Does Cupping for Cellulite Work? Here’s Everything We Know

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 technique on the map in the U.S. a few years—I’m sure you’ve 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 Robert Youngs, an acupuncturist and herbalist based in Beverly Hills. 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, says Youngs.

“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. See, those red blood cells stay there to heal. Essentially, 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 it aid in cellulite reduction?

“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 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 notes. 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 specific body parts, but Cupping can.

“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 the latter,” he continues, “the cups move and run across your body with suction using oil. However, we mostly use stationary cupping because moving them across the body in those areas can be uncomfortable. The cups are usually left on anywhere from five to 20 minutes, depending on the person and level of fluid retention in their body. We often start their first session with five to 10 minutes, and, and as the body acclimates, increase the length of time with each session. You can expect changes within two to four visitswith six to eight treatments.”

How should I treat the bruising? 

To treat the initial bruising, Youngs uses a topical herbal formula. It’s a blend commonly used in mixed martial arts to speed 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 imbalances,” 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 imbalance), 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.

If you’d rather not go the in-office-treatment route, find three really effective tools that help with the reduction of cellulite while tightening and toning your skin. You can use them right in your living room.

“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 regard 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. Ninety percent 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. 

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. That’s why we decided to look into cupping for some possible answers. Keep reading to find out more.


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