Everything You Need to Do Lymphatic Drainage at Home

While lymphatic drainage has recently gone viral for the popular before-and-after videos promising a more sculpted look, the practice is actually rooted in amazing health benefits for the body and has origins as long ago as the 1300s (according to China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Gua Sha was used to “scrape away illness,” and it was eventually written into major medical texts during the Ming Dynasty). The benefits are much greater than a sculpted jawline or less bloated stomach: lymphatic drainage massage and techniques are the holy grail of naturally flushing out toxins, revving up the immune system, rejuvenating cellular function, and minimizing excess fluid retention and bloat.

So how does it work? Think of the lymphatic system as the body’s “sewage system,” whose purpose is to help detoxify and get rid of damaged cells, bacteria, or toxins (read more about the lymphatic system here). With the helping hand of a gua sha, dry brush, or your hands, you can manually manipulate specific areas of your body to encourage the flow of (read: drain) lymphatic fluid toward the lymph nodes where it’s filtered and fed back into the bloodstream. Bottom line: You can take a DIY approach to boosting the health of your lymphatic system with simple tools. Read on for a mini tutorial on trying it for yourself—be it your face or body—products and all.


Moving excess fluid out of the facial area translates to a de-puffing, swelling-reduction, dullness-combating effect. Proponents of facial lymphatic drainage massages can’t get enough of the wellness trend thanks to the glowing, healthier-looking complexion it leaves. Other benefits include aiding in improving blood circulation, bringing fresh nutrients to the skin through blood flow, supporting healthy cell production, and taking time for self-care. To give some TLC to your face, use the tips of your fingers or a massage tool to work your lymphatic system, starting in the middle of the face and working up and out towards the ears, before gently bringing it down the neck. 

Full body

You’ve likely seen before-and-after pics of lymphatic drainage massage recipients (namely their abdomens). The reasoning behind the more contoured look? Lymphatic drainage may help reduce water retention and bloat, which may have a temporary visual slimming effect. But the perks are so much more than just how you temporarily lool: enhancing the immune system, stimulating the digestive system, and potentially minimizing PMS symptoms like headaches and pelvic pains. Dry brushing, body tools, and foam rollers help move the lymph around. After, sweat it out so your body can get rid of the toxins.

And if you don’t want to buy anything at all…

Your hands and some body oil can get the job done too (a mirror might be helpful as well, especially if you’re new to the technique). When performing a lymphatic self-massage, use slow, gentle, and rhythmic strokes and apply them in the direction of the closest lymph node (Sabrina Sweet, a lymphatic drainage massage specialist, calls these The Big 6: below the ears, above and below collarbones, armpits, abdomen area, groin region, and behind the knees). According to a Vogue interview with lymphatic massage expert, Flavia Lanini, begin by pressing on the area just below your collarbones to get the drainage started, then press the armpit three times on both sides. Next, shift your focus to the arms and stroke from the elbow to the shoulder on both sides.

To give it a go on your stomach, Rebecca Faria, a licensed lymphatic drainage specialist and founder of Detox By Rebecca, gave a how-to in an interview with InStyle: Start by opening your lymph nodes with light presses, then make circular, clockwise movements around your navel, followed by consecutive up-and-down movements, from your stomach to your lymph nodes. “Then, turn to one side of your body and, using both hands, make pushing movements from the side towards the lymph nodes,” she explained. Don’t forget about the other side!

Finally, to massage the legs, lay the palm of your hands right at the crease of one thigh, and move upwards toward the navel in a wave-like motion. Repeat on the other leg. 

And because nothing is more satisfying than sweating it out, give your lymphatic system a leg up by getting a heart-pumping, at-home workout in or turning your bathroom into a DIY steam room after your hands-on treatment (because sweating doesn’t have to cost a thing!). By stimulating your lymphatic system to detox through sweat, your body is better able to remove toxins at a cellular level while preparing your lymph nodes for more effective drainage. 

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