What Is Cupping Therapy and How Does It Work?

No matter where you are on your wellness journey, chances are by now you’ve at least heard of cupping therapy even if you’re not exactly sure what it is.  We can owe its growing popularity to celebrity wellness-devotees like Gwenyth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, and Olympian athlete Michael Phelps, who have all done their part in bringing the treatment into the mainstream spotlight. But the question remains, what exactly is it and why is it appealing to Hollywood actresses and professional athletes alike?

The Ancient Roots of Cupping 

This intriguing treatment has roots in Asia and the Middle East but is mostly known today in the west as an adjunct to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatments like acupuncture. This ancient healing practice has been used for thousands of years to alleviate stagnation or blockages and stimulate the free flow of qi (chi) energy throughout the body.  Qi is simply referred to as the vital energy flowing through our bodies and it’s believed that if qi is blocked it can create bodily imbalances and ailments.  That this healing modality also translates as a beauty treatment was a happy byproduct that eventually became a well-known secret, with facial cupping therapy gaining its own notoriety as a treatment in high-end spas around the world.  But before we get into why, what technically is “cupping?”

Cupping Therapy Explained

You have to admit it sounds interesting, and maybe a bit eccentric, but cupping is actually as simple as the name suggests.  During a cupping therapy session, whether face or body, the cupping tools are applied onto moisturized skin, the tool is squeezed to create suction, and then a continuous gliding motion is used over the area being treated.  You can liken it to getting a massage, except while massage puts pressure onto tissue to remove tension, the suction from cupping lifts the tissue up to release tension.  So, this begs the question, outside of tension relief, what are the beauty benefits of facial cupping?  

Facial Cupping Therapy

Before we get into the beauty benefits of facial cupping therapy, it’s worth mentioning that relieving tightness and tension in facial muscles aren’t the only health benefits.  Many people love it for its remarkable effect on the complexion.  The increased circulation and blood flow stimulates the skin to produce more collagen and elastin for a firming, youthful glow.  It also assists with lymphatic drainage which de-puffs skin (notably de-puffs under-eye area!) and smooths facial contours, giving the face a rejuvenated, lifted, and sculpted effect.  When performing the treatment at home, you have the added benefit of controlling how much suction you want to use and can tailor it to the needs of your skin on any given day.  A short session to diminish morning puffiness or a full five-minute session is all it takes to boost and refresh the complexion and tone skin.  What may have started strictly as a wellness treatment, soon became a beauty favorite due to the result that was likened to getting a natural facelift.   But what about the body? 

Body Cupping Therapy

Just like facial cupping therapy, body cupping offers its own multitude of benefits for both health and beauty.  This is the reason that Olympic-level athletes and Hollywood actresses are both devotees of this treatment.  We briefly discussed cupping therapy being used to balance the body’s energy, but to expand on that a bit more, it’s believed that this balancing of yin and yang leads to greater immunity.  Much like a deep tissue massage, cupping promotes relaxation, relieves pain, and helps the body release toxins.  Many people also get cupping therapy done to help assist with respiratory ailments or things like the common cold.  Just like pressure points are targeted in an acupuncture treatment, cups are placed on areas of the back that pertain to certain organs to help clear that channel and bring more blood flow to help heal that organ and restore balance in the body. 

In terms of its potent beauty benefits, the vacuum suction cup helps to stretch and relax the connective tissue, helping break down toxins, fat deposits, and increasing lymphatic drainage to reduce the dimpled appearance of cellulite and scar tissue like stretch marks.  The increased blood flow and circulation are also known to improve collagen and elastin for a skin toning effect that helps provide a taut and firm appearance to newly smoothed skin.  

Cupping Therapy Bliss

Beyond the skincare and beauty benefits, the wellness aspect of cupping therapy is worth noting.  As we all continue to learn how to manage the hectic schedules of our daily modern lives, complete with gadgets and gizmos that keep us on our toes all day long, it’s important to implement moments of calm pause.  Treatments like this help us to slow down for a minute as we mindfully glide the tools slowly across our face or body.  It’s a time to check-in with yourself because how you look on the outside is indicative of how you feel on the inside.