Cupping is an ancient healing therapy used widely in the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine, where it has been an established technique for thousands of years. Cupping therapy (CT) also features heavily in traditional Korean medicine, Tibetan and Unani healing systems, and is mentioned in medical texts dating back to the Ancient Egyptian period of 1550 BC.
Today, dozens of variants of the original cupping technique exist, but they can be broadly categorized as dry or wet cupping. Cupping can be performed almost anywhere on the body, depending on the health outcome you hope to achieve. When applied to the face it can have a variety of positive effects on the quality and appearance of the skin which some say can mitigate the effects of aging.
Proponents of facial cupping are hailing it as the non-surgical answer to the facelift, but does the science support the claim?
What is Facial Cupping?
Facial cupping therapy uses smaller, softer silicone cups or small glass cups that are smaller than the cups traditionally applied to the body. The facial skin is first lightly covered in oil to promote sealing and sliding before the cups are applied by the practitioner. Prior to skin placement, the cups are gently squeezed to create a gentle vacuum which draws a small amount of skin into the cup. Cups can then be left in one position (site cupping) or may be slowly moved across the face before they are released (gliding cupping).
Facial cupping is typically performed without bloodletting or strong suction; therefore, this therapy is unlikely to leave the kind of marks and bruises associated with body cupping therapies. The practice is reported to have a wide range of health and anti-aging benefits that can plump and firm skin, reduce fine lines and wrinkles and relieve skin conditions such as acne.
The Anti-Aging Effects of Facial Cupping
Facial cupping has been reported to boost the vitality and beauty of skin, resulting in plumper, firmer skin, fewer fine lines and wrinkles, and a more even, youthful complexion. The effects of this therapy on skin quality is so pronounced that some have even labelled it the non-surgical alternative to facelifts and fillers. But what are the mechanisms of action behind these effects, and is there any scientific evidence to back them up?
How Does Facial Cupping Reduce the Effects of Aging on the Skin?
Facial cupping improves blood circulation, for healthier-looking skin
One of the main benefits of facial cupping is the increase in local blood flow brought about by the mechanical action of the technique. This oxygenates the surrounding tissues, which can give facial skin a healthier, more even tone. Studies have found that the ‘red’ color of well-oxygenated skin is generally perceived as being more attractive and youthful. Therefore, facial cupping can help to improve the overall appearance of the skin by resulting in a fresher, healthier complexion.
Facial cupping detoxifies the skin
Increased blood flow is critical for the efficient removal of waste products, including free radicals, from working skin cells. Free radicals put skin cells under oxidative stress, which can contribute significantly to skin aging and the formation of fine lines and wrinkles, increased skin laxity and uneven complexion.
Boosting your blood flow through therapeutic facial cupping can, therefore, help to mitigate the harmful effects on free radicals on the quality of the skin. With repeated treatment, this can contribute to a more youthful appearance overall.
Facial cupping can cure acne
Studies suggest that wet cupping (in which the skin is punctured prior to the application of suction, drawing a small amount of blood into the cup) has antioxidant and detoxifying effects. This not only helps to reduce oxidative stress on skin cells, but may also be the mechanism by which the treatment clears acne.
Wet cupping has been found to have a significantly higher cure-rate for acne than commonly-used medications, such as tanshinone, tetracycline, and ketoconazole. This can help to improve the texture and color of skin, resulting in a healthier, more even skin tone.
Facial cupping can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
Some beauty enthusiasts are so sold on cupping that they’re even shunning the use of surgical treatments, such as dermal fillers, in favor of the therapy. But could cupping help to banish fine lines and wrinkles?
One study of vacuum massage – a treatment that originates from cupping therapy – found that the treatment results in an increased number of fibroblasts. Fibroblasts are responsible for the production of collagen, the protein responsible for maintaining the structure and elasticity of the skin. Collagen production declines with age and, over time, can contribute to thinning skin, the formation of fine lines and wrinkles and ‘crepey’ skin.
Massage therapies like facial cupping can boost collagen production by increasing the number of fibroblasts in the dermis. With continued treatment, this can help to delay the onset of wrinkles, improve the firmness of skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. This results in a more youthful complexion – without any need for invasive surgical procedures or dermal fillers.
Cupping therapy is an ancient healing therapy dating back thousands of years, and is a cornerstone of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The technique (involving the strategic placement of cups to various regions of the skin) is reported to alleviate a number of ailments relating to many different parts of the body.
Recently, the technique of facial cupping has risen in popularity thanks to its reported anti-aging benefits. Studies have found that by improving local blood flow, facial cupping can promote oxygenation and nourishment of the skin cells and the removal of waste materials and reactive oxygen species. Wet cupping can also facilitate the release of toxins and has been reported the be effective in the treatment of skin complaints like acne. Finally, facial cupping can also assist in the production of collagen, promoting skin elasticity and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
The combined benefits of facial cupping can, therefore, produce a significant anti-aging effect by reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and by promoting an even, fresh complexion.