Facial cupping is the latest Youtube beauty trend claiming to be the answer to non-invasive anti-ageing. This is SO my bag. My love of facial gadgets and tools knows no bounds. The gua sha, face roller, ice roller, derma roller, at-home LED red light device, face yoga… I’ve tried them all. The timing of this couldn’t be better: it’s the 40th article I’ve written for URBANSWEAT, I happen to be in my 40s, and I’m one of the few remaining in my circle still resisting the lure of Botox and fillers… So this needle-phobic jumped at the chance to try facial cupping.
What is it?
Cupping is a traditional Chinese therapy, often used alongside acupuncture, which uses suction cups to increase blood flow, relax muscles and help with the lymphatic drainage of toxins. However, while the body version is mainly used for pain relief, facial cupping uses smaller cone-shaped cups to gently increase blood flow and help reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Both work on moving the “qi” (energy or life force) along the meridian lines of the body to improve it’s flow. As a beauty treatment, facial cupping can be done in-salon or at-home.
What’s the science behind it?
Firstly, the gentle suction stimulates blood flow and promotes new blood vessel formation. This creates a micro-trauma in the skin, triggering an inflammatory response (just like with derma-rolling and skin needling treatments). The skin reacts by making collagen to heal itself by plumping and filling out, strengthening skin and tissue. Suction creates a massage sensation which helps to tone the face by stimulating lymphatic drainage, helping reduce puffiness and muscle tension.
How do you do it?
I tried the 5-piece at-home Starter Kit (AU$105) by The Facial Cupping Expert, one of the UK-based pioneers of the therapy. It has two large cups for the cheeks, forehead, jaw and neck, two small ones for around the eyes, and a face oil. It’s a 3-week program to start, which I called my before-bed ‘skin gym’. Week 1: every night for 5 minutes. Week 2: every second night for 5 minutes. Week 3: three times a week for 5 minutes. Easy! Consistency is key when it comes to skincare. The last thing you want is a complicated routine at the end of a long day. After just a few tries I had the sequence down pat.
1. Start with a freshly-washed face. Straight out the shower is perfect as your pores will be open. The massaging action of cupping is said to help with product absorption.
2. Apply a couple of drops of any facial oil to the face and neck area. You could use serum if you prefer, but oil has better glide.
3. Following the face-map diagram, do one whole side of the face first before moving over to the other side. Start by pinching one of the plastic cups between your thumb and forefinger and squeezing tight. While still squeezing it closed, press it to your skin, creating a tight seal and then let go. This creates an air vacuum that sticks the cup to your face, picking up the skin under it. You’ll use a combination of suck-and-let-go and suck-and-drag moves. Use the larger cup down the neck and décolletage area. Then do the jawline, cheeks and forehead, moving up the face.
4. Switch to the smaller cup for around the eyes and mouth.
5. Once you’ve done one side entirely, switch to the other.
6. When you’ve finished, leave the oil to absorb or splash your face with water to refresh/cleanse. For extra hydration, apply a moisturiser or night cream afterward.
7. Clean the cups with soap and water or an alcohol spray. Pat dry or leave to air dry.
What’s it like?
At first, it feels intense. I noticed a slight redness with the first suck-and-drag – this is normal and goes away within a few hours. This is why many people prefer to do it at night. I have done it in the morning before though – it just looks like you’ve had a good workout or are wearing subtle blush. I quite liked the natural healthy glow as it meant I needed less makeup. I was super-cautious as I have sensitive skin and bruise easily. However, by Day 3 I was kind of weirdly craving the sensation. You do get used to it fast and can tolerate deeper suction after a few goes. You can literally feel it working deeper down in your skin with all of the fascia and connective tissues and it’s really satisfying.
Facial cupping definitely boosts circulation – you see “the glow” immediately, like after a great salon facial. For me, I felt like it did help smooth fine lines and wrinkles, decreased puffiness, and helped skin texture. After doing one side of my face, the difference between the ‘done’ side and the other side was subtle, but noticeable. My skin looked brighter, somehow more awake and lifted. I noticed it most around my eyes and cheekbones. It’s definitely something I’ll keep in my anti-ageing routine a few times a week. If nothing else, it just feels really nice & relaxing, and weirdly I think I became addicted to the sucking sensation. It feels like you’re gently vacuuming the fat off your face – or maybe that’s just what I wishfully visualised? Either way, for me it’s preferable to a needle, laser or scalpel.
Drink plenty of water before and after. Cupping will stimulate your lymphatic system to help purge toxins, in the same way any kind of massage will. You may feel this more after some sessions than others – a lightheaded and slightly nauseous sensation, which quickly passes. I noticed it most in the beginning.
Always use a face oil to help the cups glide easily on the skin. It’s important to keep the cups moving and not suctioning in one spot for too long – facial bruising is rare, but can occur.
Don’t do cupping on broken, sore or irritated skin, or if you have breakouts.
Stick with it and do it consistently. Non-invasive anti-ageing practices are not a wham-bam treatment – it’s more of a painless small lifestyle commitment where you see cumulative visible results over time.
Click here to watch a cupping demo from Sakina Di Pace, The Facial Cupping Expert herself, demonstrating the quick and easy 15-minute routine.
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