Lymphatic Drainage

Let’s talk our Lymphatic System

Our body and its systems are truly amazing and keep us functioning on a daily basis! One of the most important systems in the body that does not get discussed a lot is our Lymphatic System and how it can affect our skin. It is usually called the body’s “sewer system” and consists of a network of lymph nodes, vessels, ducts, and glands that work alongside our circulatory system.⁴ The lymphatic system is crucial because it helps to accumulate any excess or static fluid in the interstitial spaces of our body. This collection of surplus fluid is also known as lymph fluid.

Lymph fluid is composed of a variety of substances such as proteins, water, glucose, fats, cellular debris, and white blood cells.⁴ When lymph travels through the lymphatic vessels and nodes, its contents are sorted out or broken down by lymphocytes and phagocytes. This “filtered” lymph fluid is then returned to our blood! In addition, our lymphatic system is closely tied to our immune system as it helps to remove any pathogens or viruses from any infected tissues in our body.¹

What is Lymphatic Drainage and Why is it Important?

Lymph fluid is not powered by a “pump” the way our blood is, sometimes we have to manually move the lymph if the flow gets sluggish or builds up. If lymph is not flowing correctly, it can cause issues like Lymphedema where swelling and puffiness occurs, especially in extremities such as the legs. Disruption of lymph flow can be a result of surgery, removal of lymph nodes, chemotherapy/radiation, infection/illness, sedentary lifestyle, or even just a sluggish lymphatic system.²

Manual Lymphatic Drainage, also known as MLD, is the act of massaging along lymphatic channels/pathways to decrease buildup of lymph fluid. There are many methods of MLD, but the most notable is the Vodder Method created by Emil Vodder in the 1930s.³ This method involves a variety of circular hand movements to direct the lymph fluid to other areas of the body.

Majority of our lymph nodes are located in the face and neck. If lymph collects and stays stagnant in these nodes, toxins can continue to build up and potentially cause infection. Therefore, if you notice signs of swelling, puffiness, or even acne/rosacea, it may be a result of an improper or sluggish lymphatic system.

Benefits

There are numerous medical conditions that can benefit from MLD such as Lymphedema, post surgery swelling, pregnancy swelling, tendinitis, Lupus, post chemotherapy/radiation treatment, and so much more! It is important to find a certified and licensed professional who understands these specific conditions and how to use MLD to support healing. In the esthetics field, there are not enough studies done to conclude how beneficial MLD is. However, there are some treatments such as gua sha or facial massage that have shown positive results with facial swelling, puffiness, and increased circulation. Increased knowledge of the lymphatic system and its pathways are important to know if this is something you’d like to offer for your clients!

Contraindications

While lymphatic drainage can be healing and beneficial – there are some individuals who may not be good candidates for it. Those with fever, blood clotting/thinning issues, inflammatory diseases, infection, active cancer, or those going through radiation treatments are at high risk as you may spread toxins or worsen the illness. Please make sure that you obtain a thorough health history and that your client/patient is cleared for MLD treatment first by their primary care provider or specialist!

How to perform Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)

There are many methods and techniques to perform MLD. One of our favorite ways in skincare is to use Hale & Hush’s Remedy Rehab Oil and their stainless steel gua sha! Proper facial massage movements and use of tools can be learned by fellow esthetician, Gaynor Farmer-Katics, the owner of Enhanced Touch. She has 20 years of experience training and teaching other estheticians the benefits and techniques of advanced facial massage.

Gua sha is a tool used for MLD by gently applying pressure to certain areas of the face and sweeping it along lymphatic pathways. It helps to increase circulation and reduce puffiness + swelling. Some tools are made of certain crystals, but we love to use Hale & Hush’s stainless steel gua sha since it can provide a cooling sensation to the skin. It also glides perfectly with Hush Hydrate Mask or Remedy Rehab Oil!

Conclusion

Our lymphatic system is truly an important system that gets overlooked. Hopefully with more research, especially in the esthetics field, we may see more MLD methods and techniques implemented in facial treatments and at-home routines! Incorporating MLD may require more advanced techniques and understanding of the lymphatic system. There are a lot of benefits to MLD and it can be a wonderful experience for clients!

 

Citations/Resources:

¹ Hammond, Pam. (2023, December). How to Do Lymphatic Self-Massage on Your Face, Head, and Neck. UHN Patient Education. www.uhnpatienteducation.ca.

² Hock, Karen. (2023, August 15). Lymphatic Drainage Explained. Ohio State Health and Discovery. health.osu.edu/health/cancer/what-you-need-to-know-about-lymphatic-drainage.

³ Marxen, Troy, et. al. (2023, February 28). The Utility of Lymphatic Massage in Cosmetic Procedures. Aesthetic Surgery Journal Open Forum, Body Contouring, 1-6. https://academic.oup.com/asjopenforum/article/doi/10.1093/asjof/ojad023/7059228

⁴ Rogers, Gina. (n.d.). Lymphatic Massage. Body Conscious Massage Therapy.


Lymphatic Drainage
by Krisstan Herrmann