TikTok's beauty enthusiasts can't get enough of clever trends and techniques that promise to transform skin in a matter of moments, and it's safe to say each one has us hooked. Right now, facial cupping is having a moment — and judging by the countless tutorials flooding the app, the results are impressive, to say the least.
What is facial cupping?
Even though cupping is big on TikTok right now, the technique is nothing new; in fact, it's been popular in Chinese and Middle Eastern medicine for centuries. On the body, cupping therapy involves placing glass or silicone cups on either wet or dry skin, which creates a suction effect. This brings blood to the surface of the skin and is said to relax muscles and potentially reduce back and neck pain.
Facial cupping is a little gentler and involves much smaller cups (again, usually silicone or glass) which create a pull on the skin. "Lately it has become a trend for facial use on the premise that the cup uses pressure to draw nutrients to the surface of the skin with the aim of creating healthier looking skin," says Ioannis Liakas, medical director and skin specialist at Vie Aesthetics. On TikTok, the cups are used in conjunction with skin-care products like facial oils, serums, or masks, which help them glide over the skin easily.
What are the skin-care benefits of facial cupping?
Much like using a jade roller or gua sha tool, TikTokers love the facial cupping technique for relaxing tense facial muscles, especially along the jaw, and claim it lends the skin a post-facial glow when combined with radiance-enhancing skin-care products like vitamin C or rosehip oil. It's a favourite among experts, too: Top facialist Antonia Burrell loves facial cupping for providing a temporary lift, while Dr. Liakas pinpoints its potential to contour and sculpt cheekbones, as well as de-puff skin. Some TikTok skin-care enthusiasts claim anecdotally that facial cupping helps minimize fine lines, wrinkles, and scars and stimulates collagen.
How do you do facial cupping at home and does it work?
Inspired by TikTok's skin-care enthusiasts (and spurred on by how desperately my dull, post-winter skin is in need of a glow boost), I had to give facial cupping a go.
I opted for the Skin Gym Facial Cupping Set, which includes two medium-size facial cups (for cheeks, chin, and forehead) and two micro-cups, which perform better around the nose, eyes, and lips. Facial cupping works best when combined with skin-care products so that the cups can slide across the skin without any friction. I found it's actually quite difficult to use the cups without product, as they keep popping off my skin. Layering up with moisturizer, serum, or facial oil means they can do their job with ease.
Facial oils seem to be a popular product to work with on TikTok, but Dr. Liakas mentions they could clog pores and spread bacteria if you're prone to breakouts. He likes vitamin C serums for facial cupping, but says hyaluronic acid serums are also an option and are beneficial for all skin types. You could also use a moisturizer for more slip. I have oily, acne-prone skin, so I chose a lightweight serum: Farmacy Very Cherry Bright 15% Clean Vitamin C Serum. A little goes a long way to create a slick base on the skin.
Dr. Liakas says that keeping the skin taut when passing the cups over your face is key and recommends cleansing your skin afterwards. This is because cupping is more of a DIY facial treatment, rather than an actual skin-care step. Simply follow with your usual skin-care routine afterwards.
I started with the miniature cups and concentrated them on areas where I'd like a little bit of a lift, which is around my eyes and above my eyebrows. The suction was very gentle and the product absorbed quickly as I glided the cups over my skin. While I didn't notice an immediate difference in firmness, I saw a change in the skin around my nose and lips, which always tends to be quite swollen when I wake up in the morning.
I concentrated the large cups along my jawline, which holds a lot of tension as I sometimes grind my teeth when stressed or anxious. I found the suction really soothing and relaxing (more so than my trusty gua sha tool), and after five minutes of gliding the tool back and forth over my skin, any tightness dissipated entirely. After 10 minutes in total, it felt like my face had been treated and massaged by a professional facialist. The only difference is the price — and the fact that I didn't have to leave my bedroom. I loved the natural glow it gave my skin, too, almost as though I'd just got in from a brisk walk in the cold. As a result, I skipped foundation and blush, and just applied a little concealer for the rest of the day.
Are there any side effects of DIY facial cupping?
DIY facial cupping is unlikely to leave you with the large telltale marks typical of professional body cupping — especially if you're using silicone cups, which are kinder on skin — but it pays to be as gentle as possible. Unlike skin-care tools such as pore vacuums, the pull of facial cups is relatively light so broken capillaries or blood vessels are rare, although Dr. Liakas says they are not out of the question. As with all new skin-care tools and techniques, be mindful, especially if you choose a glass set.
It's not a great idea to use cupping tools on broken skin as this could cause further irritation. Dr. Liakas also suggests avoiding the technique if you're sunburned or if your skin has been exposed to the sun recently. Likewise, if you have rosacea, sensitive skin, or active acne, or you're using retinol and are experiencing flaking or sensitivity, Dr. Liakas suggests giving cupping a miss for the time being.
What are the best facial cupping sets?
Aside from Skin Gym, there are a handful of other expert-approved facial cupping sets out there. The popular glass WTHN Face Cups are said to boost circulation and relax tight muscles. Antonia Burrell Facial In A Box includes a mini cleansing oil, lotion, mask, facial oil, and moisturizer alongside one large and one miniature cupping tool to treat all areas of the face.
I thought I'd find facial cupping to be a waste of time, but there's no denying it works a treat when done correctly. If you love skin care and are looking for ways to pamper yourself at home, it's an easy, effective, and affordable technique that earns my seal of approval.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.