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Working Out The Kinks in Massage for Beauty

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During the new beauty-wellness intersection, countless products and methods have claimed themselves as the be-all and end-all of beauty woes –– with lymphatic drainage massage being an especially popular. People praise this method for reducing swelling, fatigue and digestive issues. But, when it comes to your skin, lymphatic drainage probably isn’t the solution.

Lymphatic drainage massage applies pressure to the body’s lymph nodes. While you can find lymph nodes in the face, their size makes them relatively insignificant compared to main massage points in the torso, legs and arms.

Still, beauty culture has used lymphatic drainage massage to refer to massage more broadly. While the method focuses on stimulating and removing buildup from the lymphatic system, massage’s true beauty superpowers are related to other functions of the body. Knowing the real science behind massage and its benefits will help you better target your top beauty concerns –– from head to toe. 

Clear Product Buildup

Facial and scalp massages do clear buildup, but of product not lymphatic fluid. The beauty community is well aware of the way product buildup can clog pores on our face, scalp and body. As a result, exfoliation has become a signature step in the majority of skincare routines, with a growing prevalence in scalp care as well. 

Adding the physical movements of massage with exfoliators means doing double duty on removing product buildup. Start your massage with a gentle exfoliator (chemical or physical per your preference) to clear buildup and better ready your skin to absorb your products. 

Increase Blood Flow

A massage may not do much to remove lymphatic buildup, but it does get your blood going (literally). Increased blood flow is one of the most prevalent benefits of massage. Doing so promotes cell turnover, meaning healthier skin and longer locks.

You can still take advantage of those trendy massage tools here, like gua shas and jade rollers, to apply targeted pressure across your face. Gently move your tool from the center of your face outward and always push up (versus pulling down). For scalp massages, start from the top and work to the bottom. If you can’t fully get off the wellness wagon, no worries. Focusing on your breathing can further improve your blood flow and the benefits.

Reduces Pressure (and Stress!)

Ever felt yourself pursing your lips or flexing your brows out of stress? Not only does a massage  physically relieve that tension, but it also puts you in the right state of mind to relax (and thus, reduce your cortisol levels). Here’s a quick chemistry lesson: Cortisol is your body’s stress hormone that has a nasty rep for increasing inflammation in the body as well as weakening the immune system –– two issues that notoriously make us feel less than beautiful.

To avoid dull strands and angry breakouts, add a serum or oil to lubricate your skin, preferably before using those nifty tools. Apply consistent pressure that doesn’t tug or stretch, and be mindful of sensitive areas. Nothing kills the relaxation vibe quicker than hurting from a hotspot. 

Of course, hats off to the wellness community for asking us to consider our health’s effect on appearance. However, while massage can make skin clearer and hair shinier, it has little to do with our lymphatic system. The true benefits come from some of the most iconic nuggets of beauty knowledge: keep pores clear, get your blood moving and don’t stress!

Darby Hoffman
Darby Hoffman
Darby Hoffman is a creative and branded content writer based in Chicago, IL. She specializes in topics related to sustainability, beauty technology, and consumer health & safety.