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The Best Skincare Facial Tools for Puffiness 2023

May 28, 2024

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Lymphatic drainage isn’t just for your body. Here, the facial tools experts love and how to use them.

I’ve been obsessed with lymphatic drainage for the last three years, but I’ve written about its many benefits for nearly two decades as a beauty editor. While I mainly go in with my dry brush to do the work for me body-wise, I’ve recently been indulging in the facial side of the lymphatic drainage coin, testing out tools that have been created to help de-puff, release tense muscles to help minimize the appearance of wrinkles, stimulate blood flow for a glowier and healthier look, and carve out my jawline.

For those of you who are new to lymphatic drainage, it’s a technique that encourages your lymph, a clear fluid that travels through your lymphatic system carrying cells to help fight infection and other diseases, to move through your body, according to the National Cancer Institute. Your lymphatic system, unlike your heart, doesn’t have its own pumping system, so when lymph gets stuck, in areas like your face, chest, and arms, it can cause a puffy appearance that can be flushed out through the gentle manipulation of lymphatic drainage via your lymph nodes (along your neck, under your armpits, chest, and groin area). Your lymph nodes then carry all that fluid to your kidneys where it’s processed, and then you, well, pee it out.

Here I am doing a little lymphatic drainage on myself using the G.Tox Ultimate Dry Brush from Goop, along with The Body Tool from De La Heart, but there are many other similar brush options that work as well.

“Simply put, you don’t want fluid to be pooling especially as you get older,” says Shereene Idriss, a cosmetic dermatologist in New York City (and creator of PillowtalkDerm, her line of products). “This type of fluid can build by having a glass of wine or having too much salt, and then you wake up really puffy around your eyes or along your jawline, so the whole point of lymphatic drainage is to keep that lymphatic fluid moving, so it isn’t sitting in areas where you don’t want it to sit, leaving you with a more sculpted look.” Said bluntly: Is lymphatic drainage going to reverse the clock? No. But it is, at least, going to make you look temporarily sculpted and angular.

Certified celebrity facial masseur Joseph Carrillo, based in New York City, put it to me like this: Your body will physically look puffy, as will your face, but there is also a sort of stiffness that you feel—this feeling of heaviness that comes with stagnant fluid pooling around your eyes, jaws, et cetera, which is a strong sign that it’s a good time for a treatment. And once you engage in lymphatic drainage massage, you definitely feel a sense of lightness, which is how you know the fluid is moving.

What tipped off my new facial tool quest was Chanel’s launch of the Le Lift Pro Serum and matching Accessoire de Massage, an easy-to-tote, dual-ended, ergonomically shaped apparatus that promises to help define the contours of your face. I got to give it a test run at Ricari Studios in New York City during a body treatment with the famed Ricari machine, which looks like a prop from a Marvel film. While the sci-fi device was used on my face as well, the session was topped off with the tiny Chanel tool. The technician used the single pointed end in zigzag motions to massage over fine lines, easing them a bit before using the double-ended side to sharpen my jawline.

I’ve since tested and reviewed a bunch of the best facial massage tools for lymphatic drainage and de-puffing, and these are my other favorites.

Inspired by the time-honored Ayurvedic practice, this supersoft, all-natural brush (made from cruelty-free goat hair) gently exfoliates dead skin cells as you stroke it across your face, stimulating lymph flow and improving blood circulation for a healthy glow. Use it on clean, dry skin using short flicking motions upward on your face and neck, and downward motions on your chest.

If you often wake up puffy—from the salty sushi you ate, having one too many at happy hour, or just not getting enough sleep—these stainless steel orbs are key. Keep them in your fridge to intensify their chill; they can also be warmed up for more of a relaxing massage. But why I love them is for lymphatic drainage: Simply hold the wands under the center of your chin and glide along your jawline up toward your ears, and then back down your neck to encourage any stuck lymph fluid to keep it moving.

This small but mighty 24-carat gold-plated bar vibrates with 6,000 rotations per minute and gently helps loosen up stubborn, stagnant fluid. The quick vibrations also help stimulate blood flow, leaving you with a healthy, sculpted glow.

Since aesthetician Joanna Czech’s magical hands can’t be in everyone’s household, this dual-tipped tool helps do the trick, targeting areas where lymph might be sitting and causing puffiness. She explains here exactly how to use it to help encourage circulation all over your face, leaving you with a sculpted result.

Facialist to the stars Shani Darden wants you to look your best even if you can’t get to Los Angeles. Her Facial Sculpting Wand uses sound wave technology to firm up and smooth fine lines, while also boosting circulation and optimizing oxygen uptake so that skin looks instantly rejuvenated and refreshed. The wand comes complete with a flat disc to treat your forehead, jowls, and neck; a precision ball attachment that reaches the delicate eye area and nasolabial folds; and a hydra prep gel for slip so that the tool glides over your skin easily.

This little machine fits in the palm of your hand and packs a punch when it comes to stimulating collagen and elastin. It works by using tiny micro and nano electrical currents that match your body’s own low-frequency electrical current, which increases cell energy and causes a mini muscle contraction. This type of reaction regenerates damaged tissue and also helps with facial muscle atrophy (so it’s like going to the gym for your face). But as this contraction occurs, lymphatic drainage is also triggered. With each of these pulses, the lymph is broken up and gently pushed toward your lymph nodes, where it is processed by your kidneys and flushed out.

You might be asking yourself why there aren’t any gua sha tools included here. That’s because gua sha isn’t the same as lymphatic drainage. “What most influencers and aestheticians are demonstrating on social media is a lymphatic drainage technique using a gua sha tool, but that is not gua sha,” explains Sandra Lanshin, a Brooklyn-based licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist specializing in dermatology. “Gua sha is a repetitive stroking technique that engages the muscle, fascia, blood circulation, and, yes, the lymph, but the difference is lymphatic drainage is a technique of light touch—often using pulsing motions—to gently coax and move lymphatic fluids in the body. I’ve heard some practitioners specialized in lymph drainage assert that it’s actually better when done using hands or fingers.”

Though similar, the nuances are best described with this analogy from Lanshin. “Saying that gua sha is lymphatic drainage is like saying yoga is the same as a Pilates technique,” she explains. “But if you ask actual yoga experts trained in India, who are connected to its traditional and historical tradition, they would never define yoga that way. When I see gua sha being defined as lymphatic drainage, I see an inaccuracy that continues to build to the point where now it feels like a fact.”

Carly Cardellino was the beauty director at Cosmopolitan. If you follow her Instagram, then you know she'll try just about any beauty trend or treatment once (the pics of her purple hair are on IG to prove it). But her favorite part about being in beauty is finding the most effective products, and then sharing that intel with others—because who wants to spend money on stuff that doesn't work? No one, that's who. Her most recent discovery: De La Cruz Sulfur Ointment, which will change your blemish-clearing game! Hopefully through the beauty stories she writes—and the experiences she shares—you can see exactly why she's in this business.

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You might be asking yourself why there aren’t any gua sha tools included here. That’s because gua sha isn’t the same as lymphatic drainage.