With fans including Cher, Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow, there’s a reason why lymphatic drainage is the treatment on everyone’s lips right now. From de-puffing and reducing cellulite, to boosting circulation, immunity and the metabolism, it’s a technique that stimulates the body’s lymphatic system, and can incorporate cupping, massage and cold water exposure. Running like a network beneath the surface of the skin, the lymphatic system transports waste (including toxins), to be metabolised from the body, helping you to feel lighter, more energetic and generally healthier in the process.
What are the benefits of lymphatic drainage?
“Lymphatic drainage massage is an incredibly beneficial treatment, which works to flush out excess liquids and toxins from our system and subsequently helps to combat water retention and inflammation,” explains Tetyana Probyy-Holova (also known as the “cellulite slayer”), who knows a thing or two about shifting puffiness.
She combines her own lymphatic drainage massage with cupping therapy, which dramatically reduces fluid retention and “breaks down fat deposits, which improves the lymphatic drainage process”, acting as the ultimate detoxification. “If a client is suffering from water retention or inflammation within the body, they leave feeling totally revitalised and energetic—water build up can make us feel sluggish,” adds Probyy-Holova.
Meanwhile, lymphatic drainage expert Flavia Morellato also sings the method’s praises. “It has a positive effect on blood circulation, immunity, metabolism and the digestive system, and is brilliant for those who are pregnant,” she says. “A struggling lymphatic system is linked to a drop in metabolism, which is linked to increased BMI, too.” Put simply, stimulating your lymphatic system isn’t just a matter of vanity—it’s also about boosting your sense of self, and how well your body deals with its environment.
Since it boosts the blood circulation and helps get things moving, it is also great for the skin—and can help you quickly rediscover your cheekbones. You’ll likely have been treated to some manual lymph drainage techniques if you’ve enjoyed a professional facial, but now, an increasing number of experts are incorporating clever, wearable machines, like Body Ballancer (at Illuminate Skin Clinic), and Slimiyonik Air Bodystyler (at Debbie Thomas), to get the lymph system moving as they work on the skin for enhanced results.
How to stimulate your lymphatic system
Of course, our lymphatic system already knows what to do—it sometimes just needs a little encouragement. Easy and accessible ways to stimulate it include taking regular exercise, drinking plenty of water, eating a healthy and balanced diet, and avoiding any processed foods. But massage is a great tool to supercharge the benefits, and there are other techniques to try that you can take advantage of at home.
“Body brushing is a very old technique, but I recommend it highly,” says Morellato. “Our skin is full of mechanoreceptors that, in addition to toning and rejuvenating, understand rhythmic strokes. With proper pressure, the body brush can stimulate blood and lymphatic circulation, eliminating toxins, fighting cellulite and assisting with the formation of natural collagen.” Cue plump skin and firm limbs.
Kate Shapland, founder of Legology, says the key thing to know when doing a home lymph flush is to be gentle: “Your lymph is a fragile network of vessels just beneath the skin, and unlike your circulation, it doesn’t have a heart to pump it along—it relies on movement,” she says. “Just use gentle manipulation to coax it along and help reduce the trapped pockets of fluid and waste that cause cellulite, bloat and heaviness.”
Read her top tips, below:
- The best time to start a flush is when your body is warm, so do it after a bath or shower when your body temperature is raised and skin supple. Before you step out of the shower, spritz your legs with intermittent blasts of warm and cool water—it helps give your circulation and lymph a kickstart.
- Dry vigorously with a towel—the gentle abrasion promotes the lymph.
- Using a dry body brush, start at your feet and whip the bristles lightly over skin—soles, bridge of your feet, calves, shins, behind knees, over thighs and over hips; then from the backs of your hands and up your arms to shoulders.
- All it requires is swift strokes—and it shouldn’t take more than a minute.
Elevate your legs
“Keeping your legs at a 90-degree angle also works,” Probyy-Holova advises. “Just make sure you keep them really high, not just resting on a coffee table.”
“Sitting with your legs crossed is one of the worst things you can do for your circulation and it’s bad for women’s health in general, so I advise avoiding this wherever possible,” says Probyy-Holova.
This article first appeared in British Vogue.