Whether you’ve noticed the advertisements in spas or seen model Brooks Nader’s raving social posts, you’ve likely heard the term “lymphatic drainage massage”—but what exactly is it?
Ricari Studios is a health and wellness center with locations in NYC, Los Angeles and London whose minimal service menu centers around this ancient and recently-revitalized practice.
“Our vision of wellbeing includes spaces for humor and well-sauced bowls of pasta, alongside silent retreats and juice cleanses,” says founder Anna Zahn. “Ricari is a call to pleasure, because we believe that living well should look, feel, sound, and taste delicious—and everyone is invited.”
We caught up with Zahn to learn more about the lymphatic drainage massage trend taking the beauty industry by storm, and why it works.
What exactly is a lymphatic drainage massage?
Lymphatic massage differs from traditional massage in employing specific techniques to assist with increasing circulation and moving lymphatic fluid out of stagnant areas of the body and face. Traditional massage techniques focus on muscle tension, alignment or stretching, and lymphatic massage is really geared towards inner mobility of fluids and blood circulation. Also lymphatic massages often incorporate stomach or breast stimulation, which can aid in digestion, bloating and breast health.
The term ‘lymphatic massage’ is a very broad term that can draw upon a variety of modalities and interpretations, depending on the client and the practitioner. Brazilian lymphatic massage can be deeper manual techniques that [use] different tools to press and knead the skin and tissue (one of my favorites). Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) uses a specific series of feather-light gliding, compressing, stretching and cupping motions over the body. Popular French techniques employ a strong and sometimes painful, palpating rolling technique over the skin and tissue. I recently booked a “massage” at a Russian Banya, and it fully incorporated lymphatic massage techniques without mentioning “lymphatic” in the description.
You can find various modalities all over the world, and I encourage clients to try different techniques to see what they are most drawn to. At Ricari, we employ a combination of medical-grade devices that not only support the lymphatic system but aid in muscle recovery, collagen production, reduction of cellulite and relaxation of the nervous system. Clients are often drawn to us for the relaxing experience that encompasses all the beauty, wellness and recovery benefits of other modalities.
What are the benefits of lymphatic drainage?
Every client’s experience is unique, but the core benefits are relatively universal, leaving you feeling lighter and more relaxed. There are definitely beauty benefits. However, it is important to understand that results are linked to what goes on internally, alongside how we live with regards to diet, rest and exercise. Taking a lifestyle-oriented over a result-driven approach allows for ongoing benefits.
How often are these treatments recommended?
Some clients notice an immediate change after one treatment, while others may after a series of treatments. If someone is able to come once a week for a series of sessions, it is rare that they wouldn’t notice any benefits in how they feel and look. Oftentimes clients will come in for consecutive treatments to jump start their system, then drop down for monthly maintenance.
When performed regularly, our relaxing approach helps ground clients in their physical self and nourishes the body’s natural processes. In more concrete terms, our methods assist essential functions like sleep, digestion, detoxification, collagen production, anxiety relief and optimized mobility, which leads to aesthetic benefits like decreased water retention, a more sculpted and lifted silhouette, less-visible cellulite and tighter skin.
What is this suit we see clients wearing on social posts?
The bodysuit is worn as a second skin so the equipment can glide over the body without pinching or pain, and provides an extra layer of sanitation coverage. Plus, it adds to the sci-fi theater of the experience.
I typically refer to all our employed technology as “benevolent,” meaning it's naturally stimulating, relaxing, and often derived from athletic or medical application. Our aim is to re-energize and revitalize tissue and skin cells to tone, refine, relax and cleanse your body and face through gentle yet efficient skin stimulation. We combine and customize varying mechanical manipulations of the skin, muscles and tissue for maximum wellness benefits, aesthetic impact and overall relaxation.
Our treatments are primarily centered around the Italian made ICOONE device. Rollers deliver inward, outward, forward and backward rotations, providing fractionated skin stimulation customized to our clients needs. It gently yet intensively conditions skin tissue to reduce cellular deposits, enhance blood and lymphatic flow, and reactivate lipolysis. Rhythmic vibrations also stimulate collagen and elastin production to rapidly smooth and firm the skin. Unlike other techniques, the treatment is painless, incredibly customizable, and deeply effective.
The fundamentals of the techniques we use have been around for centuries, but managed to get lost or forgotten in some ways in the evolution of wellness. The technology we have today is empowering a sort of renaissance of this ancient knowledge, augmenting its potential and refinement of its application through technological innovation.
Why should people do this more often?
People often think of treatments, rest and other items on the self-care menu as indulgences at best and frivolous expenditures at worst. This perspective is flawed and ultimately creates long-term challenges as we continue to face burnout and collective crises. With an increasingly stress-induced landscape, self-care is truly essential as we continue to weather the storms of grief, uncertainty and loss brought about by COVID-19.
I also feel, after over a year of shutdowns and quarantine, we are more thoughtful about what is truly valuable in our lives. Self care, relaxation, connecting over a meal, travel and collective experience have found newfound importance amidst not being readily available, not to mention that these industries need some of the most support.
I think making commitments to yourself, like booking a treatment, taking a bath, going for a walk or being “lazy” can be deeply valuable for your body and your life. What are we doing here if not making time for joy and vitality? With the current landscape we need as much as we can get.
Should this be combined with any other healthcare regimen?
Treatments in combination with other healthcare regimens is an amazing way to maximize and maintain benefits, but that doesn’t mean someone shouldn’t come in if they are not on a regimen.
We are often pressured by beauty and wellness narratives to achieve a level of perfection that ultimately leads to disappointment and self judgment. If you’re coming in conjunction with a cleanse or new fitness routine: amazing. If you’re coming in stagnant, stressed and out of routine: amazing.
I think flexibility is really important. Sometimes I need to sink into the couch and binge watch a show, or sleep in over pushing myself to hit the gym. I try to listen to my body and provide as much recovery to balance the ongoing stress. Our treatments are one incredible venue for that.
How did you get into this?
I never imagined I would find a place in the health spa landscape. My background is in film, photography and performance, but I think that separation allowed me to view the industry from a different perspective.
I wanted to create a new concept I felt was missing, where you could experience the benefits of treatments in a thoughtful, experiential setting. When I found myself developing the concept, I knew its value would become widespread (as we’ve clearly seen with the popularity of lymphatic/remodeling massage in the past few years).
Even as lymphatic drainage gains in popularity, I continually aim to develop spaces that consider one’s overall experience, change the conversation around beauty and spas, and focus on the positive impacts of ongoing commitments to self care.
What does “Ricari” mean?
Ricari comes from an Italian word that translates to “bring energy back to something,” like recharging a battery. I recognize how our work-hard culture often associates beauty and self care practices with vanity, privilege and indulgence. I hoped to update what I saw as an outdated, negative association to beauty and self-care, and reframe them as an essential, celebrated part of our lives.
At Ricari, our aim is to offer an innovative approach in a refined and inclusive landscape where self-care is encouraged with a pleasure-forward mindset. Our menu of services is minimal, focused and designed around a thoughtful, welcoming atmosphere.
Learn more about Ricari Studios and its international services via ricaristudios.com. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Photography by: Courtesy Ricari Studios