By Kali Kushner
What is Cupping Therapy?
Thanks to good ole Michael Phelps in the 2016 summer Olympics, I'm sure we have all heard about it by now. Yeah, I know, I know It's 2017, I'm a little late on the trend okay? BUT cupping has been around for a LONG time (yes, even before Phelps); it's an ancient technique dating back to 15,500 BC that uses glass or silicone cups as a form of deep tissue massage to help with back pain, inflammation, tight muscles, and total body detox. Some people even say that body cupping helps with depression, fatigue, and anxiety. Pretty crazy claims if you ask me but I am a firm believer that we are connected, mind, body, and spirit- so maybe that tid bit has some amount of truth to it.
Here is what's really interesting- apparently, the same cupping technique that has been infamously used to relieve back pain can be applied to your face as well to help with TMJ, migraines, signs of aging, lymph node drainage, anddddd- acne.
Like everything in life, I had absolutely no clue this was even a thing until I began seeing YouTube and Instagram beauty gurus posting about it all over the interwebs. "Okay, sureeee this little cup works to reduce acne & scarring, yeah right" I thought to myself doubtingly as I watched a girl with near perfect skin slide little suction cups over her entire face. It seemed too gimmicky to be true and that's usually how I start finding myself going down the rabbit hole. I wanted to know if the claims were true, and if so to what extent? I instantly knew I had to try it for myself.
When I first set out to review this product I was mainly focused on the effects of facial cupping and if it could really help to reduce acne. However, the kit I received came with one set of facial cups AND one set of body cups, each cup being a different size from the next. From the description and the photo of the product online I assumed all four blue silicone cups would be for facial cupping. Nope, there's two of each; thanks to Amazon we are just going to roll with it and review both facial, and body dry cupping. (If you're interested in the cupping set I am reviewing, you can purchase it here).
For the body cupping, I tried to follow these general charts as to where to place the cups as best as I could . It was pretty difficult to get the cups to stick right smack dab in the middle of my back but once I did, I could totally see why everyone has been raving about it. The sensation was definitely weird and I could feel my shoulder muscles loosen up but there wasn’t an immediate sense of relief from the pain like I was expecting. I left each cup on for 10 minutes and then gently removed them. Towards the end of each session the pulling sensation from the cups would start to feel a little uncomfortable, like a bunch of mega hickies all over my back. It was never unbearable but I was definitely feeling a lil' somethin' somethin' if you know what I mean.
On my face I gently massaged the cups in an upward motion following the contours of my cheekbones and jawline. It was sort of painful to begin with because I wasn’t really sure what I was doing but after about five minutes I started to get the hang of things. I decided that I wanted to see what was going on inside the cup. I peeked through the see-through silicone and saw a bunch of skin being pulled upward into a big bright red knot. Not going to lie I almost lost my dinner, bad decision. It feels pretty good, like a deep tissue face massage but I wouldn’t recommend looking at it for very long unless you have a strong stomach. I was scared that this technique would leave marks on my face so I chose to do it at night, and when I woke up my face looked completely normal.
I was thrilled to wake up and see my results, I not only jumped out of bed but I sprinted to the hallway mirror. The amazing thing about cupping is that wherever your back is in the most pain, or your body has least mobility, you'll be able to see it through the variance of the bruises. Although all cups are left on for the same exact amount of time, the area where your blood is the most "stagnant" (typically where you experience pain) will bruise the most.
Take my back for example, I was in a car accident when I was in high school and it really messed up my right shoulder, the cupping kisses prove that by showing an extremely dark mark where I feel the most pain on a day to day basis. My back was pretty sore that day but it was bearable, wherever my bruising was the most extreme I felt the greatest discomfort.
When I woke up and saw my face I didn't honestly think it looked any different from how it normally appeared. I decided since the redness went away quickly that I would try it in the morning that day. I went in with the same carrier oil I had previously been using, jojoba oil, and began working the cups in the same upward motion, spending about seven minutes or so on each section of my face. My skin was beet red but it disappeared within 25-30 minutes leaving me with a "I've been juicing for months" glow. I could SEE the difference. My skin tone looked more even and some superficial scars even appeared less shallow. At this point I wasn't sure if cupping during the night or daytime had the most benefits so I decided to swap back and forth each day.
Oddly when I woke up on the third day my back was the sorest it has been in a LOOOONGGG time. I was in serious pain. But it was good pain! Because that meant the cupping was working to heal the inflammation inside my body and increase blood flow to that affected area. I don't know if it'll be a long-term solution or not but I am feeling optimistic due to the results. I was also seriously exhausted which is apparently another weird side effect from cupping, a sign that your body is releasing built up toxins and that you need to rest and recuperate.
Back at it again with the facial cupping, I felt more secure in what I was doing at this point. I decided seven minutes was the perfect amount of time to work each section of my face; left cheek, right cheek, forehead, nose and chin. I noticed immediately after the cupping session my face looked slimmer, as if my cheekbones had greater definition, and I wasn’t mad about it. I began to wonder if the effects of facial cupping were temporary, I'd always see a glow on my face but I felt that it didn’t last more than a few hours.
The pain I was experiencing from the body cupping was fading away, I wasn't really feeling the negative effects anymore at this point. My shoulder and back continued to feel less tense, so I was happy to still be feeling all of the positive effects from cupping (no tight muscles, less inflammation, etc.). I was still extremely tired though, I figured that meant I should continue to take it easy and get some rest and relaxation for the next couple of days.
I switched back to the daytime for my facial cupping routine, it was hard to squeeze it in before school since It takes about 30 minutes to do your entire face and 30 minutes for the redness to calm down. With an 8 am class it can be hard enough to wake up for breakfast let alone facial cupping, thinking this is definitely something that will become a part of my night time routine at this point. I did notice that again, the texture of my skin appeared smoother and my face had a nice glow to it.
Today I was in almost complete relief from the negative effects of body cupping, there was no longer any tiredness or pain. I was more than ready for my next session and tempted to start one but read that its best to wait at least a week so your body can fully heal and be ready for the next round. My shoulder muscles still seemed pretty loose compared to their tight as a board average.
From this point on it made the most sense for me to practice facial cupping at night due to my poor morning time management skills. After my 30-minute cupping ritual I found that I could breathe clearer and my tension headache was almost completely gone. I was pretty stuffy beforehand and had a lot of drainages. (Partially my fault because I decided it was a good idea to rewatch The Fault in Our Stars and it made me babble like a baby, per usual.)
My back feels amazing! I'm not even kidding, I haven't had this much back pain relief in years. If only I had known about this whole cupping fiasco years ago! The mobility in my shoulder feels like it's been restored and I have had an increased amount of physical endurance during my workouts. Basically, feeling like a kween.
I had woken up with a few new spots, disappointed that perhaps cupping was actually making my skin worse. I know that new products take time to show a difference and that it could possibly be my body adjusting to this new technique but, like any chronic acne sufferer, I am always paranoid when trying out new skincare products. I did the usual 30-minute cupping routine and found that the redness in my face actually disappeared more quickly this time, only staying red for about 10 minutes. I accidentally left one of the cups on a spot I had for too long and it sucked all of the gunk out, pretty satisfying stuff to watch though I don't think that could possibly be good for your skin.
My back is still feeling prime and I am ready to give back cupping another go around! There are no set-in stone rules when it comes to cupping; you could have it done daily, every other day, once a week, twice a month, you get the picture. I feel that its best to listen to your own body's needs, give yourself time to heal in-between sessions, and start out slow. I used the same technique, leaving the cups in place for about 10 minutes, however, this time I decided to focus only on my upper back and shoulders. The marks left behind don't appear to be as red but I am overly excited for tomorrow, when I get to see the true results of my cupping therapy.
The angry spots on my face from yesterday seemed to die down a little, except the one spot I accidentally left the cup on for too long- that one has scabbed up rather ferociously. You live and you learn I guess! I paid special attention to that area while cupping and worked the rest of my face gently (as gentle as possible with these suction loving cuppies) and noticed again, the redness dying down after about 10 minutes. I am starting to believe that my face was used to the increased blood flow and that my skin is loving it! My scars definitely look less visible after a session, but I don't think it’s a permanent fix.
My Final Thoughts on Cupping Therapy:
Body cupping proves to be an effective solution at releasing tight muscles and built up the tension, giving you an increase in mobility and overall a boost in energy. I would recommend back cupping to anyone that experiences chronic neck or back pain on a day to day basis. I have felt such a great sense of relief in my shoulders since starting one week ago and an increased amount of energy. I can't wait to continue treatment and watch my results grow from here. The only downside is that this set only came with two body cups so you have to wait for one area to be finished before you can move onto the next, which can be pretty time-consuming. I plan on buying a cupping set with multiple body cups within the next couple of days so I can resume treatment quickly.
Facial cupping is just another Instagram gimmick to me, it is fun and you can definitely see SOME temporary results (a nice glow, scarring appearing to be lifted, small wrinkles decreased) but I don't think that it is a permanent fix for acne or scarring. I will use it every now and then but I don't think that it's something I would realistically reach for every day.
Personally, I think you would have to use it for at least a month to see even a little bit of improvement. I do have TMJ, and I think it's important to note that I didn't experience any relief with that. This might be a fun idea for a sleepover or for giving a facial to a friend, but other than that I don't think I'll be using it again except for special occasions when I want my skin to look extra glowy.
Giveaway: To kick off our new blog redesign launch - We'll be hosting giveaways in each of our featured blog posts! Articles that were written by Brigid or Kali will be open for a giveaway to win a pumpkin enzyme masque! To enter: Just comment below something that you learned from reading this post! We'll pick a winner at the end of the day! No Spam posts!
Kali Kushner, known as the Instagram alias myfacestory, is a natural beauty advocate in the greater Cincinnati area who is passionate about using organic skincare and holistic remedies to heal acne from the inside out. Her dedication lies in her own chronic acne struggles as she continues to restore herself while helping those around her.