ Mirna Mikhael; Yusuf S. Khan. National Library of Medicine. Anatomy, Abdomen and Pelvis: Lymphatic Drainage. July 2023. Source

² Cleveland Clinic. Lymphatic System. July 2023. Source

³ Amy Paturel. Cedars-Sinai. FAQs About Lymphatic Drainage Massage. August 2023. Source

⁴Jamie Eske. Medical News Today. How to perform a lymphatic drainage massage. November 2023. Source