Perhaps there’s a reason why so many supermodels hail from Brazil — they know the secret to achieving a contoured, slimmer body. That secret? Lymphatic drainage massage. This transformative treatment has recently become popular stateside with celebrities, influencers, and (of course) models, but Brazilian women have been swearing by it for decades. It’s said to deliver sculpted torsos and legs with significantly reduced bloat.
[Editor’s note: As always, talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment.]
It sounds too good to be true. However, you’ll find that there are myriad before-and-after photos on Instagram® that show mesmerizingly dramatic results. The woman behind many of them in Hollywood is Brazilian born-and-trained esthetician and lymphatic drainage specialist Camila Perez. Her main residence is in Miami, but she travels to both NYC and LA regularly to debloat everyone from Kim Kardshian to Bella Hadid — and now me.
Perez massages clients with a mix of lymphatic drainage techniques, deep strokes, and cupping to achieve a flowing lymphatic system and a more svelte physique. While, yes, I had seen the amazing before-and-after photos floating around online, I was unsure what to expect going into my first lymphatic drainage session: How is it different from regular massage? Will it hurt? Does everyone see results? Will I accidentally pee mid-treatment?
For starters, what differentiates lymphatic drainage massage from other types of massages like deep tissue is the emphasis on draining your lymphatic system. One of the primary functions of your lymphatic system is to clear out toxins and waste buildup in your tissues, which can lead to bloating. “Lymphatic drainage massage is manual stimulation and pumping to increase the flow of the lymphs,” Perez explains. “Depending on lifestyle and food choices, cells can put out too much waste and the lymphs alone can’t fully cleanse them, which is why we stimulate them.”
The quick strokes of the massage are meant to replicate the pumps of the human heart — the organ that every stroke is guided towards. Your masseuse’s movements help guide the waste through your system faster than your body can, so your lymph nodes — and bacteria-fighting white blood cells — can destroy it, resulting in a slimmer look.
As my appointment was right after a weekend of eating Jon and Vinny’sTM; pizza, and a day of wine tasting, I knew Perez had her fair share of lymphs to stimulate and drain. Ahead are eight things I learned (and everyone should know!) about this unique treatment. I’m willing to bet that after reading this, you’ll be as obsessed as I am with lymphatic drainage massage.
Lymphatic Massage Fact #1: It Shouldn’t Be Painful
Before my appointment, I consulted with several friends who had seen different therapists for lymphatic drainage massage. They’d told me that it was pretty painful, especially in the abdomen region, but the results were worth it. To my surprise, Perez was incredibly gently to the touch. “Lymphatic drainage requires the right amount of pressure,” she explains. “You can increase the flow by gently pumping the lymphs and then creating movement, always towards the heart.” Although the massage wasn’t painful, there were some moments that had an it’s working feeling, especially when she used cupping on my thighs, which helps with cellulite and blood flow.
Lymphatic Massage Fact #2: It Boosts Your Immune System
The whole responsibility of the lymph system is to cleanse the body. A healthy and clean lymph system helps move white blood cells, which ultimately boosts your immunity. The more consistent you are with lymphatic drainage massage, the cleaner and more protected your system should be. This makes a good case to start skipping out on pricey wellness juice shots and, instead, opt for monthly lymphatic drainage massages.
Lymphatic Massage Fact #3: You Should Refrain From Lymphatic Drainage When Sick
On the other side of the coin, it’s best to skip out on lymphatic drainage if you are actively sick. That includes any ailment from the flu or a serious autoimmune disease to cancer. Because this massage causes the lymph to flow throughout the body, it could spread whatever illness you’re suffering from, too. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Lymphatic Massage Fact #4: Consistency Is Key for Aesthetic Results
Many people book lymphatic massages for those model-worthy slimming and contouring benefits — which I saw after just one session. That said, if you want to maintain those results, Perez notes that appointment frequency plays a major role. To stay looking like your “after” photo, you’ll need to commit to at least one to two appointments a week. This could get pricey, as treatments start at $300. For some people, the dramatic, non-invasive results could be worth it. If you’re more about detoxifying and resetting your body, monthly appointments are the way to go.
Lymphatic Massage Fact #5: You Can Stimulate Your Lymphs at Home
While DIY techniques aren’t quite as comparable to having a professional perform lymphatic drainage massage on you, there are ways to boost your blood circulation and lymph system at home. Dry brushing — an ancient ritual that consists of literally brushing the skin with a bristled brush to stimulate blood flow — is an easy and effective way to start. Simply do it a few times a week. Perez also recommends the De La HeartTM; Lymphatic Drainage Wood Paddle ($24) which she prefers for at-home maintenance. In her opinion, it’s the best option in lieu of an in-person treatment. You use it the same way you would a dry brush — just be sure to guide your massage towards the heart, directing every stroke toward the center of the body to promote circulation.
Lymphatic Massage Fact #6: Your Body Is Active for 48 Hours After
I knew that drinking water both before and after my treatment was essential to help my body flush the toxins out. What I didn’t know is that the body continues working on the results of your massage for 48 hours after the treatment. For this reason, Perez advises clients to consume less salt, sugar, and carbs post-appointment to get the most out of a session (these foods can all promote bloating). She also encourages light exercise and stretching like yoga, pilates, or walking to help stimulate blood flow.
Alternatively, Perez advises that you stay away from strenuous activities like heavy lifting, as it could cause muscle soreness. You can also incorporate a detox tea into your routine — we’re fans of the Sakara® Life blend ($20) — and apply essential oils like citrus, rosemary, and clove to your skin to promote even more lymphatic drainage.
Lymphatic Massage Fact #7: It Helps Reduce Stress
We know that stress is the silent devil that wreaks havoc on our skin, body, and mind. And, yes, it can also cause our lymph system to become blocked and congested. Luckily, as is the case with most massages, lymphatic drainage is relaxing and wonderful for helping you de-stress (when done properly, of course). Massage can help promote better sleep, reduce pain, and improve your mood. Perez adds that this treatment is a triple threat: “beauty, health, and relaxation,” and that’s exactly why I’m sold on it.
Lymphatic Massage Fact #8: It’s Great For Pregnant Women
I was pretty surprised to find out that pregnant ladies in particular can reap major benefits from lymphatic drainage. Perez does refrain from doing any treatment on the abdomen, but the rest of the body is fair game. “It helps pregnant women retain less water and reduces swelling in the feet,” she explains. “I like to focus around the breasts to help stimulate milk flow.” The massage is also an excellent appointment to book after giving birth — and, generally, before and after surgery — because a clean, detoxified body is more likely to heal faster.
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