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It was 10:50 a.m., and I was going to be late for my appointment at Ricari Studios. I hate being late, and I always am. I drove quickly, a familiar frustrated knot in my chest. Angry at the pointless things I was doing that were delaying my earlier departure from the house. I thought about the irony of rushing to an appointment to relax. I remember a podcast episode where Dr. Russell Barkley—the world’s leading expert on ADHD—revealed that the disorder can shorten life expectancy by as much as 13 years, in part because people do the exact same thing I do. I tell myself to slow down. To breathe. Because even if I don’t die prematurely, the cortisol coursing through my body can’t be good for it, either.

It turns out that Ricari Studios, creators of the celebrity-favorite full-body cell stimulation treatment “Ricari Method,” are used to people who come to them having similar feelings. “When you live in a big city, that stress is almost impossible to avoid,” says my therapist Kayla upon arrival. “Even if you left the house on time, you have to contend with traffic, notifications constantly pull us to our screens, and other people’s energies affect our own.”

Most people get treatments at Ricari Studios to manage stress, Kayla says as I lie faceup, wearing one of the white body suits you’ve no doubt seen on Instagram, in the treatment room at L’Ermitage—the luxurious Beverly Hills hotel that’s home to Ricari Studios in LA. (Acclaimed aesthetician Joanna Czech also just opened her first Westside location.) I’m surprised to hear this: Almost everything I’ve heard about lymphatic drainage—part of what happens during a treatment at Ricari Studios—is that it helps reduce swelling and slim limbs, i.e., make you slimmer almost instantly—if only temporarily.

Lymphatic drainage has steadily gained popularity in recent years thanks to educational TikTok videos and well-known celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Dua Lipa, Hailey Bieber and Jennifer Aniston publicly undergoing routine treatments, leading to a 2022 result. WWD Article that states: “Lymphatic massage is currently the most popular celebrity wellness treatment.” Hollywood stars visit Ricari Studios before a red carpet event, others perhaps before a friend’s wedding – or routinely every week in the lead-up to their own wedding.

“People often get treatments before a big event for the physical benefits,” founder Anna Zahn tells me later on the phone—and it’s true: They will look slimmer in the days afterward. But despite all that, and despite the lure of marketing a company on external benefits—especially in today’s thin society—Zahn prefers a refreshingly holistic approach. “A lot of the wellness industry is marketed on aesthetics and the beauty fairytale: get rid of fat, get rid of cellulite. People are very results-oriented, and that sells well,” she says. “But what happens inside the body is much more important.” Those seeking these aesthetic changes notice after regular visits that they sleep better, have less anxiety, their digestion is better, and they feel more comfortable in their bodies. “That often overshadows the beauty benefits that got them seeking these treatments in the first place.”

Where do lymphatic drainage massages come from?

Although repackaged for today’s consumer-oriented customer, variations of lymphatic drainage massage have been around for centuries. If you look at history, There is historical evidence in Ayurvedic medicine, Chinese medicine, and the Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians that fluid movement in the body was thought to promote healing, Zahn says. The term as we know it today originated in the early 1930s, when Danish massage therapist Emil Vodder theorized that massage could mobilize fluid in the lymphatic system of sick patients with swollen lymph nodes, allowing the body to eliminate toxins more quickly and patients to recover faster. Vodder was right, and in 1936 he introduced “manual lymphatic drainage” to the medical community in Paris. Eventually, the treatment began to be offered in spas, and its benefits were predominantly marketed as body shape changes rather than health improvements.

How do lymphatic drainage massages work?

In many Western lymphatic drainage massages, the therapist uses light touches to massage areas of the body where fluid accumulates. A treatment at Ricardi Studios is a little different. It consists of three phases, two of which involve a large sci-fi machine: bodywork, facework and a leg compressor. Treatments can be customized to meet patients’ specific needs, whether to improve digestion or relieve symptoms such as PCOS. The device uses a combination of air pressure, rhythmic vibrations and microstimulation with a focus on nourishing the skin and connective tissue, creating mobility in the body in the form of lymphatic drainage blood circulation, activating the parasympathetic nervous system which induces the state of relaxation and using rhythmic frequencies to promote collagen and elastin production in the body.

“The main players are your connective tissue and your fascia,” Zahn explains. “It’s made up of collagen fibers and it’s the tissue that holds our body together. It holds everything in place, but it also includes all these different systems: your lymphatic system, your circulatory system, and your nervous system. So when you take care of the body and the skin, you’re allowing more mobility and more flow in the body, which allows your body to heal itself. If your lymphatic system is stagnant because your body is stagnant and stressed, your cells aren’t getting the oxygen or the fresh blood flow that they need. We want to achieve that state of flexibility with our tissue, and when we do that, it allows the body a lot of opportunities to heal.”

As the device glides over my skin, I realize how little I know about my inner workings. My organs feel foreign and strange, things that should only be considered when something goes wrong. Aside from the obvious – drinking less, not smoking, eating whole foods, exercising – we aren’t told much about what we can do to keep our bodies healthy. Things like massage, acupuncture and even therapy are seen as luxuries – not pieces of the same puzzle. “I think Western culture is late to the game in seeing self-care as more of a frivolous expense that we spend too much money on. It’s a luxury instead of a necessity. And that doesn’t necessarily have to mean going for treatments all the time. “If you incorporate things like going to a Korean spa for a peel into your life, you’ll continue to promote the benefits,” Zahn says. “And compression garments are incredible. It can be as simple as taking time to breathe, going for a walk, drinking water, connecting with yourself and others.”

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