Cupping is an alternative therapy that uses suction cups to stimulate your skin and muscles. It can be done on your face or body.
The suction promotes increased blood circulation, which may help relieve muscle tension, promote cell repair, and aid in other regeneration.
It's also said to improve the flow of your “qi” (pronounced “chee”). Qi is a Chinese word meaning life force.
Although the practice is deeply ingrained in Traditional Chinese Medicine, some researchers say that the earliest pictorial records originated in ancient Egypt.
Is facial cupping the same as body cupping?
Yes and no. Although they’re based on the same principle of restoration, facial and body cupping are executed differently.
Facial cups are typically smaller and softer. They're used to gently pull the skin away from deeper layers of fascia. This increases blood flow to the area and rejuvenates the skin without leaving cup marks behind.
“Over time this practice improves the complexion and diminishes fine lines and wrinkles,” says Ananda Emily Reese, LAc, of Reese Acupuncture.
Body cupping, on the other hand, is primarily used to alleviate aches and pains.
Cup marks are almost always left behind, but they do serve a diagnostic purpose; the size, shape, and color are said to reflect the amount of “stagnation” or cellular waste buildup. These marks fade as your lymphatic system processes the waste.
How does it work?
The suction effect pulls blood into the area of skin underneath the cup. This saturates the surrounding tissue with fresh blood and promotes new blood vessel formation.
Cupping also promotes sterile inflammation. Sterile inflammation is a form of pathogen-free trauma. With cupping, it results from mechanical trauma.
The vacuum-like suction separates different layers of tissues, resulting in microtrauma and tearing. This triggers an inflammatory response, flooding the area with white blood cells, platelets, and other healing aids.
What are the benefits?
Facial cupping has been shown to:
- increase oxygen-rich blood circulation
- strengthen skin and connective tissues
- stimulate cells responsible for collagen production
- relax muscle tension
Because of this, the practice is said to:
- brighten skin
- minimize the appearance of scars, fine lines, and wrinkles
- tone chin, jawline, neck, and décolletage
- decrease puffiness
- regulate oil production
- improve nutrient delivery and product absorption
Will it leave bruises?
Facial cupping shouldn't leave bruises. However, bruising can occur if the cup is left in the same place for too long. Reese says that discoloration can occur in as little as five seconds, so make sure you keep the cup moving.
Are there any other side effects or risks?
Although facial cupping is generally considered safe, minor side effects are possible. They typically occur during or immediately after the treatment.
You may experience temporary:
- cold sweats
What should I expect from my appointment?
Your overall experience will depend on your individual provider's style of practice.
If your provider only offers facial cupping, your session may be as short as 10 minutes. If they pair cupping with other therapies, your session may last 30 minutes or more.