We have all heard of lymphatic drainage massages before - right? Whether you love or hate the light touch, all-over body drainage release, there is real value in it, but so many of us don’t really understand what it is or how important the lymphatic system is in the search for optimal health.
Things get even more exciting when we learn that the secret to clear, sparkling eyes, smooth, hydrated skin and a voluminous, plump face comes from the inside of the body, as well as the products that we put on the outside.
Meet the lymphatic system.
Understanding the connection between this system and the daily glow you show up with is a critical part of getting the glow.
So, what’s the lymphatic system?
The lymphatic system is a highly complex network of tissue and organs made up of lymph vessels, lymph nodes and lymph fluid that cover our entire body and act as our body’s drainage system.
This lymphatic system is hidden just below the skin (although it also runs deeper to assist with optimal function of muscles, tendons, nervous tissues and joints too) and it is huge. In fact, it’s double the size of our blood circulatory network!
The lymphatic system works silently in the background to ensure that the body is able to properly cleanse, detoxify and maintain it’s fluid levels. It’s just as important as our cardiovascular system - but is an unsung hero.
The 3 major functions of the lymphatic system are as follows:
1. Elimination - removing toxins, waste, dead cells, bacteria and excess water from the skin and tissues.
2. Detoxification - the lymphatic system and the lymph eventually drains to the liver, a vital site of detoxification - allowing the body to detox as it needs to to maintain healthy function; and
- Immunity - the whole system works together to filter out the bacteria, toxins, and viruses from the lymph so that the immune cells can then deal with them - ideally battling off infection and illness before it begins.
Ok - got it. So, it’s like the bloodstream?
Yes and no.
Whilst similar in terms of transportation, our lymph has no pump like our heart that pushes blood around the body to get it where it needs to go. Instead, the lymphatic system relies on muscle contraction (from things like breathing, exercise and massage) to keep things moving.
Is that a problem?
It can be. If your lymph system isn’t stimulated properly, isn’t moving properly, or the nodes become swollen and clogged (this often happens when fighting an infection or when we have a high toxic load), the lymph fluid can get stuck within the system and cause all kinds of problems when it is not moving around the body as effectively as it is meant to..
There are many wider health challenges of a weakly functioning or blocked lymphatic system - but today we are focusing on the impact of the lymphatic system and our skin - because we all deserve a good glow, right?
The connection between the lymphatic system and our skin
Our lymphatic system and skin condition are inextricably linked, and the lymph network runs straight past our collarbone, onto our skull and over our face.
Skin issues can arise when we have poor lymph function because:
- Elimination - if toxins can’t be eliminated properly and don’t move as meant to - waste will accumulate beneath the skin - leading to dull, uneven or puffy skin - as well as increasing the likelihood of skin conditions such as rashes, acne, eczema and psoriasis.
- Detoxification - ok, next let’s add the liver into the mix. If the lymph drains to the liver (or tries to), and the liver isn’t detoxing properly or is overloaded - toxins will remain in the body and this will increase the likelihood of them being eliminated through the skin. This means goodbye to vibrant, glowing skin and hi to dull, dry skin as well as acne and other skin conditions.
- Immunity - finally, an under functioning or poorly powered lymphatic system can lead to a less effective immune system - resulting in higher frequency of health conditions and illness, as well as an increased level of autoimmune related skin issues.
How to take care of the lymphatic system?
The easiest, cheapest and least time consuming way to get the lymphatic system moving is to dry brush. Dry brushing is an ancient practice of self care that works effectively because friction across the skin is one of the ways to get the lymphatic system moving.
The 101 of how to body brush
- Purchase a hard bristle brush - ensure natural bristles and good quality;
- Opt for a hand held one or one with a longer handle (if you don't have someone to help with the hard to reach places such as your back!)
- Start at your feet (including the soles) and start to brush in small circular motions - always moving up towards the heart;
- Brush up your feet and your legs and your abdomen;
- Then move to your arms - repeat! Always brushing towards the heart and the collarbone;
- Don’t get carried away - remember to avoid your chest area if you are female;
- And repeat - always moving upwards towards the heart.
- Focus on brushing for a minimum of 5 minutes - but the longer the better!
- Apply firm pressure - but remember, you should not be scrubbing or experiencing any pain. It’s ok for your skin to go pink, but it should not be an uncomfortable experience.
And can I dry brush my face?
You can - but a facial roller is a great option here and is often easier than a body brush as it is smaller and more easy to manage. Our favorites are a jade/rose quartz or a gua sha home roller.
When facial rolling your face, we love to work our face in the following steps.
Remember - you should always move the tool in the direction that the lymph system flows (to promote drainage) and this is generally from the midline of the face outwards, as well as downwards from the neck to the collarbone.
How to roll, Agent style:
- Start with your neck - at the mid line - and roll across and under the jaw bone and up to the ear, then behind your ear, down the side of your neck and down to your collarbone and heart;
- Once you have drained this part, you can move to the jawling - pulling from the chin, up the jawbone, towards the ears, then down the side of the neck;
- Then move to the cheeks - moving across the cheeks from the centre of the face - to the ears, behind the ears, then down the side of the neck, back to the collar bone;
- Then move to the eyes - use a smaller part of the roller and focus on the under eye - gently rolling from the nose to the outer eye, before repeating on the bone above the eye - over the eyebrow and towards the temple
- Finally - find the midline on the centre of your forehead, roll across the forehead on both sides, towards the temple, and down the neck, to the collarbone, to finish the process.
In addition to body brushing and jade rolling there are other ways to keep your lymphatic system moving, particularly if you think you have a stagnant or weakly functioning lymphatic system. These include:
- Exercise and movement (a bouncer is an awesome way to get things moving every day when you wake up if you can’t commit to a full exercise regime);
- Massage (self-massage or professional - whatever fits best into your routine);
- Hot foot baths (add essential oils to up the experience);
- Infrared-sauna (remember to take Binders to help mop up any excess toxic load);
- Incorporating lymph-moving foods into your diet such as turmeric, berries, cherries & beets;
- Increasing your hot water intake - helping to flush the lymph from within the digestive system and outside of the intestinal wall; and
- Incorporate herbs - think Turkey rhubarb, astragalus, and slippery elm bark. These have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and immune enhancing properties that naturally promote movement of the lymph.
Understanding that glowing, plump and sparkling skin starts on the inside, as well as the outside, is a critical part of your skin evolution.
Here’s to getting things moving and getting the glow. Let us know how you get on!
***THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN APPROVED OR REGULATED BY THE FDA. WE ARE NOT DOCTORS, THEREFORE ALWAYS CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR FIRST.