Illustration by Lindsay Hattrick


Facial Cupping Sounds Really Scary, But It Feels Like A Massage Chair For Your Face

What a pleasure!

Despite my fear of needles, I’m surprisingly fond of acupuncture; I tried it because of reading so many testimonials that promise it wouldn’t hurt and found that it worked wonders for my stress and body aches. But the alternative practice I drew the line at was cupping, in which glass cups are suctioned to parts of your body and left on for a period of several minutes. Though it's supposed to help with the same problems as acupuncture does, the circular red bruises left behind by cupping have made me avoid it.

So what was I doing walking into Ildi Pekar Skin Care in order to get cupping done on my face recently? I was doing journalism, that's what. And I was scared. But that only lasted for a moment, until I was greeted by Pekar herself, who assured me that the magnetic facial cupping I was about to receive would not only not be painful, but that it would actually feel good. More importantly? My face would not be covered in the round bruises that cupping is notorious for giving to its acolytes.

Pekar noted that the red circles that come from body cupping are a result of the cups being left on the skin in one position for a relatively long period of time. During body cupping, she says, “The cups are applied in a specific area for a few minutes, which create the bruising effect; the darker the bruise, the more inflamed that particular area is.” But with facial cupping, the benefits actually come from the constant movement of the cups, which also keeps your face bruise-free.

The facial started with Pekar cleansing my face and then applying a gentle enzyme peel, in order to prep the skin and even its texture before a cup touches the face. She then went in with a calming form of magnetic therapy, which felt like my face was pressed into a massage chair. The tool she used provided constant vibration, which promotes microcirculation in the face—and it was far and away the most relaxing thing that has ever happened to me at a skin-care facility, which is saying a lot. I was nice and calm before the first cup even touched my face, which was definitely a plus since my nerves were still nagging me.

But I didn't have anything to worry about. Pekar had told me that the amount of time spent performing cupping on the face varies from person to person, and depends on how much each individual’s skin can handle the stimulation, but usually lasts for around 10 to 15 minutes. Movement is constant—Pekar lathered my face in oils and set to work with various sizes of cups. And it felt good. Starting from one point on my face, she suctioned a cup to my skin before sliding it to another. It felt like she was drawing on my skin, but instead of pressing down, the cup was suctioning my skin up. “The ‘suction and vacuum’ technique helps to plump skin by drawing blood circulation to the surface of the face and keeping the skin stimulated,” explained Pekar. 

With both the magnetic therapy and the facial cupping therapy, Pekar says, the primary focus is on the lymph nodes, which is said to do the heavy lifting in terms of flushing toxins from the body. Plus, it reduces water retention, making the face and under-eyes appear less puffy.

Though you won't be covered in cupping hickies, you may look red for a few hours after the treatment is done, but it is soon replaced by a healthy glow. “Most times gray and dull skin comes from lack of circulation or stimulation and toxin accumulation under the skin,” Pekar told me. “When we create better flow, we can guide nutrients to the surface of the skin, reenergizing and refreshing it while draining toxins away from the skin as well.” 

My skin was dewy and felt fresh when my facial was done, and the result lasted for the weeks following. Although my face was not particularly bloated or exceptionally dull when I'd arrived, after she had finished one side, Pekar held up a mirror so that I could see the difference between the two halves of my face, one before and one after, and my face was visibly brighter and less puffy.

Pekar sent me on my way with a request that I drink lots of water for the next day or so, and to avoid caffeine or alcohol intake for the day. While I tried and failed to avoid coffee, I did sidestep cocktails for the night, and still looked fresh the next morning. Maybe I'll try body cupping next? Anything feels possible now.