"I know what a woman is 'supposed' to be—thin, white, and feminine in a way that follows the many rules of the male gaze," contributor Rachel Charlene Lewis wrote in regards to the journey to loving her body. She speaks about how it all came down to appreciating herself regardless of what she was "supposed" to be. Such is the case with cellulite as much as it is identity and shape. Most of us have cellulite, and we've all been fooled into despising it by gimmicky workout routines and diets that promise to banish whatever it is they're supposed to rid you of. But cellulite is part of your body, part of most of our bodies, and it has very little to do with weight and certainly shouldn't affect our self-worth. Having cellulite is totally normal, beautiful even.
That being said, just as you're allowed to love your form the way it is, you're also free to want to change it. Creams don't always work and lasers can be painful and expensive. So we asked alternative medicine guru Robert Youngs to look into whether cupping for cellulite could offer some possible answers.
Meet the Expert
- Robert Youngs is an acupuncturist and herbalist based in Beverly Hills, CA. Following the ethos of stress being the lead cause of most illnesses, Youngs works to provide an individualized and natural approach to bettering his clients' overall wellbeing.
Read on to learn whether cupping can really improve cellulite and how.
What Is Cupping?
What Is Cupping?
Cupping is a practice, dating back as early as 3000 BCE throughout Asia and Europe, in which practitioners use cups to create suction over targeted areas of your skin.
Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Olympic athletes like Michael Phelps began to put the cupping technique on the map in the U.S. a few years ago—you've probably seen the pictures—but holistic practitioners have made it readily available for far longer.
"We use suction to bring blood and energy, qi, as it's called in traditional Chinese medicine, to the area," says Youngs. "It's meant to break up stagnation and move your blood, increase circulation and lymphatic drainage, and resolve issues that are sometimes deep in the fascia and muscle layers."
How Does Cupping Work?
"The suction in cupping brings red blood cells to the area, which can often cause bruising because the red blood cells stay in the area to continue healing—much like if you had an injury from falling down," Youngs notes. Cupping is proven to increase red blood cells. Essentially, the idea is your practitioner is artificially bringing those red blood cells to an area using suction, and if there is something that needs to be healed deep within the muscle layer, the bruising will stay there to heal it. "I think of the cupping marks as somewhat diagnostic," says Youngs. "You can use the same pressure on both sides of the body, and sometimes you'll have a much darker mark in certain spots than others. Therefore, those areas are ones that need healing," he says.
Does Cupping Improve Cellulite?
"In traditional Chinese medicine, they see ailments as caused by a stagnation or blockage of energy flow, and cellulite is no different," explains Youngs. "Specifically, cellulite can be a result of poor blood circulation, lymphatic issues (where it is not draining as well as it should), fluid retention, and hormonal imbalances." He says cupping moves your blood, increases circulation, and reduces the buildup of fluid, so it's pretty much perfect for helping to reduce the look of cellulite. "The suction of the cups also breaks up the cellulite and changes the texture of your skin with repeated use," Youngs claims. Even better, it can be used in very specific areas on the body—your butt, thighs, and the like. It's hard for a diet to target certain body parts, but cupping might.
Are There Different Types of Cupping for Cellulite?
"We like to use a combination of cupping and Chinese herbs, both internally and topically for cellulite treatment. You can choose to do either stationary cupping or running cupping," says Youngs. With running cupping, he explains, the cups move across your skin while suctioned, using oil to create slip. However, Youngs notes that stationary cupping is used more often, as moving the cups can create discomfort. In the first session, cups are left on the skin for approximately five to 10 minutes, building up the duration to up to 20 minutes as the person acclimates to the treatment. "You can expect changes within two to four visits with six to eight treatments," says Youngs.
How to Correctly Use Cupping for Cellulite
- Apply body oil or cream to the area you would like treated. This will aid in facilitating the movement of the cups.
- Place the cup on the treatment area, squeeze, and release.
- Glide the cup using circular or back and forth motions.
- Continue for 15 minutes and repeat three times per week, eventually working your way up to daily 10-minute sessions.
In order to create the right amount of suction, do not push the cup down too hard. When starting out, your skin needs to grow accustomed to the treatment. If you find that it hurts, there is too much suction. You'll need to remove the cup and start over.
How to Treat Bruises After Cupping
To treat the initial bruising, Youngs uses a topical herbal formula. It's a blend commonly used in mixed martial arts to speed the healing of bruising and injuries. "Another important aspect of herbs is they can help to treat some of the root issues that cause cellulite in the first place, like hormonal [influences]," Youngs says. "Women's Harmony is an herbal formula that includes Dang Gui, a well-known Chinese herb that is adaptogenic, contains phytoestrogen, and will help balance hormones. Irregular periods and painful periods can often accompany cellulite (if it is due to a hormonal influence), and we like to treat it with an herbal supplement combined with acupuncture, rather than just use one treatment." It's the combination that helps your entire body, he notes.
Skin-Tightening Tools You Can Use at Home
If you'd rather not go the in-office treatment route, finding really effective tools meant to help with the reduction of cellulite while tightening and toning your skin is beneficial.
Shop The Look
Cleveland Clinic. Cellulite. Updated January 17, 2018.
Al-Bedah AMN, Elsubai IS, Qureshi NA, et al. The medical perspective of cupping therapy: effects and mechanisms of action. J Tradit Complement Med. 2018;9(2):90-97. doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2018.03.003