Facial rollers are everywhere right now. They’ve spawned a whole category of facials massagers, lifters, and gua sha stones. Whether they’re made of jade or rose quartz or some other trending crystal, they’re far more attractive than any cosmetic device deserves to be.
Not only do they have appeal as an Instagram and YouTube product du jour, facial rollers also look like they belong in a museum — and in fact, that’s where some of today’s makers of the devices say they first saw them, resting in a display case.
If you’re contemplating adding one of these crystalline beauties (or one of its gua sha cousins) to your daily skin care routine, here’s what you need to know.
It’s impressive to hear that an object that legit qualifies as an ancient Chinese secret — seriously, check out this 18th century version at the Brooklyn Museum — is also available at Amazon for less than $10.
New York facialist Ling Chan, one of the women credited with resurrecting the facial roller trend in the 21st century, writes that the Chinese believe jade draws out negative qi (pronounced like “chi”). Qi is known as a life force in Chinese traditional medicine and martial arts.
Other product claims include: reducing puffiness, helping the appearance of under-eye circles, increasing blood circulation, smoothing wrinkles, and easing pain.
In the ancient history of beauty blogging — we’re talking 2012 — you can also find bloggers delivering rave reviews of the Ying Yu jade roller.
Back then, when the high-end versions were selling for $40 and up, his product remained fairly obscure. But in the past year, the popularity of jade rollers has exploded, partly due to word of mouth and the clout of reviews in Vogue, and also due to a majorly reduced price tag.
Why is everyone swearing by these things? First, jade rollers just feel good. The jade stone is naturally cool, and the roller makes it easy to apply gentle pressure all over the face. You can even store it in the fridge for an extra amped cool factor.
It’s also a pretty, visual reminder to stop and treat yourself to a mini massage. How often does anyone think to do that? Some users have said that, after days or weeks of using one, it decreases their puffiness in the morning, and there’s a real reason for those results.
Lymphatic drainage massage
“The only benefit of the facial roller, in my opinion, is that you do have lymphatic drainage,” says board-certified dermatologist Marie Jhin, author of Asian Beauty Secrets.
“Sometimes, you wake up, and your face is a little swollen, and your eyes are a little full. The roller could help move some of that lymphatic fluid and remove some of the inflammation or swelling.”
FYI: Lymphatic drainage is something your body does naturally — otherwise you’d be a very swollen mess on the daily. Lymph fluid is what carries white blood cells and other immune system molecules to areas of distress in the body, and that’s where you may see swelling.
When those cells have finished their work, the fluid drains away toward the lymph nodes, which filter out the bad stuff and then send the fluid back into the bloodstream.
There hasn’t been much in the way of scientific study on the effects of facial massage, but researchers have looked at manual lymphatic drainage techniques on the rest of the body.
A 2007 study concluded that manual lymph drainage via neck massage reduced swelling after tooth extraction. It also looks like massage or movement can help reduce the serum enzymes in the body associated with damage (or exercise) and reduce swelling.
You have lymph nodes at the base of the nose, outside the mouth, along the jaw, behind the ears, under the chin, and in the back of the neck, so, theoretically, you’d want to direct the flow of fluid toward those spots.
Dermatologists are generally still divided on the needs and benefits of any kind of facial massage as it pertains to lymphatic drainage. The evidence is mainly anecdotal, meaning it comes only from those who’ve tried it or offer it as a service.
On a typical day, would you really need to roll a smooth stone all over your face?
“If you really have nothing else to do,” says Doris Day, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical associate professor at the New York University Langone Medical Centers. “When you’re putting on your serums and other things, you’re stimulating lymphatic drainage manually. Just by moving and making facial expressions, you’re doing lymphatic drainage.”
The many influencers singing the praises of facial rollers also say they feel like the device helps their lotions, serums, and masks penetrate the skin. At the very least, massage does increase blood circulation, so it’s possible that massaging makes it easier for the skin to soak up any product.
This 2017 study found that an anti-aging cream produced better results in reducing fine lines on women who used a vibrating massage device to apply it than those who just used their hands.
Just don’t mistake jade facial rollers with the microneedle facial rollers. Dermatologists like Day provide microneedle procedures in the office to treat scarring and melasma (as the procedure has been clinically proven to help) by poking lots of tiny holes in the skin.
Doctors are mostly not recommending at-home derma rollers, however, because it’s really hard to maintain sanitary conditions while you’re giving yourself tiny wounds. Keep the needles in the derm’s office and avoid nasty infections.
And speaking of sanitation, if you’re using any kind of facial roller at home, you should clean it after each use. The last thing you want is to reintroduce dirt and bacteria to that glowing mug of yours.
What about rose quartz facial rollers?
You can buy facial rollers in a variety of other materials. There is essentially no research-based proof of the efficacy of crystals in the medical community, so any benefits are largely speculative.
On the other hand, the placebo effect is a very powerful medicine, so if in your heart of hearts, you believe that a rose quartz facial roller will get you better results, it actually might. And if you find them aesthetically pleasing, it might bring joy to your skin care routine.
Stones like jade and quartz do remain quite cold — especially if you keep your roller in the fridge or freezer — and cold is something Jhin agrees helps with inflammation and redness.
Do you need to search high and low for the best facial roller out there?
We’ve seen some online reviews complaining that the mechanical parts of the cheaper rollers don’t hold up to repeated use, so that’s certainly something to look out for. At the same time, the experts don’t think you need to be spending big on these tools.
“There are many different ways to stimulate your lymph nodes,” says celebrity aesthetician Ildi Pekar. “Facial rollers, facial cupping, dry brushing, magnetic therapy, and even hand massage — I think all of them work well, whichever tool you choose to use. Most times it’s not about the tool, it’s about your technique and how to properly open and drain using the lymphatic system.”
In this case, it seems, you have the expert’s permission to do whatever feels good for you. And the feeling of face TLC certainly isn’t the worst way we can think of spending a few minutes each day. Grab your favorite face oil and let’s roll.
Sabrina Rojas Weiss lives in Brooklyn, surrounded by her fellow freelance writers and competitive stroller-pushers. Follow her on Twitter @shalapitcher.