Facials, quite simply, are just a little more hardcore these days. Not necessarily painful, or even invasive, but add-ons like laser, LED and microcurrent are suddenly commonplace. Considering that most of our bathroom cabinets overflow with masks and serums, if we’re going to carve out time in our busy schedules and spend our hard-earned cash on a treatment, we want results, and we want them fast.
Enter facial massage. It’s an art that dates back many, many years and has roots in China, Mexico, France and Sweden, with each nation having a role to play in shaping what we know as facial massage today. A cursory scroll through the Instagram feed of any make-up artist or facialist worth their salt will show hands moving rapidly, pinching, tapping, flicking, and tolls rolling, rolling, rolling.
Acolytes rave about the plumped-up glow and lift it offers the skin, while it can reportedly improve lymphatic drainage. Vogue asked Sarah Chapman, facialist extraordinaire, and Inge Theron, founder of Face Gym to give their take…
What are the benefits of facial massage?
Of course, “glow” is hard to quantify, but Chapman, who’s been doing facials for some fifteen years, says massage is a crucial part of her service. “I started as training as an aromatherapist so I already had a background in massage when I started working as a facialist. I knew the basics, but I refined my technique and now it’s integral to my facials.” Likewise, Theron had been working as a beauty reporter covering spa treatments for eleven years before she started Face Gym, and said that while she loved facials, it took hitting her 30s to understand the scaffolding of the face and how we carry tension.
“I had a facial with Joelle Ciocco who is this painfully expensive and impossible to book with Parisian facialist, and my face was transformed afterwards. The results were unbelievable, and that’s when I realised I want to do this in a more accessible, scaleable way,” explained Theron. Essentially, the results of a good facial massage are a reduction in puffiness, an uplift in the firmness of the skin, a release of any tension in the face and that covetable healthy, rested glow.
How does facial massage work?
“The primary target in facial massage is the lymph nodes underneath the ears and on the neck,” explained Chapman. When these areas become blocked, lymphatic drainage becomes sluggish, which is thought to lead to a puffy, dull complexion. “It really helps to drain the toxins which can otherwise lead to skin that looks flat and grey,” Chapman added.
Likewise, the act of manipulating and massaging the skin means increased blood flow to the area. “More blood to the skin means more oxygen to the skin, and that blood flow also brings more nutrients,” noted Chapman. “Just by stimulating the skin, it stops being so lethargic and kick-starts your fibroblasts to produce more collagen.”
The other benefit is exactly what you’d expect from a massage: a release in muscle tension. “We all have so much more tension these days, especially in our jaws,” explained Theron. “We spend all day squinting at small little screens and clenching our jaws in stress. When you work away those knots and tensions, you get a noticeable uptick in the firmness of the skin.”
What are the downsides?
Both women were quick to note that there are interactions between facial massage and injectables – namely, don’t book yourself in for a treatment too soon after having Botox or fillers. “I would advise two weeks for Botox, and four weeks for fillers,” noted Chapman. Immediately following one of these treatments, the injectable remains somewhat fluid in the skin, so it’s best given time to settle before manipulating the skin.
However, if you regularly get injectables and want to start adding massage into your routine, there’s a possibility that they may break down somewhat faster. “The general increase in cell turnover and blood flow that makes the skin look so fabulous after facial massage may cause injectables to be metabolised a little quicker,” cautioned Chapman. “Injectables and massage absolutely can work hand-in-hand and look really harmonious and natural. After all, you don’t want exceptionally firm skin that just looks taut – you still want a healthy glow. But you really must be upfront with your facialist about what else you’ve had done.”
It’s a sentiment that Theron echoed, noting that mishaps do happen if treatments are undertaken too soon after going under the needle. Also, while the effects are impressive, they are short-lived, and so you’ll need to get into the habit of practicing it regularly to see the best results. “You do see results if you keep it up.
How should you try facial massage?
Both Theron and Chapman suggested that a light daily massage is a good baseline, with perhaps a weekly at-home or monthly professional session would be beneficial. Jade rollers and gua sha tools are both popular to help release lymphatic drainage and stimulate the skin (the former being self-explanatory, the latter being a specially shaped tool, carved from jade.)