Even before COVID-19, I’d been dealing with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), which involves lots of jaw pain. But in the midst of a global pandemic, political turmoil, and a seemingly endless quarantine order, the stress has caused my jaw clenching and tooth-grinding habit to seriously spike. It was only when I began using facial cupping for TMJ that my jaw tension started to melt away.
Most people think of the signature reddish-purple circles that show up on your back after a cupping treatment (à la Michael Phelps). Though cupping therapy is an ancient healing modality under Traditional Chinese Medicine, it’s not only for the body. Facial cupping is similar, but it’s more targeted toward boosting your complexion.
“Facial cupping works by increasing the circulation in the face, which increases facial cells’ production of anti-aging molecules like collagen and elastin to firm and tone the skin,” says Shari Auth, DACM, a licensed acupuncturist and co-founder of WTHN. This boost in circulation improves your overall skin tone while helping to de-puff (which is a big perk for the eye area). And, as with body cupping, facial cupping helps to melt the tension lurking in muscles within the forehead, eyes, and jawline—which has become a WFH stress savior for me.
“Cupping is really good for muscle tension, and works like a reverse massage,” says Dr. Auth. “While massage puts pressure on tissue to get tissue to remove tension, cupping lifts up on the tissue to release tension.” With TMJ in particular, your temporomandibular joints (there’s one on each side of your jaw) often cause pain in your facial muscles due to stress clenching of the jaw and grinding teeth. “Cupping lifts the muscles to create a mild stretch to help relieve tension, and it feels great along the jawline,” says Dr. Auth, noting that it’s “super helpful” with TMJ.
When I test cupping out for myself with the WTHN Face Cupping Kit ($50), I find that it’s easy to use—you basically just place the cupping tool onto your (moisturized) skin, squeeze to create suction, then glide it. Dr. Auth had recommended using long strokes on the jaw that go from the chin and all the way to the back corner of the jawline. Since you can do this at home, you’re in charge of how much suction you want to use. (It all depends on how hard you pinch the cupping bulb before sliding it over your skin.) For the jaw area, I glide the tool directly on my jawbone, right above it, and right below it, about five times on each side. It feels like a fish is sucking on my face—in a really good, relaxing way!—and after days of doing it, I’m able to zone out and give myself the treatment as I watch TV. A five-minute facial cupping session leaves skin slightly red or flushed, which is from the boost in circulation. And, no—I didn’t wind up with those static cup marks that tend to arise with body cupping (since facial cupping involves movement, rather than a static suction).
Since COVID-19 has only exacerbated my jaw tension, I’ve found a lot of relief from face cupping on my jaw. It’s as if the cups squeeze the tension away from my muscles and throws it out into a virtual trashcan… which is why my face cupping tool has won a permanent spot in my beauty cabinet.
Watch below to learn more about cupping therapy and what the treatment is really like.