A writer shares her review of getting a lymphatic drainage massage.

I Tried A Lymphatic Drainage Massage — Is It Worth The Hype?

It’s a “yes” for Kim K, Kendall, and Hailey, but it’s not exactly a zen experience IMO.

Originally Published: 
Lara Walsh/Elite Daily/Shutterstock

There’s a lot to say about the It wellness treatment of the moment. For celebs like Hailey Bieber and Kendall Jenner, lymphatic drainage massages have become a go-to for supposedly glowing-up skin and getting rid of bloat pre-vacation or red carpet. There’s also no shortage of influencers showing off lymphatic drainage massage “before and afters” on TikTok and Instagram — but the prevalence of #sponcon and gifted experiences makes it tough to know whether a lymphatic drainage massage is actually worth it when you’re paying for it yourself. So, I booked the treatment myself to see whether the alleged lymphatic drainage benefits are real and how long they last.

What’s A Lymphatic Drainage Massage, Exactly?

Ahead of my massage, I tapped Dr. Anna Chacon — a double board-certified dermatologist specializing in medical, surgical, and cosmetic dermatology — who told me lymphatic drainage massages work by using light, repetitive movements to manually encourage your lymph nodes to drain better while also helping move excess lymph fluid and toxins out of your body. In theory, “they ensure the lymph fluid doesn’t get stuck anywhere by facilitating its movement through the tissues and nodes,” Dr. Chacon said.

Lymph nodes are located all around your body, but the main regions where they’re clustered are in your neck, your armpits, and your groin. The technician uses a combination of different techniques to push out excess lymphatic fluid, but the one key thing is that all movements pushing the lymph go towards these lymph node regions (up your limbs, down your torso).

Doing research beforehand, I was surprised to learn that lymphatic drainage massages are often used as a treatment for people with certain health conditions or post-surgery to help ease symptoms like pain, swelling, and poor circulation — rather than for the debloating “after” results that influencers often tout on social media. I was also surprised that there wasn’t a ton of scientific research on how effective lymphatic drainage massages are outside of medical purposes.

For someone doing the massage for non-medical reasons, Dr. Chacon said I could potentially expect “improved sleep, metabolism, digestion, circulation, immunity, energy, and stress relief” as well as “lessened bloating” as a result of activating my lymphatic system through this treatment. She also said potential health benefits could include relief from acne and a reduction in cold symptoms. Personally, I wanted to see if the massage would get rid of excess bloating and also give me a noticeable boost my energy.

With numerous celebs and influencers raving about the treatment’s numerous after-effects — even Gwyneth Paltrow and Chrissy Teigen have tried clothing that promotes lymphatic drainage — I was both skeptical and intrigued to try my first lymphatic drainage massage to see if it lived up to the hype — and expensive price tag.

A lymphatic drainage massage varies in price, depending on where you’re getting it (I paid $150 for mine at Freeze and Float in Chicago, but you may pay upwards of $200 somewhere like NYC’s celeb-loved The Tox) — but it’s never cheap. In addition, add-ons like infrared sauna sessions and body scrubs, which claim to make the massage more effective, can quickly add up.

Preparing For A Lymphatic Drainage Massage Is A Whole Process

Ahead of my treatment, I was told by the spa to drink plenty of water and arrive on an empty stomach to help facilitate drainage, which immediately made me question the treatment’s debloating reputation.

Lara Walsh/Elite Daily

Once I arrived, I went to the locker room to put my stuff away and dress down with a robe. A lot of influencers tend to show off their lymphatic drainage massage results in bikinis, but the masseuse told me it’s best to strip down completely for the massage itself if comfortable. From my experience, I think it would have been tough to get the full benefits of the massage if you had to worry about the lymphatic drainage equipment getting stuck in any clothing, so it’s something to keep in mind.

My Lymphatic Drainage Massage Experience Was Unexpected

The massage bed looked like any normal one, and I settled in as the masseuse told me the treatment would “snatch [my] waist” and get rid of any brain fog over the next few days. So, imagine when my surprise when she pulled out something that looked like a large wooden foam roller and began rolling it up my legs with quick, firm movements. I’d done a leg day during my workout the day before, so my thighs and butt were definitely feeling it.

Lara Walsh/Elite Daily

Influencers tend to only show the masseuse gently working on their stomaches and legs with their hands, so I was definitely not expecting all the different wooden lymphatic drainage tools that were used during my treatment.

The specialist used about six different instruments total, rolling up or down in the direction of my lymph nodes. The one that felt the most uncomfortable to me looked like a stick with large wooden squares, but I gradually started to relax once I got over the initial surprise.

For my stomach, she used something that almost looked like a wooden cup, and moved it around in circular and C-shaped motions. While this was a little less intense than the movements on the legs and arms, it did feel kind of weird to have someone massaging my stomach and putting that much time into it. She also used what looked like a rolling pin with beads to roll down towards my pelvis, starting from my belly button, and also took turns gently pressing down on either side of my stomach with her hands.

In addition to the lymphatic drainage treatment, my masseuse also took breaks from the rolling to massage my hands, feet, ankles, shoulders, and upper back with her hands, which felt like something you’d get from a typical massage. While I didn’t feel like my knots were all gone in my shoulders, my body definitely felt more relaxed overall when the hour-long massage was over.

I Felt & Saw Results After My Lymphatic Drainage Massage The Next Day

Based on all the before-and-after footage on social media, I expected immediate, dramatic results, but I didn’t notice any difference aesthetically or energy-wise right away — at least in a positive way. If anything, I felt a bit of a headache, as well as tired, kind of dehydrated, and dizzy. I also felt extremely sore on my legs and butt, almost as if I was a few days in after a major workout. The one visually apparent change was that my skin was a little pink.

The masseuse told me these side effects were normal, advising me to eat light that evening and also to make sure to hydrate a lot so that my lymphatic system could best flush out any toxins. She said that doing that for the next 72 hours and avoiding alcohol could really help maximize the benefits of the lymphatic drainage massage. Again, drinking lots of water and eating on the healthier side seems to be commonplace for getting rid of bloat and increasing energy, so I wondered if the results I saw the next morning could be 100% contributed to the massage.

Lara Walsh/Elite Daily

The after-effects started to settle in the next morning. For starters, I woke up much earlier than normal after a solid night of sleep (what a concept). I immediately noticed that I felt very alert and that it was much easier to focus. I drank a glass of water before my coffee, and noticed that while my skin was still a little blotchy, my stomach did seem a little bit more defined. However, the most obvious after-effects for me were my increased energy levels. After struggling with lethargy from winter gloom and lingering tiredness from a week-long cold, it was noticeable how much better I felt.

So, Is A Lymphatic Drainage Massage Really Worth It?

While I felt really energized and like my stomach had more definition than usual the next day, I don’t know if I would regularly spend $150 on lymphatic drainage massages as the benefits only lasted two days for me. Since you’re asked to arrive on an empty stomach and eat light afterwards, I also wonder how much of the results could be attributed to that versus the actual drainage itself.

According to Dr. Chacon, it’s normal to witness improvements within 24 hours, but each body requires a different number of treatments to get long-lasting improvements. She suggested doing lymphatic drainage once a week to once a month for the greatest results. “After-care is arguably the most crucial step,” she added. “Making sure you get enough hydration for 48 hours after the treatment helps encourage drainage.”

If you’re on a KarJenner budget or are someone who’s getting the treatment for free, regularly scheduling a lymphatic drainage massage might make sense as I definitely noticed both cosmetic and non-cosmetic benefits post-treatment. However, someone who’s looking for a cheaper way to activate their lymphatic system might want to try a Gua Sha facial massage or even look into dry brushing at home.

Expert cited:

Dr. Anna Chacon, a double board-certified dermatologist specializing in medical, surgical, and cosmetic dermatology

This article was originally published on