Would you like to improve the look and feel of your skin without having to resort to invasive surgical procedures or toxic fillers? Facial cupping is an alternative therapy you can do at home.
Its proponents believe that it increases blood circulation, stimulates skin and muscles, helps relieve muscle tension, improves the flow of your Qi (chi), promotes cell repair, and regeneration.
- What Is Face Cupping?
- The History of Cupping
- How Does Facial Cupping Work?
- Face Cupping Benefits
- How to Do Face Cupping at Home
- The Basic Steps of Facial Cupping
- How Often Should You Do Facial Cupping on Yourself?
- The Do’s and Don’ts of Facial Cupping
- Cupping Has a Place in Alternative Medicine
What Is Face Cupping?
You may have already heard of cupping. Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston have both been spotted with the telltale circular marks. Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimmer, also raised awareness of it during the 2016 Olympics. The round, red marks on his back revealed he had recently enjoyed cupping therapy. (1)(2)
Supporters of body cupping say it increases circulation and blood flow, decreases inflammation, drains lymph systems, detoxifies, and rejuvenates tired muscles.
People often wonder, does facial cupping leave marks? The good news is that no, it doesn’t because it’s a less intense version of body cupping. For the process, you use small silicone cups, rather than the large glass ones typically used for body cupping. The benefits are similar, with the bonus of younger-looking, glowing skin.
How to Do Facial Cupping
You gently pull the silicone cups over the skin to create a vacuum, which lifts your facial tissues. It’s very similar to having a facial massage. But instead of using compression, cupping is the inverse of that.
The History of Cupping
One of the oldest medical textbooks in the world, the Ebers Papyrus, written in 1550 BC, makes reference to cupping. It includes descriptions of how Egyptians used cupping to cure medical issues. (3)
Hippocrates, a Greek physician, also used the technique in 400 BC to treat internal disease and some structural problems. (4)
Traditional Chinese medicine has widely used cupping for thousands of years. Descriptions of the treatment were found as early as 281 CE when hollowed animal horns were used to drain toxins from the body. (5)
By 618–907 CE, it was commonly used to treat tuberculosis. A minor southern official Ge Hong (281–341 AD), during the Jin Dynasty, said: “Acupuncture and cupping, more than half of the ills cured.” Cupping still forms an important part of traditional Chinese medicine, and exponents often use it alongside acupuncture and moxibustion. (6)
Native American and Islamic medicine have also used cupping. The materials they made the cups from included bronze, tin, glass, or animal horn.
If you visited a public bath between the 1500s and the late 1800s, they might have offered you cupping as a treatment. It would have been used to treat a range of conditions, including colds and flu, indigestion, chest pains, and muscular problems. (7)
How Does Facial Cupping Work?
Using the silicone cups on your face creates a suction effect. When this happens, they pull blood from the deepest layers of your face, up and out to the surface. The tissue of your face is awash with fresh blood, which has a rejuvenating effect.
The sucking motion also drains your lymph nodes and increases the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the skin. Microtrauma and tearing of the skin also takes place. Your body responds to this by flooding the area with platelets, white blood cells, and other healing and inflammatory responses.
Unlike body cupping, facial cupping does not cause bruising. This is because you do not leave the suction cups in one place. The cups have to be continually moving on the face. This can happen because you use a facial serum or oil to lubricate your skin.
Face Cupping Benefits
Advocates of facial cupping claim numerous benefits. These include:
- Increases blood circulation to the head and neck.
- Drains stagnant fluid from the face.
- Reduces edema and puffiness.
- Prevents and reduces facial lines and wrinkles.
- Increases the circulation and absorption of nutrients by the skin.
You should be able to see the results immediately after your cupping treatment. Your face will look and feel plumper and noticeably lifted. The stimulation your skin receives encourages the blood to flow more freely in your face.
Follow the specific movements and facial lines with the cups and it allows for a more lifted, sculpted, and toned face. The cupping action draws your skin up and back. The action also stimulates collagen production.
If your face is feeling puffy, it could be because you have a lymphatic blockage. Cupping drains lymphatic fluid, decreases excess fluid, and reduces swelling in your face. (8)
Cupping is a procedure that opens up your pores. Therefore, if you receive a treatment straight after the process, more absorption and deep cleansing can take place. If you visit a professional for your facial cupping, they often include other treatments in the session.
Can You Do Face Cupping for Acne?
Face cupping is, unfortunately, not a cure for acne, but it has the potential to help. Body cupping, on the other hand, has been shown to be very successful. (9)
How to Do Face Cupping at Home
Facial cupping is available at beauty salons, and there are practitioners you can visit. It’s also something you can do at home with the right equipment and knowledge. The results are almost instant, but it is a short-term solution and the plumping and lifting action caused by the cups won’t last long.
It is, however, an effective ritual to include in your skincare routine because it promotes a healthier and more radiant complexion. If you have sensitive skin, face cupping might not be the best treatment. It’s also best to avoid facial cupping if you’ve had fillers. The suction action could cause some displacement.
What You Need to Start Facial Cupping at Home
Are you wondering how to do facial cupping? Let’s walk you through the process.
To try face cupping at home, you need two facial cups and some serum or oil. The cups are available in two sizes, one small and one large. The smaller one is for the more delicate areas of your face, such as around the eyes. The larger cup is for wider areas such as your cheeks and brow.
Where to Buy Cupping Cups?
You can buy cupping cups from many different online retail stores. They can also be found in certain beauty, massage, and health stores.
Different materials are used to make the cups, for example, glass, ceramic, and silicone. There are also cups that use a machine to create the suction action. When you’re starting at home, a basic kit that contains one small and one large silicone cup is all you really need.
A lubricant is the only other thing you need. You can spend lots of money buying special serums, but olive oil, sunflower oil, or other skin lotions work just as well. The purpose of the lubricant is to allow you to pull the silicone cups gently over the surface of your skin.
The Basic Steps of Facial Cupping
1. Cleanse, Exfoliate, and Moisturize
Before you start, thoroughly cleanse, exfoliate, and moisturize your skin. What you use to moisturize your skin is a personal preference. Be careful not to use too much oil because the cups will be too slippery, and suction will be less efficient.
2. Use the Right Amount of Lubricant
After a few tries, you should be able to get the amount of lubricant just right. Start with a few drops of oil and use more as necessary. Once you’ve applied the lubricant and massaged it into your face, remember to wash your hands or you’ll have problems grasping the cups.
3. The Suction Effect
The next step is the most difficult one. It will feel strange at first, but you’ll soon get used to it. To achieve the suction effect, you place the cup on your face, squeeze it in the middle, and release.
4. Pull From the Jawline Along the Chin
Start with the larger of the two cups, and once suction has been achieved, pull it gently across your skin. Begin along the jawline and sweep up along the chin, sides of the mouth, and cheekbones towards your ears.
5. Always Move From the Center of Your Face Outwards
Pull the cup from the center of your face outwards and upwards with short sweeps. From your ears and temple points, draw the cups down along the side of your face towards your neck. Pulling the cups in these directions across your face encourages the correct flow of lymphatic fluid.
6. Repeat Across the Forehead
Repeat the action sweeping from the brow bone outwards to the sides of the temples and then down along the side of your face towards your neck. Remember to take short strokes, so you’re not overstretching your skin. Keep the cups moving all the time to avoid bruising.
7. Use the Smaller Cup on the More Delicate Areas
Use the smaller cup to make even shorter sweeps near the region of your eyes and the fine lines around your mouth. Be very careful around your eyes as the skin there is delicate.
How Often Should You Do Facial Cupping on Yourself?
Less is more with facial cupping. It’s recommended that you should do it once a week. A facial cupping session should only last 10 minutes, no longer.
Are There Any Risks or Side Effects?
In general, facial cupping is considered a safe procedure, although you need to take care if you’re performing it on yourself. Minor side effects have been realized by a few people. You might feel nauseous, dizzy, lightheaded, or have cold sweats. You may experience these symptoms during or immediately after facial cupping.
It’s advisable not to have facial cupping if you have broken or inflamed skin. Similarly, you shouldn’t have face cupping if you have a rash, sore skin, or a breakout—facial cupping could exacerbate these conditions.
Bruising is also a risk. That being said, if done correctly, it shouldn’t leave bruises at all. If you experience bruising, it tends to be because the cup is left in one place for too long. Just a few seconds in one place can lead to discoloration. Therefore, it’s crucial you keep the cup gliding across your skin at all times.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Facial Cupping
Lubricate Your Skin
It doesn’t really matter what lubricant you use as long as you use plenty of it. If you use an oil-based cleanser as part of your skin cleansing routine, this is fine to use for cupping. Likewise, an oil you already have in your kitchen cupboard will also work well. Don’t worry about using too much as you can always wash it off afterward.
Keep the Cup Moving
Allowing the cup to sit in one place for longer than two seconds might lead to bruising. The areas most prone to bruising are the forehead and eye areas. The fleshier areas such as your cheeks and chin are less likely to bruise.
Suction Should Be Low
It’s best if you use a clear silicone cup because you can see how much suction is being created. You’ll be able to see the mound of skin that gets sucked up into the cup. Keep this mound on the low side, especially if you’re doing it at home. Err on the side of caution if you’re not sure.
Facial Cupping Isn’t For Everyone
It’s a therapy that’s been practiced for thousands of years, but it doesn’t suit everyone. Facial cupping is not for you if: (10)
- You have broken capillaries.
- You have blood disorders or anemia.
- You’re prone to bruising.
- You have a history of blood clotting.
- If you have embolism issues.
Always Move Along the Lymphatic Pathways
You should always move toward the sides of your face or up for lifting. To help move stagnant lymph, move the cup down around the sides of your face towards your neck.
Never move the cup down onto your neck and over your veins. Your veins have their own function to perform, and cupping will only interfere with the process.
Cupping Has a Place in Alternative Medicine
Facial cupping is an alternative treatment that is helping many people around the world. You can visit an experienced practitioner, and you can also do it at home. You require very little equipment, just two silicone cupping cups. Everything else you need, for example, lubricant and cleansing treatments, you’ve probably already got at home.
If you’re unsure about any steps of the treatment, it’s advisable to reach out to an experienced practitioner. They’ll be able to give you advice and offer guidance.
- Sorry Olympians, but Gwyneth Paltrow was cupping way before you; Insider.com
- Why Michael Phelps Is Gaga for Cupping; Time.com
- Furhad, S., & Bokhari, A. A. (2019). Cupping Therapy.
- Hijama, or Cupping. Greekmedicine.net
- Mehta, P., & Dhapte, V. (2015). Cupping therapy: A prudent remedy for a plethora of medical ailments. Journal of traditional and complementary medicine, 5(3), 127-134.
- The Many Benefits of Chinese Cupping; Pacificcollege.edu
- Cupping; Broughttolife.sciencemuseum.org.uk
- Lymphatic obstruction; Medlineplus.gov
- Cao, H. J., Yang, G. Y., Wang, Y. Y., & Liu, J. P. (2013). Acupoint stimulation for acne: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Medical acupuncture, 25(3), 173-194.
- Everything You Need to Know About Facial Cupping; Healthline.com
Featured Image: Photo taken from BBTO’s Cupping Facial Set as seen on Amazon.