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Lymphatic Drainage

Lymphatic Drainage
February 18, 2014 5 minute read

The first time I learned about lymphatic drainage was when I came to NYC to model full time. My fabulous Brazilian agent sent me straight to a chic Soho spa to get a lymphatic massage, because he was convinced that my “sporty legs” were holding excess fluids. I was skeptical, because anything that was instantly going to make me look slimmer sounded ridiculous, but let me tell you…the lymphatic system is intense! My body flushed out a surprising amount, considering my athletic lifestyle, and my legs did look and feel firmer. So ever since that fateful day I’ve been a big supporter of my lymphatic system, making sure to help it out every now and then via manual stimulation.

The lymphatic system has many important roles in maintaining a healthy body. When working properly, all that unnecessary surplus fluid hanging out around tissues and organs is drained, lymphocytes are made to support the immune system, and the blood of pathogens is filtered before it goes back into circulation to benefit the cardiovascular system. All this is done with the help of lymph, the vessels that transport the lymph, nodes and lymphocytes. But guess what – this open network has no pump! So it doesn’t flow unprompted and we need to get our bodies moving so that the lymph can circulate and enter into the nodes for elimination from the body. But intentionally encouraging the lymphatic system can do even more than exercise by increasing the volume of lymph flow by as much as 20 times, vastly increasing the system’s ability to remove toxins, extra liquids and infectious materials.

So here are my two favourite lymphatic system helper techniques:


Dry Brushing

What it is

Dry brushing is essentially brushing your skin…with a dry brush (I’m sure the name for this technique was contemplated for days). You use a special brush to remove dead skin cells, improve your circulation and stimulate the lymphatic system.

How to do it

First, you want to make sure you have a good brush. I’ve been using my Yerba Prima Skin Brush for a while now, and I really like it. You honestly don’t need to spend more than $10 on one, but just make sure you don’t buy one with synthetic bristles! I start at my feet, propping one foot up on the edge of the bath to begin with my ankles (I give some extra tlc to my ankles, knees and elbows). In long, fluid, strong strokes I move towards my heart – up the front, back and sides of my legs to follow the natural flow of the lymphatic system. I then go up my arms towards my shoulders, and up my back towards my neck. Next, I go in a circular motion on my stomach, clockwise, in the direction that my digestive system works. I spend a bit more time on my sides making sure I diligently cover any problem spots.

Then hop in the shower (or a detox bath) to ensure that any removed dead skin is rinsed off. I like to follow up after a shower or a bath with body oil for my arms, legs and stomach and a gentle, non-comedogenic, fragrance free lotion for my décolletage and back. Then wash your brush after each use with a gentle SLS and paraben free soap. I just use La Maison in Rosemary Mint, the same stuff I use to clean my Clarisonic and wash my hands. There you have it! An easy way to create an invigorating, skin buffing, circulation increasing, lymphatic stimulating treatment right at home!


Lymphatic Drainage Massage

What it is

I don’t get one very often, because I feel that dry brushing does a good (and gentle) job, but a lymphatic massage is great to do before a big event or an important photoshoot. Read: this should never be used as a means of weight loss no matter how fabulous and slim you feel sans excess fluid afterwards. Although your digestion and metabolism can be improved through this treatment, nothing is more effective than incorporating a healthy diet and fitness routine into your everyday life. That being said, an occasional lymphatic massage will definitely have you looking and feeling your best.

This massage uses gentle pressure that follows the natural course of the lymphatic system to stimulate lymph flow. It is extremely safe, but if you have any special medical conditions make sure you talk to your doctor before having this procedure performed. 

How to do it

I prefer to leave this one for the hands of the pros, but you can totally do it yourself too. Here’s a very basic guide.

Neck: The lymph is super close to the surface of your skin here so keep the pressure gentle. Place your middle fingers in the soft tissue space just above where your collarbones end in your centre (at the base of that V that appears when you push your neck forward). Gently pulse your fingers (every couple seconds). You’ll probably feel the fluid drain – it’s a really bizarre feeling! Then gently pulse your palms along the V on the sides of your neck in a downward direction towards your collarbones. The same can be done for the back of your neck.

Torso: Continue by pulsing your fingertips in a clockwise direction on your stomach.

Legs: Set yourself up like you would be if you went to a spa – prop up some pillows under your legs so that they are above your hips. This will naturally help the lymphatic fluid drain into the trunk so it can be flushed through the lymphatic system. Gently press your fingers in a sponging motion from your feet right up into where your thigh and hip meet in the hip socket (pulse there a couple times on each side).

Arms: Use a stroking motion from your fingertips up to your shoulders, and from your palm into your armpit. You can then sponge your fingertips in a clockwise motion on your underarms and wrists.

Whether done at home or by a professional, make sure you drink plenty of water before (stop an hour before) and after!


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