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Cupping is a traditional healing practice that’s been around for thousands of years.
The treatment involves placing the open side of heated cups directly on your skin. This creates a vacuum effect that pulls surface tissue into the cup.
A trained practitioner may use cupping therapy as part of an overall treatment plan.
Cellulite is dimpled fat just beneath your skin. It’s a common condition, especially among females. It can show up anywhere, but particularly on your:
It’s harmless to your health. But if you’re unhappy with the appearance of cellulite, there are many techniques intended to treat it. There’s no way to completely get rid of cellulite, so results are temporary.
Cupping for cellulite is intended to improve your skin’s appearance by draining fluids and toxins from your body.
Research on cupping is limited, but it appears that cupping may provide short-term improvement of cellulite, at least for some people.
Let’s delve deeper into what existing research says about cupping to get rid of cellulite, as well as tips on how to do it.
Exactly how cupping therapy works isn’t clear.
The theory of cupping for cellulite is that negative pressure promotes draining of accumulated fluids, toxins, and other chemical compounds — from interstitial fluid to blood and lymphatic capillaries, especially the lipids in cellulite.
It also promotes circulation.
Cupping may smooth the appearance of cellulite, but this is likely a temporary effect.
The process can be done with glass, bamboo, ceramic, or silicone cups. Suction can be created by:
- applying heat to the cup before placing it on your skin, which removes the oxygen
- using a vacuum device on the cup
- massaging and gliding, also known as dry-moving cupping therapy
Wet cupping involves piercing your skin so blood flows into the cup. Cellulite is treated with dry cupping, however, which doesn’t involve piercing your skin.
What the research says
There isn’t much research specific to cupping for cellulite or the long-term effects of cupping.
In 2015, a small pilot study investigated cupping for cellulite. The research involved 40 healthy female participants. The researchers found that dry-moving cupping therapy applied 10 times on each thigh for 5 weeks effectively decreased the grade of cellulite.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, there’s not enough high-quality research to draw conclusions about cupping. Most studies have been of low quality.
Cupping has been used for everything from digestive problems to pain management to unsightly veins.
In 2012, researchers conducted a systemic review of studies on the efficacy of cupping. They found that when combined with other treatments, such as medications or acupuncture, cupping therapy provides significant benefit over other treatment alone for:
The review was limited by high risk of bias in almost all of the 135 trials that were included. The researchers noted that studies of higher quality and with larger sample sizes are needed to draw definitive conclusions.
According to a 2018 overview of scientific literature, other research indicates cupping may help:
- promote the skin’s blood flow
- increase pain threshold
- reduce inflammation
- modulate the cellular immune system
Cupping is noninvasive and generally safe for adults, but it’s not advisable for everyone. Talk with a doctor first if you:
Don’t get cupping on:
- skin wounds or lesions
- recent injuries
- fractured bones
- varicose veins
- sites of deep vein thrombosis
You may have some discomfort, but it’s generally not painful. Some people experience minor dizziness or nausea.
Marks on your skin
Cupping will almost certainly leave marks on the skin. This is normal. You may have obvious bruising that lasts anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
Burns or permanent scarring of the skin can also happen.
Worsening skin problems
Because cupping can cause minor bleeding, improperly sterilized equipment can spread blood-borne disease such as hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
It’s rare, but frequent wet cupping can cause anemia from blood loss.
For most health matters, you’re probably better off going to a trained professional for cupping therapy. This may also be a good choice for treating cellulite, but you can try it on your own if you prefer.
At a provider
Professionals who perform cupping therapy include:
- massage therapists
- physical therapists
Before scheduling an appointment, make sure the practitioner is experienced and all equipment is thoroughly disinfected between uses.
There’s no other preparation necessary on your part except to make sure your skin is clean. Point out any cuts or injuries on the skin that’ll be treated.
If you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer, remember that there are different size cups, levels of suction, and ways of doing it. For your first time, consider purchasing a kit made especially for cupping for cellulite.
Glass cups tend to leave more bruising and can be difficult to use on yourself. Silicone cups bruise less and are easier to work with.
Try a larger cup size for thighs and buttocks and smaller ones for arms and calves. Whatever you choose, make sure they’re sterile.
To try cupping on your own, follow these steps:
- Apply body lotion or massage oil to the area you’ll be treating. You can do this in the shower if you prefer.
- Choose your starting area and place the cup on your skin.
- Gently squeeze to create a vacuum. You’ll feel the pull on your skin.
- Release your squeeze and slide the cup back and forth or in a circular motion.
- Continue this motion for 10 to 15 minutes per area.
- Repeat two to three times per week as long as you continue treatment.
You can buy cupping products wherever you buy health and beauty or massage supplies. You can find them at your local pharmacy or department store as well as online outlets.
While a trained practitioner may use glass cups, home kits generally include silicone cups, which are less expensive. Supplies are sold separately and in sets that may include:
- cups of various sizes
- massage oils
- carrying kit
Cellulite is stubborn and nothing gets rid of it completely. If you plan to try cupping, remember that it may take a few sessions to get the hang of it — or see any results at all.
If you don’t mind the process and it improves your cellulite, there’s likely little downside. Cupping has been around for thousands of years and is a fairly safe practice.