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How To Do Lymphatic Drainage: Face & Neck

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I had the pleasure of going to an awesome workshop at Luna Aesthetics & Spa, hosted by my friend Chelsea, Master Aesthetician and Owner of Luna. It's one of a three-part series about lymphatic drainage. I'll be writing up about my experiences at each along with what I learned!

This first workshop was all about lymphatic drainage in the face & neck. Before we get into the how-to, let's talk a little more about background.

Lymphatic System Bright Body

  • The lymphatic system runs parallel to the circulatory system. Instead of circulating blood, it circulates lymph, a colorless fluid containing white blood cells, that bathes the tissues and drains through the lymphatic system into the bloodstream. Think of it like one of the "janitors" of our bodies
  • Unlike the circulatory system, the lymphatic system does not have a pump. It relies on us physically moving (exercise, especially yoga) and physically manipulating (targeted lymphatic drainage) it to circulate. The lymph system does have lymph nodes, which help to filter the lymph (but not pump it) and produce new lymphocytes (new "janitors").
  • Lymph doesn't drain always drain properly on its own - sometimes lymph nodes become "congested" and/or swollen, affecting the flow of lymph in its vicinity. On the face and neck specifically, this can lead to: clogged pores, acne, slowed healing, dull skin, dehydrated skin, and puffy skin.
  • When performing any kind of lymphatic drainage, you have to open up nodes lower down (since lymph follows gravity) before you can properly drain lymph above. When it comes to the face & neck, we have to open up the lymph nodes along the collarbone before the lymph in the face can properly drain.
  • Lymphatic drainage quiets our sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight response) and engages our parasympathetic nervous system (rest-and-digest).
  • Any lymphatic drainage practice is contraindicated if you have a fever. Also, if you have a heart condition, please be gentle with these practices.

When it comes to the face in particular, everything connects to lymph nodes around the ears and then flushes down the neck. Chelsea's favorite maker of dry brushes for lymphatic drainage (Province Apothecary) have this super useful graphic to understand the location of our facial and cervical lymph nodes:

Province Apothecary Facial Lymph Nodes

When it comes to HOW you can do you own lymphatic drainage at home, there are two rituals you can do: Dry Brushing and Facial Massage. Chelsea went through the how-tos of both.

Facial Dry Brushing

Best done in the morning since this practice is stimulating. Plan to shower after you dry brush since you don't want to brush the skin after it has been softened and opened up by the warm water. It should take ~5 minutes to do a full dry brushing ritual on your face. Use a soft bristle brush (ideally natural fiber, unless you're vegan) and use very light, short "flicks" of the brush along the paths described and labeled below. Your dry brush routine is NOT to exfoliate. If you cause any pinkness or redness in the skin while dry brushing, you're brushing too hard and engaging the circulatory system, not the lymphatic system. Your skin should not look flushed in any way after you dry brush.

To properly dry brush your face, check out this how-to, along with a color-coded visual to help:

Facial Dry Brushing Bright Body

  1. RED Start at sides of neck at collarbone. Sweep down working up to jawline/under ear. Cover entire neck (1X).
  2. ORANGE Work downwards in front of your ears (3X).
  3. YELLOW Work outwards on jawline towards ears (3X).
  4. GREEN Work diagonally from nostril & corners of mouth to jawline and toward ear (3X).
  5. LIGHT BLUE Work diagonally from nose (near inner eye) to earlobe (3X).
  6. DARK BLUE Work downwards on temples (3X).
  7. PURPLE Work outwards and slightly down from midpoint of forehead to temples (3X).
  8. PINK Work down hairline, in front of ears, and down the sides of the neck toward the collarbones (1X).

*Lightly mist your face with spring water or a soothing hydrosol after you're done dry brushing.

If you're using a serum during your dry brush routine, there are a few ways you can incorporate it:

  • Dry brush on your bare face then apply a serum (best to first apply a toner or hydrosol and apply the serum while the hydrosol is still wet). We recommend our Gentle Toner for this.
  • Apply a serum to your face first (best to first apply a toner or hydrosol and apply the serum while hydrosol is still wet) then dry brush.
  • Apply a serum directly to your brush.

Facial Massage

Best done at nighttime since this practice is grounding and relaxing. It can take 20+ minutes to do a full facial massage. Of course, make sure your hands are clean! Apply your moisturizer and then massage. Remember that you are not massaging the muscles, you're just massaging the skin and encouraging the lymph to move. Use light, slow, pumping movements along the paths I've marked below.  If you cause any pinkness or redness in the skin while massaging, you're using too much pressure and engaging the circulatory system, not the lymphatic system. Your skin should not look flushed in any way after you do facial massage.

To properly massage your face for lymphatic drainage, check out this how-to, along with a color-coded visual to help:

Face and Neck Massage Lymphatic Drainage Bright Body

  1. RED Work down at collarbone, work up towards neck (including sides and even the back of the neck, if you like) up towards ears and jawline (3X).
  2. ORANGE Work downwards in front of the ears (3X).
  3. YELLOW Work outwards and downwards from chin to ears across the jawline (3X).
  4. GREEN Work outwards and downwards from upper lip (under nostrils) to ears (3X).
  5. LIGHT BLUE Work outwards and downwards from sides of the nose to ears (3X).
  6. DARK BLUE Work outwards and downwards from inner eye along your nose to the ears (3X).
  7. PURPLE Use the full hand (fingertips on temples) on the sides of the face to pump outwards and downwards, moving the skin but not moving the hands from their initial placement.
  8. PINK Place the fingertips very lightly under the eyes and gently pump downwards, moving the skin but not moving the hands from their initial placement.
  9. BROWN Place the fingertips on the brows and pump outwards and upwards, moving the skin but not moving the hands from their initial placement.
  10. BLACK Place the full hand on the forehead (palms over temples) and pump outwards and downwards, moving the skin but not moving the hands from their initial placement.

.....

Chelsea said she plans on making videos that demonstrate the proper process. As soon as she posts them I'll be posting them right here in this blog post!

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns! The next two workshops cover abdominal detox and cellulite, so stay tuned for blog posts about those, too!

Until next time,

Gabi Day

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