Remember that thing called a massage? Let me refresh your memory—you’re laid out in a dimly lit, well-scented room while a physical therapist or masseuse works their magic on tight limbs and achy muscles as you slowly, but surely doze off for the power nap of your dreams. Yea, those were the good ole days. Postpone the nail appointments and haircuts as long as you wish but I am literally pining for someone to work out the kinks of this year so far. (I know there are more important things to miss, like regularly scheduled time with friends and family, but come on: a woman needs her self-care moments, too.) It will probably be a long time before this happens again so for now, all I have is the unforgettable memory of my last lymphatic drainage massage (and the insane before and after) to hold me over.
In case you’re not familiar, lymphatic drainage massages are the Beyoncé of massages, full stop. The visible results are totally gratifying but they also leave you feeling like the best version of yourself, especially after a menstrual cycle that leaves you more bloated than usual. On a deeper level, lymphatic drainage massages reduce swelling, boost the digestive and immune systems, and help the body to better absorb nutrients.
According to Camila Perez, the beauty expert and massage therapist who put me onto lymphatic drainage massages, what separates them from other massage techniques is the overall focus. While most are meant to relax the muscles, “LDM is concentrated in the superficial layers of the skin since eighty percent of the system is located there,” she says. “The touch has to be very gentle due to the risk of damage the vessels if the therapist applies to much pressure. We also work on the stomach to stimulate the deep lymphatic system (which is the other twenty percent) and digestion.”
I’m not gonna lie—it felt weird at first and in certain spots, ever-so-slightly painful. A fantastic therapist like Perez will listen and adjust their pressure to your liking. (If they don’t, run.) Another component that makes an LDM feel like heaven on earth? Body oil. Lots of it. Of course, it helps with gliding and provides some aromatherapy if there’s fragrance, but some also carry benefits that complement this particular massage technique. For instance, Perez used Clarins because it’s “rich in ingredients that focus on skin tightening, nutrition, and hydration.”
Things got really interesting when she started cupping my legs. Admittedly, I was so relaxed that it didn’t distract me, but if you’ve never experienced it before, seeing special suction cups on your skin is bizarre. However, it’s also an ideal add-on if you can get it.
“The traditional [LDM] technique does not include cupping,” says Perez. “Since I trained in different methods, I like to combine elements that complement each other. The cupping releases the fascia, increasing blood and lymph circulation, and is also detoxifying; it’s a perfect combination!” From what I can remember, the entire sesh took just under an hour and I literally could not believe how much my body was holding onto after seeing this before/after:
As it turns out, the lymphatic vessels Perez targeted are very responsive to stimulation. “When you apply the right pressure,” she adds, “a structure called Anchorage Filament opens up the system’s collectors, and the fluids retained within the tissue get into the vessels immediately.” Combined with some fascia movements to increase contour, you’ll quite literally look like a brand new person.
Of course, recreating this on yourself is impossible, but there are some at-home techniques that deliver similar results. Baths with magnesium and Epsom salt followed by a body oil (like Clarins Contour Body Treatment Oil) are ideal. Perez also recommends incorporating a dry brush into your cleansing routine or even trying to occasionally lay down on your back with the legs elevated for 5 minutes (deep breathes included). And if all else fails, you can channel your inner masseuse by consulting Perez’s IGTV page for a how-to on giving yourself a lymphatic drainage massage. Personally, I can’t think of a better way to cap off a self-care day.
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