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It works like this: therapist places cups on your skin to create a suction vacuum, essentially drawing more of your blood to one area of your skin (medically, this is called hyperemia or homeostasis). Traditionally, this is done by applying a flame to a glass cup to create the vaccuum. It's been touted to help with pain, inflammation, blood flow, relaxation and well-being, as well as treat pain, deep scar tissues in the muscles and connective tissue, muscle knots, and swelling.
This alternative healing therapy has been studied quite a bit in recent years. A 2014 report found that there was a positive short-term effect of cupping therapy on reducing pain intensity compared with no treatment, heat therapy, or conventional drugs, while a 2016 study also found that cupping was effective at relieving chronic neck and shoulder pain, though they attributed this largely to the increase in skin temperature caused by the cupping.
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Typically you would go to a therapist to get cupping done. But for my experiment, I tried out an at-home cupping kit. The LURE home cupping kit I tried was surprisingly inexpensive—I chose the Face and Body cupping set, which retails for around $40. I did DIY facial cupping every morning as well as the regular cupping on my back every couple of days (since it's too intense to do every day, and leaves a mark). Here's what I learned:
Facial cupping is like a light facial massage
Facial cupping is actually a lot different than cupping therapy on the rest of the body, and is more like a light facial massage, so it's suitable for every day. It's necessary to use an oil on your face to get the benefits of facial cupping, so if that isn't something you've tried before, this can be a double whammy (It was for me, and now I can't get enough of facial oils.) I really enjoyed using rosehip oil (Read more about the benefits of rosehip oil here) and jojoba oil. If you're not sure which oil is a fit for your face, check out: I Tried 5 Different Oils On My Face—This Is The Best One.
When I told friends I was testing out facial cupping, many of them were worried: "Does it hurt?"And, "Won't it bruise your face?"
Rubinshteyn says, "When facial cupping is done properly, there will be no signs of bruising. Start with your choice of oil to facilitate the glide, squeeze the cup and apply to face to create vacuum suction, then glide using massage strokes from center of the face toward the ear. Repeat on both sides. Another technique is to use the suction and release method. The key is to keep the cup moving at all times."
I tried to do it on my boyfriend as well, but his beard got in the way. However, when I put the cups on his forehead, he loved it—he's prone to headaches and said it felt like a nice massage.
Rubinshteyn confirmed that the cups are often used to help reduce puffiness, headaches and relieve sinus pressure and cold congestion.
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It makes your skin glow pretty much immediately
I have olive skin, but I'm still prone to my face turning red after being out in the sun gardening, or on a long run or hot yoga session (or if I'm just embarassed). Facial cupping gave me a natural, bright rosy glow without me doing anything but sitting at my desk rubbing my face with one of the small facial cups.
Stella Rubinshteyn, Founder of Lure Essentials explained that her clients love the DIY kit because it produces visible results within its first application, "You first get a nice pink youthful glow," says Rubinshteyn. "Fresh oxygenated blood delivers nutrients and encourages collagen and elastic generation."
I have to say, this is 100% true. I wouldn't hesitate to do some facial cupping before a big event or somewhere I wanted to look my best. It did make my face feel warm, but in a nice way where I felt invigorated. I liked the way the cup massaged my cheeks and made my skin look brighter.
People will look at you funny, but that's okay
I did the cupping in my office a couple times throughout the week. One day, I left a few cups on my back and walked down the hall at work. My coworker cracked up and told me I looked like a dinosaur. A stegosaurus, to be specific.
She was not wrong.
The regular cupping bruised my back, but it felt good on tight knots
Ouch! The rubber suction cups might not be as intense as the glass, but they certainly pack a punch. You can adjust the suction by how tightly you squeeze them, and place them on problem areas on your body.
Cupping is often compared to deep-tissue massage, and my DIY cupping kit boasted that 5 minutes of using the rubber suction cups was equivalent to a 30-minute deep tissue massage. It did feel like a massage, especially when my muscles were tight. I tend to carry a lot of tension in my upper back and shoulders, so the pressure and squeezing from the suction cup felt similar to the hurts-so-good pain of an intense massage. It was easy to apply by myself as long as I could reach the area of my back, but to get my whole back, I would need someone else to apply the cups—I would also need more of them, as this kit only comes with three large ones.
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Both types were easy to do
I wouldn't hesitate to pull out the DIY cups for my back at times when my muscles feel tight or I feel stressed. And the facial cupping was a big win overall: I like that in an often chemical-laden beauty sphere, the facial cups are a completely natural way to feel refreshed and uplifted (As in: not getting injections into your face). My skin seemed to benefit immediately from the massage, and there are even tiny suction cups to go around the eye area to try to reduce wrinkles there. Rubinshteyn also says they can be used to volumize your lips.
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I can't tell you yet from personal experience how effective the facial cups will be in the long run as I just started using it, but I do feel an immediate lift, and I will probably continue to pull them out when I feel like I need to brighten up. This natural option could be a helpful alternative for people considering Botox or other more dramatic wrinkle reduction measures to try instead. And that was part of her idea in creating an at-home kit. Rubinshteyn says, "They help lift, sculpt and define facial contours, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, through promoting circulation, oxygen, and nutrient flow," she says, "I wanted an affordable, non-invasive solution to Botox, fillers, and other expensive treatments and tools."
Natural facials whenever I feel like it? Yep, I'm definitely going to keep this up.
Want to try it out for yourself?
The kit I tried out was the LURE Home Spa Bliss Face and Body Cupping Therapy Set, retailing for $39.95
My favorite facial oils were: