Dr. Barbara Sturm $35
The lymphatic drainage treatment with a cult following? VIOLET GREY’s senior art director is here for it.
Written ByCARRIE BARBER
Let me get this out of the way: Lymphatic drainage with Anna Zahn is hands down the best treatment I have ever tried.
I first learned of Anna, founder of Ricari Studios in L.A. and New York, the way I hear about most things these days: on Instagram. In this case, it was via Courtney Trop (@alwaysjudging), whom I love as a source for all things beauty in L.A. When I saw her post about Anna on her Stories, I booked the next available appointment. That was two years ago. And I have since become close friends.
Anna is unlike any other wellness authority I have ever met. What she does is on another level. Her treatments are relaxing and impart aesthetic results, but the work being done on the muscular and cellular level puts her in her own category. Not to mention, she is wicked smart, has a great bedside manner, is strikingly beautiful, and knows all the best memes from the depths of the internet (key for stress relief). She is also steadfast in creating the future spa experience.
Okay, so what is your lymphatic system? In a nutshell: an intricate net of organs, lymph nodes, lymph ducts, and lymph vessels and a major part of your immune system. “Think of your lymphatic system like a highway network in your body,” explains Anna. “This highway 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. It’s a pretty important job.”
While doing research for this story, the two most fascinating thing I learned is that: 1) There is twice as much lymph fluid as blood, and twice as many lymph vessels as blood vessels. And 2) The lymphatic system maximizes your body’s ability to absorb vitamins internally for healthy skin, hair, and nail growth, and acts as a vital assist for your respiratory system.
“We aim 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,” says Anna. “We combine and customize varying mechanical manipulation of the skin, muscle, and tissue for maximum wellness benefit, aesthetic impact, and overall relaxation.” This is why I love this treatment.
Unlike manual lymphatic drainage massage, a hands-on technique, Anna primarily uses an icoone machine from Italy, which looks similar to EVE from WALL-E but with three long octopus arms coming out of the back. It offers three levels of stimulation and 38 settings to ensure that every client is receiving a custom treatment that addresses everything from water retention, cellulite, scar tissue, and muscle pain to indigestion. More on that later.
Anna starts her treatments by asking how my body is (this time: tight and heavy from travel and stress), and feels the muscles in my arms, legs and back to assess what's going on in my body.
The machine works like this: Rollers deliver inward, outward, forward, and backward rotations to provide three layers of stimulation, suction, and rolling plus microstimulation (via the perforations on the rollers), and pulsations at varying frequencies. It gently, yet intensively, conditions skin tissue to reduce cellular deposits, enhance blood and lymphatic flow, and reactivate lipolysis (the breakdown of fats and other lipids). It also stimulates collagen and elastin production to help smooth and firm overall.
There are generally two stages of treatment. The first 20 minutes is focused on the general needs of the skin and focuses on lymphatic drainage massage. The next is a custom series of 10-minute treatments which sculpt and lift your butt, tightens sagging skin over the knees, tones stomach folds, reduces muscle pain, treats scars or poor circulation, and helps workout recovery.
Now for the good stuff. Each night I saw Anna, I was coming from a dinner and drinks, so I definitely was not trying to look good for my before photos.
Day 1: Recovering from travel, jet-lag, weekend eating, drinking and stress, this treatment felt the most general, like what Anna and I normally do. We focused on full body, 30 minutes on front and back and she spent extra time on my legs as they were feeling heavy and tight. We ended with 10 minutes on my face and neck. Results: I felt slimmer over all, especially in my legs and stomach, and had a more defined jawline. I was also very relaxed. I usually fall asleep during Anna’s treatments, but I was on California time and we hadn’t seen each other in a while so I stayed awake so we could catch up.
Day 2: This night I saw Anna after a four-course dinner and two glasses of wine at Babbo. We started the way we normally do, but halfway through I mentioned that I am self-conscious about my arms and she went straight to work on them for 20 minutes. Results: This treatment went deeper than the previous night, and it felt like we got into the built-up tension and stress I was holding onto in my body. My calves and arms were especially tight; it felt like she was releasing years of tension. Anna described them as crunchy. She also spent extra time on my neck, which visibly reduced those ‘tech-neck’ lines. If you are following me on Instagram, this was the ‘baggy jeans’ video I posted. Those jeans are still loose.
Day 3: By this time, I felt like I was in detox mode. I was tired, lethargic and even managed to squeeze in a much needed nap (which I never do). Anna used a different toning setting on me—more of a pulsing/vibrating sensation—and spent a lot of time lifting and toning my booty. I also felt like there was a knot in my stomach. On the machine, there is an ‘indigestion’ setting in which Anna goes on a specific path, stimulating the intestines and colon. Results: My legs continued to appear slimmer after each day and after this session in particular, my butt was definitely lifted. As you’ll see in the photo, my stomach is not much flatter because that indigestion setting really did some work. Internally it felt similar to a colonic, but without the water.