With spa treatments still limited and the need for self-care at an all-time high, we’ll take any chance we get to incorporate a new wellness practice into our routine. We’re especially interested in practices that gently support the body’s detoxification—bonus points if it comes with beauty benefits. From foam rolling to massage, the lymphatic drainage massage deserves attention.
Regular lymphatic drainage sessions can strengthen the immune system, help reduce cellulite, and improve your mood, all while sculpting the body.
To get the scoop on everything lymphatic massage, we chatted with Gianna de La Torre, acupuncturist and co-founder of Wildling, a holistic beauty brand that focuses on beautiful, thoughtfully-crafted tools for time-tested skin rituals. (Their Instagram is one of my favorite spots for gua sha tutorials). Gianna de la Torre is a wealth of knowledge, having been in the wellness industry for 20 years, first as a yoga teacher, then an acupuncturist, and most recently as a Wildling co-founder. She is passionate about easy practices you can do at home to improve your health and well-being and gently support your body and beauty routine.
Join us as we dive into lymphatic massage and learn everything from what it is exactly to how you can do it yourself at home.
How did you find yourself in the world of holistic wellness and journey into gua sha?
My interest in wellness started when I was a child. My dad is a doctor and I grew up going to extravagant meetings hosted by drug companies. I’ll just say that was enough to send me on a journey toward alternative medicine. I went to four years of acupuncture school—not many people know that it requires nearly 100 more hours than medical school. Gua sha was my first love of Chinese Medicine because I was able to use the technique effectively as a student to reduce pain, fever, and illness in my patients. It’s an incredibly powerful healing modality but is also a tool used safely at home.
The lymphatic system doesn’t pump itself so it relies on us moving our bodies or doing massage for proper circulation.
At Wildling, we are passionate about sharing simple gua sha rituals that help you look and feel better in a relatively short period of time. We created a beautiful dry brush and a body gua sha stone specifically for this. We call it the Aura Ritual.
What is the lymphatic system and why is supporting it important?
The lymphatic system is a network of vessels in the body that carry waste material out of the tissues to detoxify the body. In our culture, it has garnered a lot of attention lately because it’s easy to live a stagnant lifestyle.
If we work at desk jobs, eat unhealthfully, and suffer from poor digestion, it’s a recipe for suboptimal fluid metabolism.
This is one of the reasons that we look or feel puffy. The biggest lymph in the body is the Spleen. According to Chinese medicine, the Spleen Qi is damaged by eating too many sweets, sitting, worrying, overthinking, etc. Does this sound anything like 2020?
What is lymphatic drainage massage?
Lymphatic drainage massage, or manual lymphatic drainage, is a specific technique that is done by licensed massage therapists. I’m more interested in teaching regular, nonprofessional people how to encourage lymphatic movement in their own bodies so that they can feel and look better.
What benefits does it offer?
It encourages lymphatic flow, relieves tension, and it also breaks up the fascia adhesions in the tissue that create cellulite.
Cellulite isn’t really about fat, it’s about fascia (connective tissue).
Dry brushing also exfoliates the skin. The result is toned, smooth, sculpted skin.
The benefits of lymphatic massage include:
- Stimulated blood circulation and tissue regeneration
- Boosted immune system by supporting the elimination of toxins
- Speed up healing from sicknesses like a cold or the flu
- Increased lymphatic flow, promoting faster removal of excess fluid
- Reduced swelling and water retention and cellulite
- Improved scar tissue, once and stretch marks
- Improved digestive issues
- Promoted body and mental relaxation
- Reduced stress and fatigue, leaving the body energized
- Help with post-exercise recovery
- Reduce joint inflammation and pain
Are there any side effects?
Since you’re simply supporting your body’s natural lymph movement, there isn’t much risk involved. However, be sure to always move the lymph towards the actual lymph nodes for proper flushing. Move upwards towards the heart on your limbs, towards your armpits for the chest, and down your core towards your groin. Be sure to consult with your physician if you are pregnant or have any underlying conditions.
How to do it yourself:
Lymphatic massage strokes are gentle, light, slow, rhythmic, and nurturing. You want to move lightly and intentionally rather than hard and fast. Try to massage the fluid in one direction: toward the lymph nodes (see image below the instructions for reference on where the lymph nodes are), generally not in circles. Make the practice meditative and relaxing with deep belly breaths as you move through the massage—it’s actually quite simple once you get it down.
Watch the lymphatic drainage massage tutorial below to see how you can perform this yourself at home or read on for the breakdown:
STEP ONE: Detoxify + Dry Brush
- Dry brushing stimulates lymphatic flow and warms up the tissues for gua sha. Use before a shower. Think up the limbs and down the core.
- Using gentle short upward strokes starting at your ankles and moving up your leg (think of motions like you’re shaving).
- Next, do the same motion moving from wrists to shoulders.
- Follow with gentle circular strokes in a clockwise motion around the stomach (starting from your right side, over the top of your belly button, and down the left side).
- Finish your core with downwards strokes from shoulders to the groin.
STEP TWO: Moisturize
- Moisturize with your favorite body oil (we love this one or this one) or lotion before moving to the next step. This creates slip and ensures the tool will slide across the body rather than pulling.
STEP THREE: Release + Smooth
- Following the dry brush steps with your gua sha or body tool, use upward strokes from ankle up over the bum, from wrist to shoulder.
- Move to your chest and do rounded strokes over and under each breast moving towards the armpits.
- Repeat the circular motions around the stomach.
- Finish with strokes around the core, moving from shoulder to the groin.
image via Emma Lyddon
The lymph nodes are notated in the image above by the small dark dots. When in doubt, move your flushing motions towards the nodes.
Is there an optimal time of day to do it?
Nope, anytime is great. Ideally, you would incorporate it into your shower routine, but this isn’t mandatory.
How can you expect to feel afterward?
Invigorated and energized, like you’ve had a massage. The results from one session are subtle and are cumulative over time, but expect to feel light and look smoother and a bit more contoured. Don’t be surprised if you have to pee after, as the massage is literally moving fluid out. Also, since you are moving toxins, be sure to drink a big glass of water before and/or after to keep yourself properly hydrated and support your lymphatic system.
What tools will you need for it?
A dry brush and a gua sha or other body tool. We love the Aura Collection for an all-in-one option.
Scroll on to shop some of our favorite tools for lymphatic drainage:
A multi-action body gua sha the Aura Stone is designed to stimulate lymph flow, help to release muscle tension, and smooth the fascia.
This four-part bodywork routine includes everything you need to help soothe skin, release tension and stimulate lymph flow throughout the body. The set includes the Aura Stone, the Aura Sweeper (a dry brush for the body), the Aura Activator (a body serum), and Aura Oil (a body oil).
Made from 100% pine, we love the unique shape of this tool and how the curves perfectly fit the different contours of the body.
Designed specifically for the body, the textured roller breaks up fascia to reveal smoother, more toned skin.
Made of beech wood, this body crescent is designed to perfectly curve across the body and stimulate the lymphatic and circulatory systems.
We love the long handle on this for reaching all those hard-to-reach spots.
Sleek and simple, the curve in this brush gives the perfect pressure without being too intense and damaging the skin.