Skin Deep

The connection between lymph and how you look

You’ve surely heard the word “lymph” or are familiar with the concept of “lymphatic drainage,” but do you really know what this is and what it means for your appearance?

In a nutshell, lymph is an immune system fluid that circulates through the body to help pick up and eliminate unwanted materials like fat, bacteria and toxins. Lymph is also responsible for delivering oxygen and nutrients to the cells, and the lymphatic system filters the lymph through a network of vessels, capillaries and lymph nodes.

As with every other system and type of cell in our bodies, the lymphatic system begins to get sluggish with age, because the muscles that help circulate lymph lose mass and weaken. Lung capacity decreases over time as well, and just the act of breathing itself helps keep the fluid circulating. You can keep your lymphatic system functioning properly by maintaining muscle strength, practicing deep breathing and avoiding unhealthy habits like smoking.

So what’s the association between lymph and visible signs of aging? As you get older, you may notice your eyes are puffier in the morning than they used to be. This is because lymph vessels get closer to the surface of the skin as the skin thins with age. Then, as the lymph system slows down, it has a harder time flushing out the excess fluid that accumulates while we’re lying down asleep.

If you need a little extra help depuffing in the morning, there are few easy ways to get this fluid moving.

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1. Sleep with an extra pillow to keep your head more elevated, which prevents fluid from pooling.

2. Learn the proper technique for facial massage because applying eye creams and skincare products in the direction of lymph flow helps eliminate buildup.

3. Look for eye products with rollerball applicators that mimic the massage that promotes lymphatic drainage.

4. If you’re OK with making a bit of an investment, the Clarisonic Opal Sonic Infusion System uses sonic movements that boost lymph flow and improve the absorption of eye creams and serums.

5. Choose caffeine as an active ingredient, as it helps drain fluid that’s accumulated around the eyes.

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6. Try taking a daily antihistamine daily, especially if you’re prone to allergies.

In addition to helping puffiness, these steps may help minimize dark circles as well. If you don’t see improvement in dark circles after a week or so, they may be caused by hyperpigmentation, which can only be improved by skin-brightening ingredients. But if you’re still not satisfied with the appearance of your eyes after giving these changes a chance, talk to your dermatologist who has a variety of other eye-improving options at his or her disposal.

Dr. Leslie Baumann is a board-certified dermatologist, author and CEO of Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute in Miami.

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