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7 min read

What Exactly is Cupping?

   Plumping, anti-aging, regeneration, everyone desires youthful young looking skin, but how do we as Estheticians deliver this result to our clients? The beauty industry is constantly expanding with new technology and equipment being developed every day! This can make it harder for an Esthetician to choose what exact treatment will benefit their client the most during that session. Various  factors can go into this decision such as contraindications, the expense of running certain machinery and of coarse how much a client is willing and able to pay; however, there is a treatment that creates anti-aging magic! This treatment doesn’t cost the esthetician anything except for their certification and their time, a treatment that has hundreds of years of research and practice. This treatment is of course, facial cupping.

   It is highly debated where cupping therapy got its start. Many believe the practice started in Ancient Egypt while others consider it a traditional Chinese and Middle Eastern treatment. The known benefits to cupping are:  pain reduction, promotion of relaxation, boosting skin health, improvement of respiratory issues and colds, and relieving digestive troubles. The practice of cupping involves suction cups that create a vacuum pulling effect on the skin. These cups are placed mindfully on different areas of the face or body to increase blood flow which in response stimulates the many other known benefits such as muscle relaxation and cellular repair. Different cupping techniques are used for different areas or to treat different ailments. For example, when it comes to facials an Esthetician would want to use moving cupping. This technique is better for thinner more delicate skin and creates a sculpting or contouring effect on the area. Cupping is generally offered by properly certified massage therapists, specialised Chiropractic offices, Physical Therapists, but is predominantly a service offered by Acupuncturist practices. As Estheticians we need to be certified first before performing facial cupping on clients.

The Science Behind it

   Since cupping has been around so long we should have enough indisputable scientific evidence to prove it is helpful to the human body right? Well, currently that is still up for debate. Like acupuncture many medical journals consider cupping to be a pseudoscience. Pseudoscience meaning “a collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method.” In other terms most scientific journals believe the practice of cupping hasn’t been properly studied using the scientific method of: observe, hypothesis, experiment, analyze, and conclude results. Throughout my studies I have found that most ancient eastern medicine is considered pseudoscience lacking the peer reviewed testing methods scientist require to be considered fact. Although this area seems to be lacking definitive answers most scientists don’t feel compelled to look deeper into the practices. In fact in many articles about Eastern medicine there seems to be a strong bias towards even continuing research. To quote an article about Olympic athletes practicing cupping in 2016, “We currently live in a world where no medical claim is so absurd that someone will not think it deserves serious research. So yes, there is actual medical research into cupping. I always have mixed feelings about this. Such research is clearly a waste of resources, and is also probably unethical. It also does not affect the practice of proponents. It is nice to have actual research to analyze and point to, but overall it is probably not worth it.”Cupping- Olympic Pseudoscience, by, Steven Novella.

Personally, I feel that more effort should be made to recognize ancient eastern medicine as tools that benefit the body. I can agree they are often not intended to be the go to in a medical emergency, however that doesn’t mean they have no place in scientific texts at all or couldn't be used more in a beauty or body rehabilitation effort. Nonetheless, cupping  has strong legs to stand on when debating its efficacy in the treatment room.

   Cupping like many of its partnering ‘pseudoscience’ medicines was first introduced as a superstition based alternative therapy. It was introduced during a time when there was a pre-scientific culture, meaning at the time they lacked knowledge of physiological mechanisms of health and diseases. One of the first recorded uses of cupping was ‘Wet Cupping’ otherwise known as Chinese blood-letting. This technique would have the practitioner lancet the skin before placing a glass cup.


The cup would  create a vacuum effect after a flame displaced the oxygen within the cup before sealing down to the body. Blood would pool out of the patient into the cup and was believed to remove impurities or disease and improve ones energy or “Qi”. Interestingly enough China wasn’t the only area performing wet cupping at the time, it has been discovered that wet cupping has historical roots in more than 60 different countries one of the most well known being the practice ofHijama in the Arab Nation.

  The other methods of cupping aren’t quite as invasive. The different types of cupping are: fire cupping, dry cupping, moving cupping, and of course wet/bleeding cupping. Some forms of cupping have started to be used less and less to the point of being traded out in modern times, wet cupping (or blood cupping) and fire cupping are often skipped over because they can be more dangerous treatments for both practitioners and clients. No one wants to worry about receiving an intense burn from a needed flame or be on high alert about bloodborne pathogens, client iron levels and cup sterilization. On the other hand the other forms of cupping are slowly being more modernized and used more consistently. Dry cupping is the technique that was re-popularized during the 2016 Rio Olympics. This method generally is focused on muscular pain relief and often causes a bruising effect.  Dry cupping is a well practiced therapy in Canada where according to aPTHealth blog in 2017 they recorded a 61% decrease in pain for patients coming in with neck and back injuries after a series of cupping treatments. This technique is an amazing tool for physical therapists and massage therapists alike who need assistance with clients muscle pain, blood flow and breaking up congestion.

Best Esthetic Practices

  Of course we all know that as Estheticians our speciality is the face. We want clear, young, glowing skin for all! So how will facial cupping assist us in reaching that goal? When it comes to the face smaller less powerful suction cups are needed. The face needs to be prepped with oil to ensure the cups will have slip to move around the skin. Cupping will also cause better absorption of oil improving the lipid hydration and smoothness of the acid mantle. Never leave cups stagnant in one area for too long, this can cause potential bruising and it doesn’t take much when the skin is more thin and delicate. While cupping you want to focus on the lymphatic system as well as “emotional areas’ of the face, such as the forehead, chin, jawline and the nasolabial folds. When we express emotion the muscles in the face tense, stretch, and shorten and all these things can cause changes in how the skin lays on the face. Cupping gently pulls skin up and away from fascia tissue that may have formed in deeper layers of the skin. The vacuum effect stimulates blood flow which in turn oxygenates the muscles, provides nutrients, and help break down and relive the skin tissue of knots and abnormalities such as cellulite. While cupping we will be moving a lot of toxins, fascia, blood and lymph so it is vital to provide lymphatic drainage after a facial cupping session. Ensuring that your client's lymphatic system will properly filter everything out of their body is just as important as every other step of the cupping technique. Knowing these systems and how to maintain them is a large reason of why cupping certification is so important to learn before offering the service in your treatment room.  

   All the esthetic benefits to cupping are too good to pass up and make the practice feel like it was made for Estheticians. While improving oil absorption and smoothness of the skin cupping also provides top notch anti-aging benefits such as  strengthening skin and connective tissue, stimulating cell response for collagen production, minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, decreasing puffiness, brightening and evening skin complexion and toning the face. It is the powerhouse treatment and so versatile in the treatment room. Currently there are few contraindications for facial cupping but some  contraindications include: skin infections, ulcers, or sensitivity, and due to its major involvement with the lymphatic and circulatory system it is strongly mentioned to not be recommended for pregnant women.

   So what is important to know before introducing cupping to your salon or spa? First of all it is so important to check with your state regulations that an Esthetician can provide facial cupping in your area. It’s best to stay aware and on top of what you can provide in your facial room to avoid any issues regarding your license in the future. In addition seek proper, accredited certification classes. Facial cupping should not cause any bruising and improper technique can be more hindering than beneficial. Of course use the proper tools! A good service can only get better when you know your equipment inside and out. Remember perhaps the 3 most important things for an Estheticians success are their equipment, self-care, and education!

   The ancient medicine techniques of the past can be the powerhouse beauty services of tomorrow. My hope with this article is to open some eyes about the potential treatments Estheticians can be offering to better serve their beloved clients. As well as hopefully bring some light to the fact that not all alleged ‘pseudoscience’ treatments don’t belong in our modern world. I’d hope that those who are still not convinced about the benefits of cupping take it upon themselves to do some research and feel welcomed to come to their own conclusions and not feel compelled by anyone's bias to trust one single article on the internet. After all as Estheticians it is also our job to be sure we are promoting the most beneficial treatment to our clients and have our own knowledge and confidence supporting our recommendations. I for one am an Esthetician that believes the ancient people before us may not have always had the best medical or cosmetic advice; however, 60 countries developing very similar to almost the exact same treatment stands out as more than a mere coincidence. Upon receiving my own certification and introducing the treatment to my spa I easily saw the results and feel they speak for themselves. The circulatory and  lymphatic system are major highlights in our career, finding more ways to benefit the body I’m certain will lead to some major beauty discoveries in the future. After all, beauty really is health in disguise we all wish health upon our clients and now we have another amazing treatment to get them there. You can grab your facial cups here!

By: Jada Rose
Instagram: @jadaesthetics_llc






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