As the name suggests, lymphatic drainage is the process of draining (and circulating) fluid from your lymph nodes using massage techniques. A recent study shows that gua sha can improve circulation by 400%! On today’s episode of ASCP Esty Talk, Ella and Maggie discuss and clarify what exactly lymphatic drainage is and share tools to help you incorporate this treatment into your service menu.
ASCP Esty Talk with hosts Ella Cressman and Maggie Staszcuk
Produced by Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP) for licensed estheticians, ASCP Esty Talk is a weekly podcast hosted by ASCP Skin Deep magazine contributor Ella Cressman and ASCP Education Specialist Maggie Staszcuk, both licensed estheticians. We see your passion, innovation, and hard work and are here to support you by providing a platform for networking, advocacy, camaraderie, and education. We aim to inspire you to ask the right questions, find your motivation, and give you the courage to have the professional skin care career you desire.
About Maggie Staszcuk:
Maggie has been a licensed esthetician since 2006 and holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Stephens College. She has worked in the spa and med-spa industry, and served as an esthetics instructor and a director of education for one of the largest schools in Colorado before coming to ASCP as the Advanced Modality Specialist.
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About Ella Cressman:
Ella Cressman is a licensed esthetician, certified organic formulator, business owner, and absolute ingredient junkie! As an educator, she enjoys empowering other estheticians and industry professionals to understand skin care from an ingredient standpoint rather than a product-specific view.
She has spent many hours researching ingredients, understanding how and where they are sourced, as well as phytochemistry, histological access, and complementary compounds for intentional skin benefits. In addition to running a skin care practice, Cressman founded a comprehensive consulting group, the HHP Collective, and has consulted for several skin care lines, including several successful CBD brands.
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0:00:37.3 Speaker 2: You are listening to ASCP Esty Talk where we share insider tips, industry resources and education for estheticians at every stage of the journey. Let's talk, 'cause ASCP knows it's all about you.
0:00:52.9 S1: Hello, and welcome to ASCP's Esty Talk. I'm your co-host, Maggie Staszcuk. You know me as ASCP's Advanced Modality Specialist and Education Specialist, and joining me is co-host, Ella Cressman, licensed esthetician, certified organic formulator, ingredient junkie and content contributor for Associated Skin Care Professionals. On today's episode, we're going to discuss and clarify what exactly is lymphatic drainage? Many estheticians are performing this procedure either through massage manipulations or the application of Gua Sha or jade rollers. I believe lymphatic drainage can have a significant impact on the appearance of the skin. In fact, a recent study shows that gua sha can improve circulation by 400%. And I know, Ella, we were chatting earlier, and you said that you had no or little training when you went to esthetic school.
0:01:39.5 Speaker 3: Let me tell you about my training in esthetic School. It was... "and lymphatic drainage, it's... You kinda just move it around. But anyways, now let's go on to pressure point massage." [chuckle] It was like about that much, it might have been reading something out of Milady's that could have been the extent of it. There was no hands on, there was no expansion, and it was... Then, when you got out of school, it was just kinda like, "Oh, that was one thing, we're just... " We had to mark the points for pressure point on our mannequins, so if we didn't have to do anything else about lymphatic drainage, I think the only thing that was emphasized is when you're massaging, like this is a way of doing the massage manipulations, always go this way because... That's it. That's it. I mean, there was nothing like, "But you see now, it's pretty, it's lovely, it's... Ohh, I want that," you know?
0:02:30.6 S2: Yeah, so no understanding really was taught. Yeah.
0:02:34.3 S3: None. No. But I had to do that after school. Like a lot of schools, that happens. We learn what we have to learn, and then most of our education comes after, post-licensure. But I think this is one modality that didn't get a lot of attention until recently.
0:02:51.7 S2: Yeah, I agree with you. When I was a teacher, we also spent minimal time on lymphatic drainage massage, what is the lymph? Why would you incorporate this into a treatment? And same with your experience, it was five minutes, "This is a possible massage you could incorporate," and why would you wanna incorporate it? I don't know. We're moving on because it doesn't fit within the "European facial."
0:03:18.0 S3: Right, yeah. BS, I call it.
0:03:21.8 S2: Yeah.
0:03:21.8 S3: Yeah, I think the only thing that stuck with me for the lymphatic system is endocrine and apocrine glands.
0:03:29.5 S2: Oh yeah.
0:03:30.2 S3: I don't know why those are still so fun to say, but that's also... I've had a ____ background, so that's it, that's... Oh yeah. Lymphatic system, endocrine and apocrine.
0:03:40.7 S2: Yeah, yeah. You're taking me back.
0:03:41.5 S3: Moving right along.
0:03:42.1 S2: Yeah. Well, we're talking about lymphatic drainage massage because it is really popular right now. We have people that are doing gua sha using Jade rollers or Rose quartz rollers, so let's talk why or why should somebody be doing this? And what is lymphatic drainage? So, as the name suggests, lymphatic drainage is the process of draining and circulating fluid from your lymph nodes using massage techniques. And I think a lot of people probably listening in may be incorporating this into their treatment room. It is really trendy. So the lymph system, it doesn't have a pump per se, it's not like the circulatory system where the heart is pumping that fluid, and it needs assistance, not necessarily via massage, it could be through exercise. But when we are doing this in our treatment space, we can really improve the appearance of the skin by a massage or with something like gua sha. And Ella, are you using this in your treatment space?
0:04:39.4 S3: I do, and I think another thing to think about too, is it's moving toxins. So the lymphatic system holds a lot of toxins, it's like the body's filtration system, and so I imagine it as these little sponges collecting things and then they get stuck. And so lymphatic drainage would be squeezing out all the gunk from the little sponges and moving it onto the next sponge, so that they get to the exocrine glands of your armpits, and then they go away. So I am using this. What I also noticed in... I do a massage manipulation, I do jade rollers, and then I do have a gua sha stone, but I don't... So I practice it a little bit differently, but what I've noticed from training, watching videos and performing it in person are two separate things. One thing to keep in mind is the pressure that you use, because if you're using too much pressure, you're actually gonna be ripping those little sponges up, and that's not good, you can be causing damage. But what I do love is post-treatment, how the client's skin looks, it just looks fresher, it looks plump, it looks alive. So those are visible changes you can see.
0:05:46.6 S2: Another treatment that just popped in my mind is also doing vacuum massage. And I think this is a great way to move lymph too.
0:05:54.5 S3: Yeah.
0:05:54.6 S2: And it is very light, to your point. And what are those little things? You know what I'm talking about? The little glass... They're like little glass speakers.
0:06:04.1 S3: Yeah.
0:06:04.2 S2: That suction on the skin.
0:06:05.1 S3: I forgot the name of them, but they're part of an 8-in-1 machine.
0:06:08.0 S2: Yeah, yeah, I got those.
0:06:09.0 S1: I thought they were zit suckers, but yeah, but they are, they're just moved... Really lightly to move the lymphatic. And microdermabrasion machines have a lymphatic attachment often too.
0:06:22.7 S2: They do. Yes. And for anybody who has that attachment, like Ella is saying, you wanna turn that vacuum way down, because if that pressure is too high, you're gonna tear up that little sponge, like Ella's saying, her little analogy.
0:06:35.0 S3: Well, Let's talk about if your lymphatic system is backed up. What? What's going on in the skin?
0:06:42.5 S2: Yeah, what could you see on the skin?
0:06:44.8 S1: What I can see on the skin is, one of the biggest culprits would be a dull complexion, right? There's not a lot of life in it, so you're pulling the life back into it by... Some would say you're starting circulation, but it's more than that, you're pulling toxins away, so the toxins aren't pooling there. Another thing, a lymphatic drainage can cause imbalance... Excuse me. Lymphatic backup can cause imbalance in microbiome and just skin function and all in all. Imbalance in microbiome affects our skin's hydration levels, but also it can cause acne.
0:07:21.8 S2: Yeah, acne, definitely. Dark circles under the eyes. But I think you said it. That dry, dull appearance is probably first indicator, and I think a lot of people automatically go to... While you really need to exfoliate, but doing a little lymph drainage also can drastically improve that dull look and give an amazing glow to the skin.
0:07:43.0 S1: Yes. Do you ever practice on yourself? Lymphatic drainage.
0:07:47.2 S2: It's funny you say that, because I was reading something online, and I'm not aware that I'm doing lymphatic drainage to myself, but every time I wash my face, I think my little facial manipulations are a little lymph drainage massage, now that I think about it.
0:08:03.1 S1: Yeah, probably. I think we should talk about ways in the treatment room, to perform lymphatic drainage. So we've talked about those little sucker beaker thing-ers, [chuckle] we've talked about the attachment that goes on to microdermabrasion machine, but there's also manual.
0:08:21.5 S2: Yes.
0:08:22.3 S1: Right? So that manual manipulation can come from, device-assisted. We can call that... I guess we can call it microderm and those beaker thingies are device-assisted too. But it can also come from your fingertip manipulation. And so, where do you perform this? Where in a protocol would you perform this? Maggie just said something that was like, perfect. This is perfect. Usually, when we are... In those five minutes that we were taught about it in school, we're thinking, "Oh it's gonna be part of a massage." But do you massage your face as you're cleansing?
0:08:54.2 S2: Yeah.
0:08:55.0 S1: And I think that's really smart. I think it's smart, but it's also changing the efficacy of the rest of the facial protocol, because you're not waiting until after you've cleansed, after you've exfoliated, before you mask to liven things up. You're cleansing with a purpose, and that purpose is to bring life back to the skin via... Or to drain the skin of toxins, 'cause that makes your next step that much more effective.
0:09:19.1 S2: Yeah, very well said.
0:09:19.2 S1: Hey guys, stop. Let's take a quick break!
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0:10:14.8 S1: Let's get back to the conversation.
0:10:17.4 S1: I think one thing to think about when you're doing lymphatic drainage is, going from the inside-out, so that you're moving from nose and middle of the forehead out, but also that it feels so good, especially if you have... This time of year, allergies and such. When you're going underneath the orbital bone, like below the cheeks, it feels so good when you're... You can almost hear them squishing a little bit. Just the right amount of pressure, not too much, remember you're not breaking those sponges, but you can hear it moving. [chuckle] You can feel it.
0:10:47.7 S2: Yeah. And if you're doing it right too, you might even feel some of that drainage in your sinuses. Like you're saying, if you have those allergies, you'll feel it drain a little bit too.
0:10:57.1 S1: Yeah, it's amazing.
0:11:00.4 S2: So let's talk a little bit about those stone rollers and those Gua Sha tools. I think you already touched on this, but is it necessary to use those to give a proper treatment? Or to make the client feel like they're getting an amazing treatment?
0:11:12.2 S1: Yes.
0:11:15.3 S1: Yes? I would say no. I would say no.
0:11:19.1 S1: I think that's awesome. I think "necessary" depends on what is the end for the client. It feels like a little bit more effective.
0:11:27.8 S2: Yeah. Okay.
0:11:28.2 S1: Even though not physiologically, no. But experientially, yeah.
0:11:33.5 S2: I could get that, I could get behind that. My perspective is, I could give a really amazing lymph drainage massage manually with my fingers. Use an awesome serum, maybe a CBD oil which I know you're all about.
0:11:48.7 S1: Big fan.
0:11:48.8 S2: But why do I need to be using some stupid jade roller? I don't believe that this jade stone is giving off some special energy that's gonna make that lymph drain all the more better. Am I gonna charge $15 more dollars or something, because, Guess what, you're getting this fancy jade roller? No, I can't get behind that.
0:12:07.7 S1: Oh, you're talking about Moon-mother-goddess stuff, right?
0:12:12.4 S2: Yeah.
0:12:13.1 S1: Well, as a Moon-mother-goddess, I would say that there are some stones that emit a certain frequency of energy.
0:12:22.6 S2: Yeah, sure.
0:12:24.1 S1: So, I would say, are they doing that in a facial? Probably not. Because the way stones work, when you get into the stone-work and such, you understand that some stones will absorb energy. If you're using said "jade roller," that is probably not really a jade roller, but more like a pressed polymer of some sort. If you... Especially, we see them all over. We were talking earlier about, we've seen them from Nordstrom to Walgreens...
0:12:47.6 S2: Right. Right.
0:12:49.3 S1: Flea markets, so on. I haven't been to a flea-market in a long time, but I'm saying, in my mind, that's where they are. So it's about quality. So will it emit this amazing experience? I don't know. Let's take a side-bar story for a minute. Huge fan of stones. I got a Reiki-infused stone massage at the high-end... I don't know if I could say that...
0:13:08.4 S1: I thought you were gonna say, "at the flea market."
0:13:11.2 S1: Yep, that's the last time I was there. [chuckle] But I will say it kinda felt like that.
0:13:15.0 S2: And you never went back.
0:13:16.7 S1: It was at the Four Seasons. I got this stone facial or stone massage, and I was asking... "Oh God, this feels so good, I might be getting into stones. What is this for? What are they doing?" And the massage therapist is like, "I really don't know." I'm just putting them on your back, 'cause this is the protocol.
0:13:32.5 S2: See? Exactly my point.
0:13:35.2 S1: Yeah, to your point.
0:13:35.6 S2: You got up charged for stones that she knows nothing about.
0:13:38.8 S1: Yes, like 80 bucks! More on top of an already overpriced massage, 'cause they were like toddler hands. But another story, first of all, you shouldn't up charge for that, that should just be an experiential part of the facial. And if you're rolling it for the purpose of emitting an energetic thing, then make sure that you've got a quality jade roller, amethyst roller, rose quartz roller, and make sure that you're taking the proper metaphysical steps to clear the stone. I don't mean just dipping it in marvicide, which you should also do too. But what is cool about those stones, is that there is a de-puffing part. They're cool, they feel nice, and so you could give the most amazing massage that is lymphatic drainage, with your hands, with this awesome CBD serum, and they're gonna feel so good, but when they have a device on their face... "Oh, what is that? I got a new thing." And even though it's not gonna be as amazing 'cause you don't have the warmth of your touch, they're still gonna be excited about, "I have a new thing," and go tell their friends "I got a Gua Sha facial" or "I got a jade roller facial." So for that, is it necessary? Necessary might be a strong word, but is it cool? There's definitely cool points to it.
0:14:52.3 S1: And so, the Gua Sha stone, I think what's cool about Gua Sha is that there are visible... It's like using... Instead of just fingertips, it's like using a larger piece of movement and it's a little different. It is lymphatic drainage, but so much more. Gua Sha also affects muscles and other tissue, and so it softens different things, so that... Definitely take a class on that, because it's nothing that you should watch a YouTube video and then implement in your services. Take an in-person maybe...
0:15:26.0 S2: Gua Sha has a very lifting effect...
0:15:27.5 S1: Yeah.
0:15:28.9 S2: Which is, like you're saying more than just lymph drainage.
0:15:33.1 S1: Absolutely, so I think that requires advanced training, but I use it at home when I'm watching TV, I do a lot of things at home when I'm watching TV, I watch a lot of crap TV. But I do that at home, the Gua Sha, I just roll it along my face. I don't do that on clients as much.
0:15:51.0 S2: Why is that?
0:15:52.1 S1: I don't know, I think it's just a preference. I think it's... For what you're saying, it has to be a very special circumstance where I'll do that. 'Cause I'll do it at pressure point instead.
0:16:03.5 S2: Okay, interesting.
0:16:05.3 S1: Yeah. Personal Choice.
0:16:05.9 S2: Yeah.
0:16:07.8 S1: I think part of the reason that I don't use Gua Sha on patients as much or clients as much, is because a lot of what I do is corrective, and so that could bring us to a contraindication, potentially, not all the time, but potentially. So one thing that we should talk about here is, when you're doing lymphatic drainage, how much are you doing, and then what are the contraindications? So of course, considering what is the client... During intake, what are they going through? So some of the contraindications for lymphatic drainage on face and body, 'cause it's a little hard to distinguish between face and body when you're looking at these things, but definitely, not considering metastatic or malignant system conditions, so anything that you're going to move around, especially metastatic, because that's like the super highway for those kind of things, no one in chemotherapy or with open wounds, or who has some kind of an immuno deficiency or is immune compromised, and that's because you don't wanna be pushing or wringing out a bunch of toxins that then overloads the next guy. So at that point, leave that up to the medical professionals. Open wounds, there's a school of thought on this, some people say it's fine to go near it, and that it actually helps with healing, where other people are saying, steer clear.
0:17:25.2 S1: So whether that definition of open wounds means acne lesions, I think that would be, as a practitioner's designation, what does this qualify as? Is this like a big old cyst? I call mere squirters, is this a mere squirter wound, or is this just a little guy? Then you can go right over it. Heart conditions, and that's because there is a concern sometimes, as we talked about, staying superficial and just getting in the lymph nodes, versus getting deeper and releasing... Not in the face as much, more in the body, but releasing a blood clot. And so for that would be people who have thrombosis or clotting disorders, is not recommended. Again, this would be more for the body, but it's not bad to take that same caution for the face. And then, chronic inflammation. Finding out, as we're not doctors, finding out what is the reason for the client chronic inflammation. You don't wanna make that worse with a jade roller, manual manipulations of the fingers or a Gua Sha tool. So understanding... Getting that chronic inflammation under control first. And then, thyroid dysfunction. And then of course, as with anything, we are kid-gloving people in their first trimester of pregnancy, so not to do that. Just on the safe side, I don't have a real physiological explanation other than, always use caution in that precious first few months.
0:18:43.3 S2: Would you say that when you're doing lymphatic drainage as well, and along with all these contraindications, that you wanna use caution on any products you're using along with it as well?
0:18:54.7 S1: I would say nothing too creepy. You mentioned a CBD oil. I think that's great. Most of the CBD oils are formulated with very simple ingredients that are friendly, but using anything like... "Oh, let's just think of a super over-fragranced product that's just got a bunch of slip, but is creepy," no, that's defeating the point. That's sobering someone up with a shot of tequila.
0:19:20.0 S2: Yeah, you made me think of something else when you just said that too. Any kind of massage, I think, is detoxing, but do you think with lymph especially, that you're gonna see a lot of detoxing and maybe smell that tequila that somebody drank the night before coming out on them?
0:19:34.0 S1: Oh yeah, and you can tell your clients that they can expect to have body odor the next day. It's depending on what they're... Not everybody. Don't be all smelling your pits. But the next day, you are... That is the... Again, that's in the groin and in the armpits, is where you're releasing most of it, that's where the lymphatic system ends up, or the Exocrine glands, I believe. So that could have an effect on your body odor, and just know that that's just temporary and it'll pass. And that's good, it's a good sign. Not everyone will experience it, but if you do, that's fine. Get deodorant afterwards, an enzymatic deodorant will be good.
0:20:14.5 S2: Cool. Now, listeners, we wanna hear from you. Do you perform lymph drainage? Are you a fan of Gua Sha or jade rollers? Have you seen amazing changes in your client's skin from incorporating this treatment? Let us know on social media. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or by emailing email@example.com. We wanna hear from you. In the meantime, thank you for listening to ASCP Esty talk. For more information on this episode, or for ways to connect with Ella, myself, or to learn more about ASCP, check out the show notes. Stay tuned for the next episode of ASCP Esty talk.
0:20:51.4 S3: Thanks for joining us today. If you like what you hear and you want more, subscribe. If you wanna belong to the only all-inclusive association for aestheticians, that includes professional liability insurance, education, industry insights and an opportunity to spotlight your sick skills, join at ascpskincare.com, only $259 per year for all this goodness. ASCP knows it's all about you.