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Cupping is an age-old treatment that is part of Chinese and Egyptian medicinal systems. (1) However, it only gained popularity in 2016, when Michael Phelps showed up in the Summer Olympics with marks of cupping over his back.
While it was initially meant to be used for lung problems such as pneumonia and bronchitis, cupping is now popularly used for relief from pain and injuries such as sprains, strains, and inflammation.
This article focuses on facial cupping, its benefits, and its risks.
What Is Facial Cupping?
Facial cupping is a type of noninvasive therapy generally used to tighten, smoothen, and contour facial skin. Similar to body cupping, it involves pressing cups on the skin to pull in the surface layer of skin.
However, facial uses smaller cups known as Belletazze Facial Cups, which vary in size, depending on the area of the face on which they are to be used. A silicone bubble is attached to these cups.
Facial cupping is often coupled with facial acupuncture. You can also get facial cupping done individually. Consult an acupuncturist, physical therapist, chiropractor, or medical doctor who specializes in facial cupping.
How Facial Cupping Works
It is vital to contact a trusted practitioner specializing in facial cupping to get this procedure done. Make sure to be informed of the pros and cons of the treatment before starting on it.
Facial cupping generally involves the following steps:
- The facial skin is cleansed and lubricated.
- The cup is pressed on the skin to create a seal.
- Once the grip on the cup is loosened, a vacuum forms, which sucks the skin toward the dome, thus attaching the cup to the skin.
- The cups are then moved in outward and upward directions, away from the center of the face, to prevent cup marks and bruising.
Due to the vacuum created by the cups, the surface layer of the skin gets separated from the inner layers and lifts up. This facilitates increased blood flow to the targeted areas.
Moreover, this increase in blood flow is supported by the body’s anti-inflammatory response to the suction-caused micro-trauma to the tissue. The blood that reaches the area is loaded with oxygen and nutrients that boost skin repair.
Since the cupping technique causes skin inflammation, it is also known as sterile inflammation. (2)
Pros or Benefits of Facial Cupping
Facial cupping is thought to have the following benefits. However, these claims are supported by limited to no research and are largely based on undocumented user reports.
1. Improves microcirculation
As discussed above, the suction created by facial cups improves blood flow to the skin layers, increasing the supply of oxygen and nutrients. (2) One study showed that this process is also facilitated by the involvement of nitric oxide. (3)
2. Boosts collagen production
Collagen fibers are responsible for skin toughness, flexibility, and youthfulness. As a person ages, the collagen content of the skin decreases, making the skin loose and wrinkly.
Facial cupping can stimulate collagen production and thus produce an antiaging effect. Moreover, cupping can stimulate the release of nitric oxide, which helps in the accumulation of collagen, thus facilitating skin repair.
3. Helps tighten the skin
Facial cupping, especially when combined with massage, can improve skin tightness, thus helping fade wrinkles, defining the jawline, and toning the chin.
4. Opens and shrinks skin pores
Facial cupping helps open clogged pores, thus allowing the skin to breathe. This effect consequently facilitates the absorption of skin-enhancing and skin-repairing products. Moreover, facial cupping helps shrink pore size, thus making them less visible.
5. Improves facial swelling
The suction cups stimulate the function of the lymph nodes and thus aid in the removal of accumulated cellular waste and fluids from the skin. As a result, facial puffiness or swelling subsides.
6. Relieves headaches
Facial cupping can be used to relieve headaches and congestion when the cups are used along the nose, forehead, and sinuses.
7. Helps treat skin problems
Facial cupping is used for skin rejuvenation and treating skin diseases such as eczema, urticaria, and psoriasis. It also improves acne when used together with herbal facial masks. (4)
Cons or Side Effects of Facial Cupping
Facial cupping generally causes slight bruising and inflammation, which improve on their own within a few hours. (2)
However, facial cupping can increase the risk of infection. In some cases, the procedure causes nausea and dizziness. It is suggested that the elderly, children, pregnant females, and women on their periods avoid this therapy.
Moreover, those with wounds, high cholesterol levels, or a high risk of cardiovascular problems should not undergo this therapy.
Facial Cupping at Home
Facial cupping kits that can be used at home are widely available. These kits come with two small and two large cups that may be made of hard plastics or a soft, gel-like substance.
The large cups are used for the forehead, neck, and cheeks, and the smaller cups are meant for delicate skin, such as that around the nose and eyes. However, it is best to get facial cupping done by a professional, especially if it is your first time to have it, to check your skin’s reaction to the vacuum and thus to prevent bruising.
Regardless, consult a specialist before trying the remedy at home, and perform 5–10 minute long practice sessions initially.
How to perform facial cupping at home?
While you can find the specific instructions on the facial cupping kit, the general guidelines to perform the therapy are as follows:
- Exfoliate your skin using an exfoliation brush to prepare it for cupping.
- Cleanse your skin, and then apply a toner and moisturizer.
- Perform a gentle massage to relax the muscles.
- Apply a few drops of any facial oil to help lubricate the skin. This allows the cups to move smoothly without losing suction.
- Wash your hands after applying the oil to ensure a firm grip on the cups.
- Pinch a cup between your forefinger and thumb, squeeze it, and place it on the desired area with gentle pressure.
- Slide it upward after a few seconds in short strokes.
- Cleanse your skin after the cupping procedure.
Precautionary measures to bear in mind
It is important to keep the following points in mind before performing facial cupping:
- Avoid using suction cups on the skin that is infected by warts or acne.
- Keep the treatment sessions short initially, until your skin gets used to it.
- Do not get the treatment more than three times a week.
Facial Cupping vs. Body Cupping
Body cupping and facial cupping are both based on similar principles. However, the method by which they are performed and their uses are highly different.
Facial cupping helps rejuvenate the skin, and the cups are suited for the delicate skin, whereas body cupping uses sturdier cups, often made of bamboo, glass, or earthenware, and are used to relieve pain.
Moreover, body cupping has a higher risk of bruises, as the cups are kept for longer and have higher pressure than facial cups. Body cupping also involves the use of heated cups or hot air cups, which also increases bruising, and must be performed by a licensed doctor in all cases.
What Science Has to Say
Facial cupping is believed to have a large number of benefits. However, most of these claims are based on anecdotal evidence rather than scientific studies. This treatment is commonly used as an antiaging therapy.
While one study mentions that facial cupping helps stretch the skin layers, (5) there is no evidence to the fact that microtrauma to the skin helps fade fine lines or wrinkles.
Besides facial cupping, body cupping is also a common practice, commonly used for musculoskeletal disorders and systemic illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes, infections, heart problems, and mental disorders.
A new form of cupping, known as plasma cupping, is believed to boost wound healing by acting on your genes. (6)
Considering all the factors and the limited scientific evidence available on the benefits of cupping, it cannot be established as a safe or effective practice. Further studies are needed to understand the mechanism of the treatment and to rule out any placebo effect before employing its use as an alternative therapy.
Cupping is an ancient technique that involves the use of suction cups over the skin to help treat different ailments. The suction caused by the cups boosts microcirculation within the skin, increasing the supply of nutrients and oxygen to the targeted areas.
Facial cupping is said to have various benefits, such as treatment of skin problems, boosting collagen production, and shrinking skin pores. However, scientific studies need to be conducted before establishing these uses of facial cupping. Consult an expert practitioner on the pros and cons of the technique and whether it is suitable for you.