Our editors have independently chosen the products listed on this page. If you purchase something mentioned in this article, we may earn a small commission.
As your body’s largest organ and its only external one, your skin is a direct reflection of your internal state of health—physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s how we show ourselves to the world, and it’s often the first thing we are judged on by people, including ourselves.
The many muscles and lymph nodes in your head and neck are constantly taking in, reacting to, and processing stimuli. You use your head to think, speak, smell, sense, taste, and experience the world. Your mouth, ears, nose, and throat are all vulnerable to environmental irritants. If there’s stagnation under the surface of your skin as a result of clenching your jaw or staring at a screen all day, the flow of vital nutrients and oxygen has difficulty getting to your cells. Your lymphatic vessels” ability to remove waste can also be hampered by muscular tension.
How lymphatic massage can benefit your skin.
In order to maintain a healthy glow on the outside, you need to tend to your inside. When toxins build up, it will show up on your skin. Alcohol and cigarettes, for example, cause your blood vessels to dilate, leading to fluid retention in the form of puffiness and bloating.
Lymphatic self-massage can also be very beneficial for people who struggle with eczema. A while back, a client who had been suffering from eczema for more than a year came to see me when she had a red rash at the base of her neck and ears. She had been doing acupuncture and hot yoga, but her eczema had persisted. She told me that she also developed rashes that came and went in her elbow creases, in her armpits, and at the tops of her thighs—the main areas of lymph nodes.
I saw her monthly for a few months, taught her self-massage, and recommended that she take a break from hot yoga as the heat might be inhibiting her lymphatic system. She was diligent with her self-care practice a few times a week and stopped turning up the heat when she did yoga. Within a few months, her rash was gone and her skin tone evened out. She was truly amazed by the power of her lymphatic system in action.
The lymph in the face ultimately empties to the venous angle in the subclavian vein at your collarbone. This process drains impurities from your face and down your neck, which can clear out trapped bacteria, one of the root causes of breakouts.
A lymphatic self-massage sequence for instantly glowing skin.
This sequence also affects your vagus nerve, which puts you into the parasympathetic nervous state, where your body does its best repairing and can reap the most benefits. Your skin will instantly get a noticeable boost.
Remember, you are the keeper of your body. Touch your face with love, positivity, compassion, and acceptance.
Stimulate the right and left supraclavicular lymphatic nodes at the base of your neck just above your collarbone. Press your fingertips down into the hollows above your collarbone. Make a J motion as you press lightly down and out toward your shoulders. Repeat 10 times.
Perform the “Neck” sequence. There are three steps:
- Place both your palms at the base of your neck. Pulse the skin gently as you stroke downward toward your collarbone. Repeat 10 times.
- Place your hands higher so your pinkie fingers rest in the groove behind your ears, your fingertips pointing diagonally toward your ears. Use your palms to stretch the skin downward toward your neck. Repeat 5 times.
- Make light brush strokes from behind your ears all the way down your neck. Repeat 5 times. Swallow once.
Perform the “Spock” sequence: Separate your fingers between your middle and ring fingers (Spock-like). Place your middle and index fingers behind your ears in the cartilage groove, and your ring and pinky fingers in front of your ears. Gently massage back and downward in a C-stroke. Repeat 10 times. This stimulates both the pre- and retroauricular lymph nodes of your ears. This should be a rhythmic, nurturing movement. Swallow once.
Place your fingertips at the base of your skull, in the occipital ridge. With your fingers touching, gently walk your fingertips along this ridge, then glide them down your neck, the way a waterfall streams down a mountain. Repeat 10 times.
Stimulate your shirt-collar lymphatic zone: Place your hands on top of your shoulders, your elbows pointing straight in front of you. Inhale, then drop your elbows as you exhale, keeping your fingertips on your shoulders. Repeat 5 times. This helps move lymphatic fluid from the back of your neck to the drains above your collarbone.
Lightly brush your face with your fingertips from your chin to your ears, from your cheeks to your ears, from the bridge of your nose up to the middle of your forehead, then toward your ears. Then brush along your eyebrows to your ears. Repeat three times.
Press your finger gently into the inner corner of each eye. Hold for 3 seconds. Then move your finger up to your inner eyebrows. Hold there for 3 seconds. Then massage along your eyebrows toward your temples. Repeat 3 times.
Fan your fingertips out under your eyes. You will feel the very tops of your cheekbones here. Press very gently along the top line of your cheekbones toward your ears. Repeat 3 times.
Repeat Step 7: Press the inner corners of your eyes, then massage up to your brow bones and across your eyebrows to your temples.
Place your right thumb underneath your right eye and your index finger on your eyebrow. Lightly lift your index finger as if you’re “opening” the eye socket. Be as light as a feather. Gently walk your fingers from your eyebrows out toward your temples 3 times. Repeat on the left side 3 times.
Adapted from Book of Lymph by Lisa Levitt Gainsley. Copyright © 2021 by Lisa Levitt Gainsley. Published by Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission.