Experts share age-defying tips and techniques
It’s our favorite part of a facial: those blissful few minutes when the aesthetician massages a serum or moisturizer into the face, gently releasing the tension from the temples, cheeks, jaw and neck. But while they might induce a few z’s, those deliberate massage strokes are designed to do more than just help us relax.
“As with the rest of our bodies, there are muscles under our facial skin, and if they are not exercised, they lengthen and atrophy, making skin appear soft and saggy,” explains Cynthia Rowland, creator of the 18-step “Facial Magic” facial exercise system and author of a new book by the same name. Weakened muscles can also make us “look tired, drawn or angry,” she adds, and can cause eyebrows to droop with age, wrinkles to appear, and folds to develop between the nose and cheeks. “By the time a person has reached age 55, the muscles in the face may have lengthened about half an inch from disuse,” she warns.
Most spa facials incorporate some targeted massage to strengthen these muscles and encourage circulation, which in turn can help improve skin tone and texture, combat wrinkles, stimulate collagen production and even alleviate issues like sinus congestion or TMJ. We asked experts to break down the basics of facial massage and offer tips for at-home care—so you can keep that blissful feeling going in-between spa visits.
How Does Facial Massage Work?
Facial massage “is the practice of manually stimulating the face to help stimulate blood flow, which will help feed skin cells,” explains Julie Clark, holistic health practitioner and facialist, founder/owner of Toronto’s Province Apothecary, and creator of the two-minute Natural Face Lift Ritual for at-home care. “It’s like an exercise session for the face, causing facial muscles to tighten and tone as a result of the stimulation.”
Typical facial massage techniques include the Traditional Chinese Medicine-based acupressure and Ayurveda-based marma point, both of which work to invigorate and improve energy flow in the body; and gentle, rhythmic lymphatic drainage, which stimulates the lymph nodes and helps move fluid away from inflamed areas. To lift and contour the skin (and help clients apply products in a purposeful way), Clark combined manual massage strokes with acupressure to create her Natural Face Lift Ritual, while Rowland’s Facial Magic system uses “isometric contraction with resistance”—gentle facial exercises performed using our fingers and thumbs as “weights”—to strengthen muscles and increase oxygenated blood flow to the face, leading to a more toned and youthful appearance.
What are the Benefits of Facial Massage?
Many. Clark notes that facial massage can help “encourage collagen production, smooth and improve texture, bring color to the complexion, and stimulate the lymphatic system to drain fluids and toxins, resulting in reduced puffiness in the eyes and face, and improved contours.” It’s also great for anti-aging, as targeted massage can “break up the muscle tissue that causes wrinkles, making surface wrinkles less visible and slowing down the formation of new ones.” And, of course, it can also ease tension, help products absorb better, and leave the face fresh and glowing.