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If 2020 left me craving anything, it's a long, relaxing massage under an expert's supervision. Not one where I'm left sore but thrilled the next day, but something really calming and relaxing—and even more so, something that can really make me feel my very best.
When I first heard about Brazilian Lymphatic Drainage massage, the massage technique beloved by celebrities like Selena Gomez, Jen Atkin, Alessandra Ambrosio, and Hailey Bieber, my interest was piqued. What do you mean, a massage that can also help me get rid of swelling and remove toxins from my body? I needed to know more, and I needed to know ASAP. I contacted Flavia Morellato, a Brazil-born, UK-based lymphatic drainage specialist with her own specialized method for lymphatic drainage; Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist and founder of Joanna Vargas Salons and Skin Care; and Camila Pflaumer, a Brazilian lymphatic drainage massage therapist at Vargas' salon, to find out if it really lives up to the hype.
What is Lymphatic Drainage Massage?
Brazilian Lymphatic Drainage is a type of massage focusing on stimulating the natural drainage of the lympth nodes, in order to eliminate waste and toxins from the body.
Meet the Expert
What Is Brazilian Lymphatic Drainage Massage?
Lymphatic drainage massage involves bringing the fluid stuck in between cells and in the tissue to the lymph nodes, in order to be pumped out of the body. It requires a deeper touch, so it helps with cellulite appearance and increases circulation in general, creating that "sculpting" effect. Morellato explains that in Brazil—the world leader in plastic surgery procedures—lymphatic drainage is considered mandatory after any cosmetic procedure. "Due to demand, Lymphatic Drainage became very popular there and they have evolved the original Vodder technique to another level, combining it with some of Leduc and Godoy maneuvers. This claims to deliver more instantaneous and visible results."
It's easy to think of the lymphatic system as the body’s drainage system, part of our circulatory system and our immune system in the large mechanical process that is the human body. But unlike the circulatory system, the lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump to keep the flow moving, so when it's impaired, that fluid builds up, delaying the body's ordinary functionality, causing swelling, lethargy, tiredness, heavy legs, and inflammation. There's a whole lot going up in the lymphatic system—it is composed of some organs, plus a network of vessels and nodes, and glands, which carry excess fluid, metabolic waste, and toxins through the body. It then filters that fluid of potentially harmful organisms and bacteria that can lead to infection and disease.
And that's where the Brazilian Lymphatic Drainage process comes in—it involves the whole body and begins by stimulating the lymph nodes, starting from the pelvic area, the groin, under the knees and ankles, armpits, collar bone, and most importantly, the thoracic duct. It uses soft pressure, to encourage a healthy lymph flow through a series of strokes and patterns along the lymphatic pathway. Vargas describes this as "the pumping technique," to help the lymph nodes open and close in order to bring toxins out of the body, or up to the center to be cleaned, so the lymph can distribute fresh nutrients.
Benefits of Brazilian Lymphatic Drainage Massage
Brazilian Lymphatic Drainage massages can:
- Speed up surgery recovery and optimize outcomes
- Improve blood circulation
- Boost the immune system
- Boost metabolism
- Improve the elasticity of skin
- Improve digestion and weight loss
- Reduce the appearance of cellulite
- Help with hormonal imbalance (menopause, PMS and pregnancy)
- Help with constipation
- Help with bloating, puffiness, and water retention
When it comes to your health, the main benefit is the delivery of nutrients and the disposal of waste. Someone who breaks out a lot has a problem with carrying the waste away, while someone with dull skin may not be getting enough nutrients. Brazilian Lymphatic Drainage massage can help you lose inches, boost your immune system, and increase your overall health.
In terms of why it's important to make sure your lymphatic system is clear and drained, it goes further than just what's going on inside—it can also impact what happens on the outside, too. "It is entirely responsible for how fast a breakout heals, whether or not you break out at all, and whether your skin is hydrated or dry," Vargas and Pflaumer explain. "It governs over the glow! It doesn't have its own pump, so the lymphatic system needs us to exercise or to get regular massage to work, since exercise drives the lymphatic system. A bad lymphatic system will cause acne and breakouts. We need it to perform well in order to have great skin."
How to Prepare for Brazilian Lymphatic Drainage Massage
Morellato, Vargas, and Pflaumer recommend preparing for lymphatic massage the same way you would prepare for a regular massage, with a little twist:
- Take a shower prior.
- Avoid heavy meals 1 hour before your booking, and ideally, fast or eat a light meal.
- Be prepared to heavily hydrate after: "Drinking a lot of water after helps to keep your results for longer,” says Vargas.
- Avoid alcohol before your session, and avoid carbs, alcohol, and sugar after your session; consume very clean meals afterward.
What to Expect During a Brazilian Lymphatic Drainage Massage
The massage is an all-over body experience not dissimilar to regular massage, with some exceptions. Expect gentle stomach manipulation and some breast massage, but you'll feel relaxed, just like during a standard massage. You should not expect it to be painful at all unless your treatment is straight after surgery, Morellato explains. "In this instance, it can take time until you feel comfortable with the strokes. Even post-surgery it shouldn't be unbearable; it feels a bit like touching a numb area, but it is very important to bring the sensitivity back and to increase the blood perfusion." Her personal method Lymphatic Drainage is unique, focusing a lot on the digestive system whilst incorporating plenty of breathing, as well as buccal massage that releases the pressure of certain muscles optimizing the drainage. "It also involves a Myofascial relief, that can feel sharp but worth it. Relaxing the abdominal muscles and having an empty bladder helps to make your experience more pleasant and leads to better results," she says.
Before and After
Morellato shared some drastic images of pre- and post-Brazilian lymphatic massage.
Endermologie vs. Brazilian Lymphatic Drainage Massage
It can be easy to confuse new treatments, especially if they sound exactly the same and it isn't clear how, exactly, they differ. Endermologie and Brazilian lymphatic have the same goal—treating lymphatic flow—but they're pretty different. For one, Endermologie is a machine, not unlike a vacuum with a nozzle that drags its way across your skin and fat tissue to release tight bundles of fat and skin, claiming to help lymphatic flow. It is most commonly used as a more specific cellulite treatment. Meanwhile, the Brazilian Lymphatic Drainage massage is a hands-on experience, an entirely manual, gentle, massage that improves lymphatic and blood circulation. By applying the right pressure and rhythmic strokes, the fluid and toxins collection can be shifted, thus also improving the appearance of cellulite.
At-Home vs. Professional?
While the same intense effects shown in the photos are likely best acquired with professional intervention, Morellato says there are absolutely ways to incorporate elements of Brazilian lymphatic massage at home, too. Not only can you can stimulate the lymphatic system via exercise and dry brushing at home, but she also says there's one easy way to do it for yourself. "Lymphatic Drainage doesn’t require much previous preparation, all you need is to lay down flat semi-naked and breathe in and out from time to time." (Wait, don't we do that ... normally?)
Potential Side Effects
As with any massage, light-headedness is likely the most common side effect, because you are increasing blood flow, but again—that can happen with any massage. Typically, people feel thirsty and need to rehydrate heavily after the massage.
Of course, this treatment is going to change in price depending on the therapist, location, and method. Vargas charges $245 for 60 minutes and $375 for 90 minutes at her New York spa, while The Flavia Morellato Method of Lymphatic Drainage starts at £150 (roughly $206) for a home visit session with one of her assistants.
Taking care of the body after a Brazilian Lymphatic Drainage massage is a lot like taking care of the body before—continue drinking water and eating clean, to make sure the results really stay and last as long as possible. Dry brushing is also recommended by Vargas.
The Final Takeaway
We love when a treatment is just as impactful on our insides as it is on our outside. Brazilian Lymphatic Drainage massage is essentially a more intense version of the massages we know and love. Massage results can last up to 10 days, but it really depends on the individual's metabolism, health, and lifestyle. However, incorporating lymphatic drainage massage into your regular routine will make the results last longer while boosting the other aforementioned benefits, so it's absolutely worth a try if you're looking to make a commitment.