Here's What Happens When You Try "Cupping" On Your Face

We swallowed our fear of facial welts, and gave this trending service a go. 

"You can use a safe word." That's what D.C. Licensed Massage Therapist Lisa Schumacher said to me as she prepared glass cups for my micro-cupping facial.

Lisa was joking, but as I laid on the table, I was thinking about the angry welts on the backs of Michael Phelps and Gwyneth Paltrow, poster children for the rise of an ancient healing practice as a new wellness trend. Would that happen, but on my face?

Luckily, cupping facials are different than traditional cupping treatments. Instead of leaving the cup on my face in one spot the way you would with traditional cupping sessions, Lisa moved the little glass cup constantly as she created a vacuum seal. After using a warm towel to open pores and then putting oil on my face so the cup could glide, she slid a cup from my ear to my neck to clear a passageway for drainage. Then, thwack! I felt just a bit of pressure as the cup glided across one side of my face from nose to ear, making a funny noise at the end of each stroke.

"This really opens up your sinuses," Lisa said as she moved the cup along the top of my cheek. She used a tiny cup on my orbital bone, and then switched sides.

Not only did it not hurt at all—it was so relaxing, I could've fallen asleep.

Lisa likens facial cupping to giving your face a workout, as the treatment aids in circulation and brings in new vitality. She suggests it for her clients as a way to soften facial lines (hello, method to try before Botox) and recommends a package of more than a few treatments to really see results.

Out in LA, The Spa on Rodeo gets really booked during award season for facial cupping treatments to help fight puffiness immediately, and all year round as an alternative to fillers. The cupping therapists at The Spa on Rodeo explain how it works like this: “Fluid accumulates around fine lines, and facial cupping gently releases the trapped fluid, which is then directed to the lymph system (armpit area) to be released by the body.” Clients are also advised to do several treatments, as they’re cumulative, and twice-a-week treatments for three weeks is recommended.

Facial cupping could even help if you're slacking on a healthy lifestyle. In New York, celebrity facialist Ildi Pekar of Ildi Pekar Skin Care offers a $330 cupping facial with magnetic therapy. Ildi and her team put it this way: “Those who invest their time in a good diet, deep restoring sleep, and active excises can spread this treatment out. For others who eat the wrong foods, don’t sleep much, and aren’t very active can see great result coming in a few times a month.”

Good to know! I only had one facial micro-cupping treatment and beforehand, I looked at a book of before-and-after shots from Lisa’s clients which showed some impressive results (even with a 90-year-old client!). On the way out of our office. I ran into one of Lisa’s clients who has booked multiple cupping and facial rejuvenation massage treatments. “I like the relaxation part of it,” she said, saying that she had been breaking out for months in a particular area on her face. Now after several sessions, her skin has cleared up, she’s wearing less makeup, and she says she’s sleeping better.

As for my before-and-after results, my face looked redder but perhaps a bit more dewy post-treatment. And, I swear my jaw line seemed more defined. I showed the before-and-after photos to my husband, and he said he couldn’t tell a difference. So, take that for what you will. But the stress relief was definitely real.

Thinking of trying face cupping? Keep in mind if you have rosacea or thin skin, this might not be for you—and The Spa on Rodeo cupping therapists note that cupping can move the fluid under the skin, including fillers.

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