If you spend any time on social media, then you probably have seen doctors, health practitioners, celebrities, and athletes touting the benefits of lymphatic drainage due to its ability to support the function of the lymphatic system, which is to remove toxins from the body. But can this manual technique work to help clear up acne?

What Causes Acne?

When the pores in the skin become blocked with dead skin cells, oil, or bacteria, acne can occur. It’s an incredibly common skin condition. In fact, over 50 million people are affected by acne annually.

Acne can be attributed to a variety of causes like stress, imbalanced hormones, poor sleep, unhealthy diet, and sedentary lifestyle. This is why maintaining a balanced diet with regular exercise is always included in keeping our skin, the largest organ of our body, healthy and free of acne. Drinking enough water and exercising regularly helps the body’s lymphatic system remove many kinds of cellular waste which then gets excreted from the body.

What Is The Lymphatic System?

Considered the second circulatory system, the lymphatic system is a network of vessels and organs that help to keep the body’s fluids in balance. A clear fluid known as lymph travels the entire lymphatic system to usher away toxins and waste and help to deliver essential nutrients to the body.


When the lymphatic system is not working optimally it can be responsible for a variety of symptoms including bloating, swelling of the legs, breast, and under eye area, lethargy, brain fog, cellulite, frequent illness, and a variety of skin conditions including hormonal acne—particularly around the jawline, ears, and neck.


When it comes to acne specifically, a congested lymphatic system can worsen hormonal acne in two ways. One way is when stagnation in the lymph nodes builds up toxins in certain parts of the body. The second way has to do with the fact that the lymphatic system helps carry progesterone throughout the body. Hormonal acne is related to an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone that often presents with higher levels of estrogen and lower levels of progesterone. When lymph is not working properly, progesterone will not be able to get to where it needs to go that contributes to the progesterone-deficiency symptoms including the development of hormonal acne.

This is where manually stimulating the lymphatic system offers numerous benefits.


What Is A Lymphatic Drainage Facial?

Lymphatic drainage facials are one treatment method known to help support the health of the lymphatic system in addition to addressing a variety of skin concerns including acne. It is different from the types of massage techniques used in traditional facials and requires additional training to perform. It consists of specific, gentle movements that help stimulate lymph flow. “The stimulation of lymph node drainage is highly recommended for acne. With regular treatment, the symptoms of a congested lymphatic system can be dramatically reduced, improving the skin’s appearance,” explains renowned dermatologist and skincare founder, Dr. Barbara Sturm.


“The lymphatic system relies on muscle contraction, diet, exercise, and physical manipulation to function normally. Unlike the circulatory system, your lymphatic system doesn’t have its own pump. That’s where lymphatic massage comes in,” says celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau. Since the skin on the face and neck contain high concentrations of lymph nodes, certain massage movements can help to encourage the flow of lymph. “For the skin, conditions like puffiness, acne, dryness, dullness, and even skin sensitivity can be improved and even resolved by simple lymphatic stimulation because it helps the body do what it’s meant to do: heal,” continues Rouleau.


What Should You Expect During The Treatment?

A lymphatic drainage facial is typically performed by an esthetician or acupuncturist. While each treatment may slightly differ slightly based on who performs it, each treatment session will begin with the application of an oil or serum to avoid creating any friction on the skin. This is followed by a series of specialized movements that may start from the center of the face by the nose and work outward until ending at the collarbones.


Tools like gua sha, rollers, or mechanized devices (like Endospheres) can enhance the drainage. However, when draining the lymphatic system, the key is very light pressure with a gentle touch. Dragging the skin can create lines and wrinkles. This is why it is important to have a trained and licensed practitioner perform the service.


The treatment itself is quite relaxing and requires zero downtime. “The only thing that comes to my head with lymphatic drainage is that it can leave you feeling exhausted,” says esthetician Aneta Zuraw, co-founder of Atelier Beauté. With that said, individuals who have this treatment performed may not want to jump into any strenuous activities right afterwards. While exhaustion is more common with full body lymphatic drainage massage, it can also occur after a lymphatic drainage facial. Plenty of water should be consumed afterwards to help facilitate the removal of the toxins.


Bottom Line

Stimulating lymph with lymphatic drainage facials can help encourage circulation in the face and bring oxygen to the skin which can help it appear brighter, reduce puffiness, and can even assist with healing acne. Lymphatic massages are generally quite safe; however, they are not appropriate for certain health conditions. If you have concerns, you should talk to your doctor first before setting up an appointment. Since the lymphatic drainage massage is a specialized service, make sure the practitioner has additional training to perform the treatment.