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Jade rollers have been having a moment these past few years, yes. But if we really go back in time, we see that these are just modern tools to replace the age-old tradition of using your hands.
“Practicing facial massage with hands or a massaging tool has been a part of traditional Japanese wellness rituals for centuries, and it has been shown to de-puff the face and promote microcirculation,” says Victoria Tsai, founder of Tatcha, a skin care brand inspired by the products geishas use for their performances in Japan.
As a natural beauty blogger and skin care enthusiast, I love using tools (I’ve even tried the 24k gold wand, and it’s great), but most often — as I do when applying makeup — I find myself simply using my hands.
In the 5 years I’ve been practicing facial massage, I’ve learned a few things about what does and doesn’t work. But first, let’s talk about why you should even give this a try.
It’s a fantastic daily habit to maintain, especially if you want to keep your face looking fresh and awake. A facial massage aids in cleansing your skin from the inside out by promoting lymphatic drainage. It also improves the appearance of fine lines and overall skin structure as it firms, tones, and tightens your skin.
A 2017 study echoed those results using 3D imaging, noting visible improvement in smile lines, cheeks, and lower eyelids in more than half of the subjects — though it’s important to note this was a small study of only a dozen people, ages 30 to 54 years.
I’ve felt the tension release from my face, neck, and shoulders after just a 10-minute #SelfCareSunday massage session. The process is soothing and can certainly be part of your self-care routine.
Plus, an at-home facial massage is a lot more affordable than going to a spa, and — if you’re a homebody like me — it’s completely stress-free.
Before starting, make sure your hands are warm and clean and your fingernails don’t have any rough edges. Also remove any rings.
Prep your skin by gently cleansing and then applying a medium- to slow-absorbing carrier oil (see below). This creates slip so your fingers can glide across your skin during the massage without pulling or tugging it. Repeated tugging can cause micro tears, especially in mature skin.
Now, get ready to do what I call “the sweeping method”
Press with gentle to medium pressure since pressing too hard, especially over the areas with thinner, more delicate skin, may result in broken capillaries or worsen existing ones.
It can sometimes feel good to really apply more pressure if, say, you have a headache you want to relieve, but you don’t want to do permanent damage. Trust me — I’ve tried to relieve more than a few headaches with facial massage and have not been as gentle as I should have.
- Using the tips of two or three fingers (usually the pointer and middle, or ring and middle), sweep from the center of your chin, up and out along your jawline. You can also use your knuckles. Do at least 5 to 15 strokes (more if you want) on each side before moving up to the next area. Use both hands to do both sides of your face at once, if you wish.
- Move up and repeat the motion from the corners of your mouth out toward your ears, then from the sides of your nose to your ears, and from your nose to your temples, using broad strokes.
- Continue up, sweeping across your cheeks, then just under and above your eyebrows, and from between your eyes up to the top of your forehead.
If you have a bit more time, you can start the massage at the base of your neck to help increase lymphatic drainage, as pharmacist, wellness consultant, and beauty blogger Dr. Mona Vand recommends in her face lifting massage tutorial.
P.S. It’s always better to use too much oil than not enough. If you end up with a lot of excess oil, spread it over other spots, like your neck, chest, and even elbows!
Want to make this part of your routine but don’t want to speed through your precious (read: $$$) beauty oil that you meter out by the drop? I totally get that!
Consider purchasing a bottle of straight-up carrier oil from a bulk natural ingredient shop like Mountain Rose Herbs. Always do a patch test when using a new oil or ingredient for the first time.
The following oils are wonderful for your skin, are medium- to slow-absorbing, and have a shelf life of at least 1 year:
- apricot kernel oil
- almond oil
- avocado oil
- jojoba oil
You can also use a combination of your favorite oils or any moisturizer you have on hand, but moisturizers typically absorb faster and just don’t provide as much slip as an oil.
“It’s best to do it daily — either in the morning to awaken and revitalize the skin or in the evening to promote lymphatic drainage,” says Tsai. “My favorite way to use our Gold Akari Massager is the morning. I chill it and glide it in circles around my eyes after I apply my moisturizers — it melts away the morning puffiness and redness.”
While I don’t do this every day (it’s more a once-or-twice-per-month thing), writing this out (and Tsai’s comments) has me tempted to try it daily!
I do think that, along with a good skin care routine, facial massage is a factor in my 34-year-old face registering as at least a few years younger.
Always on the go?
It’s great for that too. “Since I travel frequently, I’ve found that facial massage is a wonderful way to combat water retention from flying,” says Tsai.
So, say you really like this whole facial massage thing (welcome to the club!) and want to use a little something more than just your digits in your daily routine.
There are many fancy tools out there — crystal rollers, sculpting bars, gua sha stones, and kansa wands, to name a few. Reach for whichever one feels right for you.
One major advantage of using a facial massage tool is the cooling effect, which also works to de-puff, especially in the morning. You can put your tool in the fridge or a bowl of cold water before your massage. A cold tool gently massaged under your eyes on a hot summer day feels amazing.
Some tools can also be used warm if you place them in a bowl of hot water before use. A bit of warmth, combined with a light touch, can be very soothing when you’re holding tension in your face or have a headache due to sinus congestion.
If it’s your first foray into the world of rejuvenating facial massage, it’s best to add or switch up only one thing at a time. This is basically a golden rule for beauty, no matter what new product you’re trying.
New toner, new serum, new oil, and facial massage all in one week? I wouldn’t recommend it. If you end up with irritated skin or breakouts, it might be hard to tell which product is actually causing the issue, as in this 2002 study, in which women were given a whole gamut of beauty treatments at once.
Do it right, though — clean hands, gentle massage, skin-friendly oils — and it’s unlikely you’ll see anything but happy, glowing skin.
Naomi Farr is a copy editor, writer, book box curator, and botanical perfumer. She loves focusing on all things wellness, mental health, natural beauty, and books. You can find her on her blog, and on Instagram @avioletlife.