How a Lymphatic Drainage Massage Can Bring Dull Skin Back to Life


A lymphatic drainage massage promises to do a whole lot more than lull you into a feeling of relaxation. From improving the appearance of acne and cellulite, to filtering out toxins from your body, there are many reasons to try this treatment and enjoy the benefits long after your massage has ended.

We’ve noticed lymphatic drainage massages quietly gaining steam — with more and more massage centres and beauty destinations offering the treatment, but lymphatic draining massage techniques have been around since the 1930s. And though almost everyone is encouraged to try it, there are certain groups who are advised to steer clear. 

We spoke to Lisa Higgins, Sydney-based remedial massage therapist and lymphatic draining massage expert to find out everything there is to know about lymphatic draining massages. 

What is lymphatic draining massage

Lymphatic massage is the manual stimulation of the interstitial fluids of the body to return waste and excessive fluid to the blood for the organs to process. “It involves very gentle, stretching movements of the skin to encourage the opening and closing of lymph vessels to improve the function of the system,” says Higgins.

Danish Drs. Emil Vodder and Estrid Vodder pioneered the technique of manual lymphatic drainage in the 1930s to treat sinus and bronchial conditions, though the technique has now been discovered to treat more than just those ailments. 

The entire body has lymphatic vessels 2mm under the surface of the skin, which means techniques can be applied just about anywhere — even on the roof of the mouth.

Ways lymphatic drainage massage helps your body

Higgins says your body’s lymphatic system has three main functions: to circulate your immune cells, balance the amount of fluid in your tissue, and to filter pathogens or debris from trauma in the body.  

Lymphatic drainage massage helps stimulate all three of these functions which can result in a reduction in fluid retention or puffiness, an increase in immunity, detoxification, and tan improvement in the appearance of skin.

Does lymphatic drainage massage reduce cellulite and improve acne?

Lymphatic drainage can improve the appearance of cellulite, though the technique works best with a combination of firm massage to first break up the cellulite. After this, lymphatic drainage massage is done to help clear it away. 

“You would need to have multiple massages and couple it with self-drainage at home,” says Lisa. “There are protocols for acne treatment, and again, multiple sessions are needed. Initially, the skin could flare but after two or three session things settle down and start to improve.”

Who can benefit from lymphatic drainage massage

Almost everyone can benefit from lymphatic drainage massage in one way or another but in particular, those who experience fluid conditions, sinus issues, headaches, lymphoedema, lipoedema, or carry excess fluid in the heat or post flying. 

The technique can also benefit people with auto-immune conditions or those undergoing a detox regimen, and it is particularly helpful after cosmetic surgery to speed up the healing process.

Who should not have lymphatic drainage massage

There are certain people who are advised to forgo lymphatic drainage massage techniques. These include “anyone with cardiac or renal insufficiency, active deep vein thrombosis or active untreated cancer,” says Higgins. 

Other exceptions include massage to the belly during pregnancy or post radical abdominal surgery.

Are the results of lymphatic drainage massage instant?

The results of lymphatic drainage massage can be seen instantly depending on what area of the body you are treating and how long the condition has been present. “You can often see or feel a result after one session, but to gain maximum benefit I encourage clients to come in regularly — usually once a month for a maintenance treatment,” says Higgins.

The frequency of treatments will depend on the condition also. “When doing a detox, I recommend once a week minimum for the duration of the programme. Acne treatments are case-by-case, but you would be looking at multiple visits per week initially and tapering off after three or four weeks.  

“For a healthy person with no stand-out conditions, I recommend coming in when they feel a bit sluggish or at the change of season.”