Most of us are familiar with the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practice of cupping, which attaches inverted cups onto the body’s acupuncture points to clear blockages of qi.

The reddish or purplish rings that appear are the proud battle scars of cupping well done: the colours indicate the degree of blood or qi stagnation in that area of the body.

Little redness shows healthy circulation, whereas a deep purple bruise would mean an unhealthy level of stagnation; when the marks fade, you know that your body’s healthier than it was before.

But when it comes to cupping for the face, let’s just say: we’re thankful that it gives similar benefits including better blood circulation and the flow of qi – sans the bruising.

What is facial cupping?

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Photo source: @skinbyhelen, @giseleayora/TikTok

Picked up by glow-getting celebrities like Kim Kardashian in more recent years, facial cupping has its roots in TCM (some say it originated from ancient Egyptian practices).

That’s right, facial cupping is an alternative therapy that gives the skin a glow-from-within by boosting circulation, stimulating the lymphatic system, reducing inflammation, and relaxing the facial muscles – these are benefits that are similar to regular cupping on other parts of the body.

Facial cupping is hailed for giving plumper, fuller, and healthier skin. Plus, since it encourages detoxification and reduces swelling, your face should also appear more chiselled than before, which is not unlike with gua sha or bojin therapies.

What’s the difference between facial cupping and cupping?

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TCM cupping therapy. Photo source: Pexels

The big difference between facial cupping and cupping on other parts of the body is that you won’t see any bruises show up on the face.

Although there’s plenty that people would try for a rosy radiance, having to stroll through the streets with painful-looking purplish marks on our faces later isn’t really what most would deem worth the glow.

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Photo source: Skin Gym, WTHN

Carried out using a small flexible suction cup instead of a large, sturdy glass cup, facial cupping is easier on the skin.

Instead of leaving the cups in place for some time, the cup should glide continuously over the skin to prevent bruising. You might be surprised to find out that leaving the cup on the skin for as little as five seconds can already cause discolouration.

Both types of cupping (for the body and the face) work in similar ways, but facial cupping leads to plumper skin, reduced fine lines, and a toned face. Cupping, on the other hand, typically aims to reduce aches and pains in the body.

How to do facial cupping

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Photo source: @stephflockhart, @beautycarebyabby/TikTok

Facial cupping can be done at a salon or on your own at home with a kit. It’s easy: a facial cupping kit comes with a larger flexible suction cup and a smaller one.

The tinier cups let you grab (gently) at the skin around your eyes, above your eyebrows, and target the fine lines and wrinkles on your forehead; the bigger cups let you massage and tone your face more easily. Here’s how:

@skinbyhelen

No these are not diva cups 🙄 #facialcupping #facialmassage @consonantskincare

♬ Ms. Saxon – Augie Bello

Step 1: Apply oil to your face

Greasing your skin is an important first step because it helps the cups to glide effortlessly over the skin without being rough or damaging to it.

Antioxidant-rich facial oils like argan oil, which is high in vitamin E, are good for fighting free radical damage for more youthful-looking skin; aloe vera oil is a packed-with-antioxidants option that’s also antibacterial and astringent, making it great for sensitive skin types too.

Step 2: Glide the cups across your skin

Use the large facial cups to glide from the inner to outer sections of the face, along the sides of your face, and down to your neck. For example, you can start on the sides of your nose, sweeping it up along your cheekbones to just before your ears, and then downwards along the sides of your face, to the jawline.

Think: upward and outward, then down to “flush” the toxins from the face out along the neck.

@stephflockhart

My secret to reducing under eye bags and dark circles facial cupping. #facialcupping #undereyecircles #undereyebags

♬ ocean eyes – Billie Eilish

Step 3: Switch to the smaller cups for the eye area

Using the smaller cups, grab under the brows and slide outwards, as well as at the sides of the eyes and moving outwards.

For the areas under the eye, you can just press and let the cup go in quick motions, like little dots, from the inner corner to the outer corner of the eye. This helps to stimulate blood flow and collagen production, thus, plumping the skin under your eyes.

Watch a video tutorial below!

Best facial cupping sets to get

Grace & Stella Facial Cupping Massage Set

facial cupping

Besides facial cups in three different sizes, the Grace & Stella Facial Cupping Massage Set also comes complete with a bottle of jojoba oil and a silicone pad.

The silicone pad can be used to sweep the anti-inflammatory jojoba oil all over your skin, as a comfy start to your facial cupping regimen.

The Grace & Stella Facial Cupping Massage Set retails for S$19.06 on iHerb.

Skin Gym Facial Cupping Set

facial cupping

For those who’ve never done facial cupping before, Skin Gym’s Facial Cupping Set makes a good starter kit. The set comes with a pair of smaller cups and a second pair of larger cups, as well as clear instructions on how to use them.

Skin Gym Facial Cupping Set retails for S$52 on Sephora.

5 Stars United Silicone Cupping Face and Neck Set

facial cupping

This facial cupping set features two micro-cups for your eye area, as well as two bigger cups for your face and neck.

Deep cleanse your skin with the help of the set’s easy-grip silicone exfoliating brush before you start your facial cupping routine, for skin that’s truly aglow from the inside out after.

5 Stars United Silicone Cupping Face and Neck Set retails for S$30 on Amazon.

Oudi Line 2-piece Glass Facial Cupping Set

facial cupping

For those who enjoy the smooth, cool sensation of gua sha against the skin, you might prefer this style of facial cupping tool, which features a silicone “balloon” and a glass opening.

Just the same, you should press down on the silicone walls, and then release as you slide the “cup” against your skin.

Since Oudi Line’s larger facial cup has a 2.2-inch diameter, it’s large enough to easily massage your neck and decolletage too.

Oudi Line 2-piece Glass Facial Cupping Set retails for S$28.29 on Amazon.

WTHN Face Cupping Kit

facial cupping

These minimalistic, elegant facial cups will add to an at-home spa experience, as you wind down with fragrant facial oils, plumping facial massages, and cool jade rollers just before bed.

The larger cup can be used on the cheeks and jawline, and the smaller cup on the forehead and around the eyes.

The set also includes an instruction manual and a cute lil’ canvas bag, so you can store your facial cupping tools in sophisticated style.

WTHN Face Cupping Kit retails for S$57.21 on Revolve.

500-miles Cupping Therapy 7-Piece Set

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With this seven-piece cupping set, you won’t run out of cups to use to relax and tone your face and body!

The large cups can be used to boost blood circulation in your neck and chest area, whereas the medium and small ones will help plump the skin on your face and delicate eye areas.

Since the set is available in light pink and light blue, why not choose a colour that makes your wind-down routine something all the more to look forward to?

500-miles Cupping Therapy 7-Piece Set retails for S$23.36 on Amazon.

Linovit Therapy Cupping Therapy Set

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Linovit Therapy’s Cupping Therapy Set uses professional-grade silicone cups that are made without PVC, plastic, or BPA, making them a better choice for those with sensitive skin.

The firm silicone material also creates a stronger suction than many other facial cupping sets, allowing you to press down on and tone your skin with ease.

This cupping set also includes cups in not two, but four different sizes, with the biggest cups suitable for use on the back, abdomen, buttocks, legs, arms, and chest areas. As usual, save the smaller cups for use on your face – and squeeze, suction, and slide your way to plumper, younger-looking skin!

That’s not all, Linovit Therapy’s facial cupping set tops up your face-pampering ritual with a konjac sponge and exfoliating facial brush.

No ordinary sponge, the konjac sponge has water-holding superpowers. Dip your sponge into water, and it absorbs so much liquid that a layer of water sits on top of the sponge’s surface.

With a layer of lubricating liquid always between your skin and the sponge, you’ll be able to exfoliate your skin gently – never causing the skin to break or tear.

Linovit Therapy Cupping Therapy Set retails for S$40.04 on Amazon.

SanDine Silky Skin Face Cupping Set

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Get your facial cupping essentials – two larger cups and two micro-cups – plus a gentle facial brush all in one easy-to-carry pouch, so you can give your skin a perk-me-up whilst you’re on the go.

SanDine Silky Skin Face Cupping Set retails for S$29.06 on Amazon.

FeelFree Sport 4-Piece Glass Facial Cupping Set

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These facial cups’ purple balloons provide you with ample room to grip and squeeze down on as you perform your nighttime ritual, so you don’t have to fumble about with micro-cups that are way too difficult to hold with your “fat” fingers.

By cupping the skin, you increase circulation and boost oxygen levels at your skin cells – you’ll flaunt a “lit from within” glow soon enough.

FeelFree Sport 4-Piece Glass Facial Cupping Set retails for S$35.08 on Amazon.

DoSense Pro Facial Cupping Set

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Before you begin applying facial oil to your skin in preparation for cupping, make sure you do this key pre-first step: cleansing. As with any other skincare ritual, starting with clean skin is a must to ensure that your pores don’t get clogged with dirt and grime.

It’s a bonus, then, that DoSense Pro’s Facial Cupping Set comes with a konjac sponge to help you up the ante on a soothing pre-cupping cleanse. Make sure that you wet the sponge enough so that it becomes soft before you sweep it over your skin.

DoSense Pro Facial Cupping Set retails for S$43.48 on Amazon.

Featured image credit: WTHN, @skinbyhelen/TikTok

Related read: This step-by step gua sha guide shows us how to tackle nasolabial folds, marionette lines, and eyebags