Words By Katie Intner
Are Lymphatic Drainage Massages Worth the Hype?
Detoxifying and remodeling massage treatments, popular in parts of Europe for nearly a century, are spreading across the U.S., flattening bloated bellies and slimming limbs.
Puffy, sluggish, and fresh off a recent flight from New York to Paris, I entered the studio of Martine de Richeville, a French aesthetician known for her body-sculpting massages. I’d heard that her treatments, which are sought after by models, Hollywood insiders, and well-heeled Parisians, were transformative. What I learned, however, is they’re not relaxing. As de Richeville kneaded my stomach, legs, arms, and back, encouraging fluid movement and, in her words, “reorganizing fat cells to contour the body,” I winced and stifled a yelp more than once.
“Done!” she announced after an hour, pointing at my now-flat belly and leaner legs. As I sat up, I noted that I also felt lighter and more energetic.
While that was my first experience with body sculpting, this type of treatment has been popular in western Europe for nearly a century. It was originally developed in the early 1930s by Emil Vodder, a Danish massage therapist who theorized, after noting swollen lymph nodes in sick patients, that massage might mobilize fluid in the lymph system, helping the body eliminate toxins faster—and patients heal sooner. This proved true, and in 1936, Vodder introduced “manual lymph drainage” to the medical community in Paris. Eventually the technique made its way to spas, where it’s been adapted and used to reduce puffiness from stagnant fluid and remodel the body.
These treatments have not been widely available historically in the U.S., but that’s changing. “Social media has raised awareness of wellness, including a focus on our lymphatic system,” says Flávia Lanini, a Los Angeles lymphatic-massage therapist who boasts clients like Hailey Bieber and Dua Lipa—and a months-long wait list for her services.
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There are also ways to achieve benefits at home—and that’s how I’ve sought to maintain the results I got at de Richeville’s studio. Dry brushes (my personal favorite), massage rollers, and even your hands can all be used to support detoxification, says Viviane Lieberman, a massage therapist and educator for Gente Beauty, which makes products for DIY massage. She suggests starting at your legs, then working up to your stomach, flanks, arms, and chest—always massaging or brushing toward your lymph nodes (behind the knees, above the thighs, under the chest, in the armpit, and along the collarbone) to encourage fluid movement. In addition to massage or dry brushing, Zahn adds that drinking lots of water, Epsom-salt baths, routine saunas, or even wriggling into compressionwear to boost blood flow will all also minimize fluid buildup and prevent bloating and puffiness.
This story originally appeared in harpersbazaar.com