Style What Is Facial Cupping? How the Technique Can Help Release Tension and Boost Circulation
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During a recent socially distanced lunch, I found myself more focused on my friend’s taut, radiant complexion than our actual conversation. Upon this admission (shameful for me; for her, flattering), she offered her usual regimen of all-natural remedies before espousing the virtues of a more proactive at-home option: facial cupping. I immediately opened the internet browser on my phone and, at her insistence, ordered Tata Harper’s Tata x Lure Facial Cupping Set, a duo of beautifying tools which have since become an integral part of my skin-care routine—and for good reason.
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“It’s a very efficient treatment,” says Harper, who keeps her own cups in her desk drawer for impromptu use. “When you do it, you promote new oxygen-rich blood circulation, which helps strengthen the skin and all of the connective tissues. It stimulates collagen production, and I also love that it relaxes my muscle tension.” Thought to have originated in China during the Tang Dynasty—though some medical references see cupping used around the world throughout ancient times—the practice of cupping utilizes targeted suction to encourage blood and lymph flow, easing puffiness and melting away lurking stress. “It’s kind of like a reverse massage,” says Harper. “Massage puts pressure on the tissue for tension release, but with cupping, you’re creating a really mild stretch. The suction effect pulls blood into the fascia area below the surface of the skin, creating new vessel formation which helps with tissue generation.”
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“Circulation is really a key to looking beautiful and feeling healthy,” says Lorraine Lavenita, who works cupping into her facial treatments at Manhattan’s. “Lack of circulation equals illness, acne, infection.” While the benefits are evident, facial cupping requires a practiced—and gentle—hand. “It’s really important to control the sucking, because if you apply too much suction power, you may end up with bruises,” says Harper, who recommends a rich cream or a favored oil for maximum slip and minimal friction (Lavenita reaches for jojoba, or . “Also, you want to stay clear of the throat and neck area, as pressure in either of those veins can do a lot of damage to arteries.”
For maximized results, set aside 10 to 15 minutes two times a week. Apply a generous layer of your chosen product, start with a soft suction, and drag the cup toward your ear, behind which lymphatic drainage of the face occurs (note: though you should never use a cup over open wounds or aggressively inflamed skin, gentle drainage can, as noted by Lavenita, help alleviate cystic acne). Avoid allowing the cup to sit still at any time—the raised rounded marks associated with body cupping are far too aggressive for the face, as are any marks or bruising. The most one should expect is a subtle wash of redness as blood begins to flow more freely through the connective tissue. Long strokes along the jawline offer a sculpting effect, while fluid is pulled from nose to ear into the nasolabial area, delivering a pleasant plumpness both immediately and over time. Facial cupping can even help with taut wrinkles across the forehead, the suction working to reduce the depth.
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I was used to frequent headaches, but this slew of symptoms felt like something else. It all began in March, just as COVID-19 hit the U.S. After a useless telehealth call with a general physician, I tracked down an ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT) for another virtual appointment. At the time, I was convinced I had an ear or sinus infection. But she told me it might be a problem with my temporomandibular joint (TMJ). We each have two of them, and they connect the lower jaw to the skull, allowing the mouth to move. I’d never had issues with my jaw, so I was skeptical.
Though cupping is the most effective (and relaxing) when executed in full-face fashion, quick fixes are also a plus. “If you have an event, or a Zoom meeting, and your eyes are puffy, you can just do it around the eye area,” says, owner of the eponymous clinic in Midtown. “Just put your eye cream on, do a little cupping, and apply your makeup.”
But far from simply an aesthetic fix, cupping is an ancient health practice for a reason. For her part, Levanita has relied on facial cupping for clients dealing with residual symptoms of the pandemic, like clenched complexions and even diminished senses from COVID-19. “The first thing that people were dealing with was TMJ,” she says. “Right now I am seeing quite a few post-COVID people who, several months down the road, still can’t smell and taste anything. The cupping helps with that. I could see the puffiness in the eyebrows and right by the nose—the stagnation of lymph and mucus. It wasn’t until I started moving the lymphatic system that it really cleared it up.”
In short, when used responsibly, facial cupping delivers an all-in-one, meditative treatment for your skin woes. “That’s why I love it,” says Harper. “You get to do a lot of things at once.”
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According to Dr Rohin Francis, Dwayne Johnson's recent experiment in ancient Chinese medicine leads to some bigger questions about pseudoscience.A practice that dates back to ancient China, cupping is a method of treating pain after exercise by placing a glass cup on the skin, creating a vacuum which draws up the tissue. As the glass cools, the skin contracts, encouraging blood flow. Johnson is by no means the first famous figure to try cupping as a form of athletic pain relief; swimmer Michael Phelps famously sported the round bruises from the treatment at the 2016 Olympic Games.
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