I Tried Face Cupping Because Kim Kardashian Tried Face Cupping

Collage by Kelsey Lim. Photo by Bettman via Getty Images.

I’ve never fully understood what a toxin is, but I’m absolutely gaga for the consumer culture around removing them from my body. Give me that activated charcoal lemonade that turns my poop black (you know it’s working that way!). Let me take a hot yoga class twelve minutes after eating a huge bowl of ramen with two-point-five beers so that I can expel that satisfying hoppy Tonkotsu broth sweat. Give me a magnetic-cupping facial to flush out my lymphatic system, as long as I’m not paying!

Detox culture is everywhere, but like a middle-parted Harling demonstrated when she took on a hardcore GOOP cleanse, the part that requires diet restrictions isn’t very fun. Instead of incorporating fixes that are relatively easy with a bit of discipline, I’d much rather go to insane lengths to free myself from whatever violent gunk may be floating around in my organs and bile.

Like cupping.


I first experienced the ancient art of cupping on my back one summer when I was looking to Eastern medicine as I tapered off antidepressants, only to find that sometimes, acupuncture and/or back-suctioning are not the answer, but more antidepressants are. Cupping leaves nasty bruise-like marks on the skin. My back looked like it was covered in big pepperonis for weeks.

Cupping is a detox practice, the evidence of which you might have seen on the bodies of power duo Gwyneth P. and Michael Phelps. But cupping originated in the east, within the tradition of Chinese medicine. Cupping is a practice in which a trained therapist (please, ensure she’s trained) places cups on the skin that create suction. In traditional Chinese medicine, which is all about the movement of lymph and chi in the body, cupping is supposed to break up stagnancy. In more 2017 terms, it stimulates myofascial connective tissue to relieve pain and tension.

And every trend, of course, eventually comes to a head. My thirsty head, in particular. And my face, more specifically.

Magnetic thing.

I didn’t know about facial cupping until last year, when Kim Kardashian did it on her Snapchat. And since I do what Kim does, especially when it comes to contouring with the KKW kit, I’ve been waiting to get those cups on my cheeks ever since. Kim never really explained what the benefit was, but luckily 795,000 articles that pertain to “kim kardashian cupping” cropped up in its wake when I Google-searched the practice. Apparently, it toned her jawline, plumped her cheekbones and made her skin more readily available for absorbing nutrients from serums and moisturizers.

I wanted my skin to be readily available.

So last month, I finally made it to Ildi Pekar’s midtown Manhattan space for this potentially terrifying facial treatment. Are you proud of me that I wasn’t nervous at all? I really don’t mind pain, suffering or looking to Yolanda Hadid-Foster for health and wellness tips if there’s even a fraction of a chance that any of those things will make me beautiful.

Cupping + LED light.

But Ildi’s magnetic-cupping facial wasn’t painful at all, nor did it leave any marks on my moneymaker. Here’s how it worked: First, Ildi used a pulsing magnetic wand with a sponge applicator filled with vitamins to target the trigger points of my face in order to get things moving under my skin. I may possess a raw, sexual, animal magnetism, but I’m no doctor: I have no idea why my face would respond to a magnetic field. However, according to Ildi, this step prepped my skin for the cupping, which made more sense to me. Like your friend who tricked you into carrying her stuff from one garden-level hovel hole in Bedstuy to a sixth floor walk-up in Bushwick, lymph doesn’t move itself.

This is why Ildi suggests that we all give ourselves gentle lymphatic drainage massages in our faces daily. She also showed me how to scrub my butt cheeks with a natural bristle dry-brush until it was hot pink and cellulite-free, but that’s a different tutorial for a different time. With graphic pictures, I promise!

Using an itty-bitty glass tube with a rubber bulb on the end, Ildi used light suction across my face. Using a stroking motion, she dragged the lymph under my skin to a point just beside my ear. Once it was all gathered (mind you, this is invisible), she then drew the lymph down to the node on my jawbone, where lymphatic drainage can happen more effectively. This all took place under a special Hungarian white LED light for skin, though more easily available red light therapy wands work too.

Rubber LED mask.

Afterwards, Ildi put a rubber mask on my face that had vibrating red LED lights on it, and I took about 4,000 photos.

This all felt like a nice massage, but not an intense facial with burning and peeling. But when Ildi handed me a mirror to show me how my face looked at the end, I was genuinely shocked by how much less puffy I was. Could all that cragginess be eliminated like this every day?

I would not recommend trying this at home, though god herself knows I’ve already tried on my friends and lovers using a plastic straw and my mouth for suction. They bruised badly! However, lymphatic massage works in minutes for eliminating at least some facial puffiness. For a quicker solve at home, I like to use the Esarora Ice Roller, which is an extraordinary device, though not for the delicate or brain-freeze-prone among us.

I never say stuff like this but: In the week since I’ve visited Ildi, I’ve had the best skin I’ve had in probably a year. I flew on an airplane to Chicago and back, endured freezing temperatures against my raw cheeks, and traveled without the 12-13 products I use daily on my face. I sweated a lot because Ildi told me that detoxing the body was especially important. I didn’t break out a single time. All credit to the ch’i.

Before and one week after, with no foundation.

Photos via Claire Carusillo. 

Claire Carusillo

Claire Carusillo

Claire Carusillo is a beauty columnist at Man Repeller. She writes a weekly beauty newsletter offering off-label product usage advice and prefers to be referred to as "IDK, Some Girl."

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