Welcome to ON BEAUTY, a monthly feature highlighting creative, like-minded people who inspire us.
Our Firmante Leg Tonic, first and foremost, targets the unwanted effects of circulatory stagnation and tissue laxity. And at In Fiore, we constantly talk about boosting circulation and the importance of the lymphatic system. But at the end of the day, it’s not something we can necessarily see.
That said, we turned to an expert on the subject of lymphatic drainage. Meet Anna Zahn, Los Angeles and New York-based owner of Ricari Studios, a health spa with a restorative approach to skin and body care and a focus on cellular stimulation and physical architecture. Anna works with a slew of machines to enhance circulation and understands first hand that the lymphatic system is often overlooked. Here, Anna dispels her circulation-boosting contraptions, the benefits of lymphatic drainage, and how to get similar benefits in the comfort of your own home.
As a practice, lymphatic drainage really makes you look and feel better from the inside out.
How would you describe the lymphatic system in layman’s terms?
In one sentence, the lymphatic system is a set of interconnected nodes, ducts, and vessels, much like pearls on a knotted string. Another (less chic) way to think of it is like a highway, and the nodes are toll booths. Whichever metaphor you fancy, this system, which lies just under the skin, is responsible for eliminating cellular waste, storing and distributing fat and fat-soluble vitamins from the digestive system, transporting white blood cells to assist in immune functioning, and removing interstitial fluid from tissues to minimize swelling.
Most of us stimulate our lymphatic system in our everyday movements, but the various stresses of modern life combined with a lack of physical activity means that most of us require extra stimulation in the form of focused exercise, massage, and hydration. Further, the lymphatic system differs from the circulatory system in that it doesn’t have a pump (like your heart), so giving it some extra love can make a huge impact on your overall well being.
Why do you think the lymphatic system is overlooked?
While lymphatic stimulation is an ancient practice, the importance of the lymph system is only just starting to be understood by the medical community and engaged culturally. When you can’t readily define something in clinical terms, especially in western cultures, it doesn’t really enter the discourse. That being said, I do believe the cultural tide is changing and individuals are proactively seeking out alternative or perhaps forgotten methods of improving their health and wellbeing.
Pleasure is a big part of our ethos. We believe self-care should be a pleasurable priority.
Where and when did you first realize lymphatic drainage and the lymphatic system hold incredible benefits?
My first lymphatic massage was in New York several years ago. I didn’t have any expectations going in. I had been recommended somewhat vaguely by a friend, but I was intrigued nonetheless. I was admittedly skeptical. The therapist’s touch was so light, and it didn’t feel like a typical “massage.” She explained that the lymphatic system was like a system of rivers just beneath the skin and that it doesn’t require intense stimulation for detoxification. While I was still somewhat in the dark on all things lymphatic, I did leave feeling more relaxed. I could breathe better and my face looked brighter. Years later, I took an apprenticeship with a specialist in the field, and that’s when I really honed my knowledge of the lymphatic system and my obsession with lymphatic wellness, encouraging circulation, and cellular stimulation took hold.
Why do you think the US medical community has only recently recognized the lymphatic system and dubbed it a “new organ”?
Unfortunately, the core issue seems to be a technical one. While the medical community has acknowledged the presence of lymph nodes and the lymphatic system, they only recently discovered the “interstitium,” which describes the fluid-filled spaces found in connective tissue all over the body. As it happens, the fluid in these spaces is lymph fluid and it drains into your lymphatic system.
In the past, when researchers prepared tissue for microscopic slides, the chemicals they used to make the slide drained the fluid from the sample, causing the interstitium to collapse. Today, new imaging technology allows researchers to view living tissue samples without damaging, giving us a new understanding of the lymphatic system as a whole.
What types of tools and mechanisms do you use when working on the lymphatic system and what are the benefits?
We use a combination of machines and techniques developed by the beauty, athletic, and medical communities, all of which are naturally stimulating and simply feel good. Nothing we do is aggressive. Pleasure is a big part of our ethos. We believe self-care should be a pleasurable priority.
The immediate and long-term benefits of lymphatic care are endless. Many of our clients are shocked by how profoundly relaxed they feel after their first session. The combination of mechanical stimulation of the skin, muscles, and tissue helps tone and contour, while frequency stimulation targets your cells. As a practice, lymphatic drainage really makes you look and feel better from the inside out.
One of the more thrilling parts of this field is that it is constantly evolving with our understanding of the lymphatic system, which is still a bit of a mystery. I am always seeking out innovation and refinements in the technology we have in our studios, and I’m particularly excited about a new machine we will be importing from Italy in the coming months. Definitely stay tuned.
In your studio, why use different contraptions versus just general massage?
Just like dated technology prevented us from understanding the lymphatic system, there is only so much we can do with our hands to stimulate it, especially when we each only have two of them. For example, one of our machines that provides lower-body compression is the equivalent of having 24 hands massage you at once.
Also, massage does not provide the frequency stimulation of a machine that targets your cells. I’m not here to discourage anyone from getting a massage; I actually encourage almost any form of stimulation and relaxation practices. However, human stimulation cannot compete with regenerative and restorative capacity of a machine when it comes to cellular stimulation.
While lymphatic stimulation is an ancient practice, the importance of the lymph system is only just starting to be understood by the medical community and engaged culturally.
For those who can’t get to Ricari, what do you recommend doing to stimulate and boost circulation at-home?
Not to be part of the Broken Record Club, but the simple habits of adequate rest, hydration, exercise, and stimulation cannot be overstated. And adequate doesn’t mean exaggerated for a reason. For example, when it comes to moving your body, simply getting out for a walk every day can make a huge difference.
Beyond the basics, dry brushing before you get into the shower is another great way to stimulate your interstitial flow. Regular warm baths offer a sensual and practical at-home circulation booster. You can also step up your skincare routine with a simple face massage, with or without something like a jade roller or gua sha tool. If you’re a frequent traveler or work on your feet, compression wear is a simple way to improve your circulation and reduce swelling. I’m also a huge fan of Moon Juice products—specifically SuperYou and the Magnesi-ohm for reducing stress and inflammation in the system.
Does sex count?
Escentric Molecules Molecules 01.
Do you have any tips for long-haul flights?
Compression wear, Moon Juice SuperYou, and Moon Juice Magnesi-ohm.
What’s your favorite beauty food?
Moon Juice SuperHair and Moon Juice Cosmic Matcha.
What’s your vice?
I’m not sure what my vice is, but I seek pleasure in my everyday.
Do you have any charms or talismans?
No charms or talismans, but definitely a lot of memes and gifs.