What is facial cupping?
Cupping is an alternative therapy which uses suction cups made of glass or silicone to stimulate the skin - you may have seen celebrities touting the benefits of it on social media, alongside images of their bruised backs.
The less extreme treatment of facial cupping is also doing the rounds on TikTok, with tutorial videos receiving thousands of views. In this instalment of our #TikTokTruths series, we spoke to some of the experts to find out more about what facial cupping is, how to do it and what benefits it can have for the skin.
What is facial cupping?
“Cupping uses suction cups to stimulate the skin and muscles, and it can increase overall skin health and has been known to tighten and tone the skin,” says Dr Usman Qureshi, a cosmetic doctor and founder of the Luxe Skin by Dr Q clinic in Glasgow.
“The suction works like a vacuum, pulling the blood up to the skin's surface; this increases blood flow to the area of skin underneath the cup, which promotes the formation of new blood vessels,” Qureshi adds.
The negative pressure from the cups also creates controlled microtrauma in the skin, similar to microneedling, according to Sakina Di Pace – an acupuncturist, massage therapist and founder of The Facial Cupping Expert who also offers facial cupping courses for professionals.
Describing the effects of cupping on the skin, Di Pace says, “More oxygenated blood flows to the area, collagen and fibroblast production are stimulated, and the skin cells are encouraged to reproduce.
“The suction also releases fascia adhesions of the multiple layers of the skin which is a fantastic way to improve the lymphatic and energetic flow.”
How should facial cupping be done?
To get the most out of a facial cupping session, it’s important to do it right – and preparation and tools are key.
Smaller and softer cups should be used in facial cupping treatments compared to the more robust cups used in body treatments, and skin should be cleansed prior to carrying out facial cupping – but don’t try it on dry skin without any kind of lubrication because you’ll risk causing damage.
“I recommend prickly pear seed oil, but you can use any other non-comedogenic oils,” says Di Pace. “If you use serums, creams or lotions with lots of active ingredients, apply them before applying your facial oil, as cupping will help the absorption of all these ingredients! It’s a win-win.”
In terms of technique, Dr Qureshi says the general rule of thumb is to always use the cups horizontally rather than dragging down the skin.
“Each facial cupping session should start by stimulating the lymphatic system by opening up the nodes lower down the neck and collarbone,” explains Di Pace.
“Then slide the bigger facial cups over the jawline, the cheeks, and forehead from the midline towards the outside of your face where lymph nodes are located.
“You can then move on to the eyes and lip areas with the smaller eye cup. The skin under the eye is very fragile. Never slide the cup here, only squeeze and release it. Plumping the lips is a feel-good movement.”
It’s crucial to always keep the cups moving and to apply oil generously to avoid any marks like the ones you might have seen in back cupping, where the cups remain stationary.
Is there a good time to advise clients to work facial cupping into their routine? Di Pace says that she encourages her clients to do it in the evening because it helps the skin to repair itself when it goes into regeneration mode at night.
What can facial cupping help with?
Facial cupping’s ability to stimulate collagen and fibroblast production means its great if visible signs of ageing are a concern, and it also aids in lymphatic drainage which can help relieve swelling by moving fluids around the body.
“Not only that, but facial cupping has been known to tighten and contour the jawline, chin, and skin on the neck,” adds Dr Qureshi.
Di Pace says that facial cupping can also help with health conditions such as chronic sinusitis, Bell’s Palsy, headaches and trigeminal neuralgia (a sudden, severe facial pain).
Are there any contraindications for facial cupping?
As with any treatment, people should consider whether they’re suitable for it before carrying out. Fortunately, beauty professionals will carry out a consultation beforehand to ascertain any contraindications, but people carrying out their own facial cupping at home might not be aware of the risks.
Dr Qureshi says, “You shouldn't use the cups on any direct veins or any skin lesions. Cupping should also be avoided on active breakouts, open wounds or on sites of deep vein thrombosis.”
Di Pace adds that facial cupping should be avoided “if you have very thin skin that bruises easily, rosacea, open wounds, sores, or burns on your face and/or neck, a history of allergic reaction, multiple moles in the treatment area, or skin cancer”.
Facial cupping is also not advisable for clients who have recently had fillers or botulinum toxin because the suction can move their position under the skin. Di Pace suggests that people should wait three to four months after having fillers or botulinum toxin to carry out facial cupping in those areas.
Are there any risks with facial cupping?
Aside from pre-existing skin concerns, risks can also come from facial cupping not being carried out correctly.
Di Pace explains, “Facial cupping is a powerful and non-invasive facial treatment. It can do miracles when done properly, but you can also damage your skin if you don’t follow a protocol from someone who is trained.
“The most common mistakes I see are peoplenot applying enough oil, which would result in the facial cups not being able to slide easily on the skin and therefore irritating the skin.”
It also turns out that you can have too much of a good thing. “Another mistake I see isoverdoing facial cupping,” says Di Pace. “Either doing it too often (more than three times a week) or repeating each of the strokes too many times.”
“I also see people using the wrong technique under the eyes, or over the neck. This could damage the thin skin under the eye and disturb the flow of blood in the neck area,” she adds.
Are there any other facial treatments which can achieve similar results?
“Any other treatment that will increase blood circulation and cause microtrauma to the skin will have similar or more enhanced results, depending on the treatment,” comments Qureshi.
Facial cupping can be a good supplementary treatment for clients to keep up the effects of other treatments they receive from therapists in salons, spas and clinics, provided that clients exercise caution to ensure they don’t overdo it and damage the skin.
With the right protocol, facial cupping is safe and requires minimal time and resources – so it can be an simple add-on to other treatments and facials, and can be a great teaching opportunity for beauty therapists to educate clients about how to easily take care of their skin at home.
Don't miss: 6 facialists share their top treatment tip and the benefits of hyaluronic acid in skincare.
Do you offer facial cupping? Let us know in the comments...