If you’ve ever admired your skin after a treatment and thought, “That glow, though!”, we’re about to let you in on a little secret. One of the keys to a glowing, ageless complexion is a well-executed facial massage. Massaging the face not only relieves tension, it also boosts circulation, gives your skin an instant lift and even helps your products absorb better. Read on to learn about the benefits of facial massage and how to give yourself one at home.
What Is Facial Massage?
With roots in China, Mexico, Hungary and Sweden, facial massage has evolved greatly over the years. Eminence Organics International Trainer Brian Goodwin says: “Therapeutic massage began approximately 4,500 years ago and has expanded into the discovery of facial lifting massage, lymphatic drainage, reflexology, Swedish-style and other techniques.” Facial massage takes the principles of body massage and applies them to the muscles of the face. This not only reduces facial tension (a contributor to fine lines and wrinkles) but also increases blood and lymph circulation to rejuvenate the skin.
Benefits Of Facial Massage
As Brian says, “The true benefits of massage lie in massaging what is beneath the skin.” He likens the structure of the skin to a house: It has a roof (epidermal tissue), framework (dermal tissue) and foundation (subcutaneous, adipose and muscle tissue). Skin concerns and conditions don’t just affect the roof; rather, they extend all the way down to the foundation. When we apply active and targeted pressure to the muscles of the face, we are able to treat conditions in the skin from the foundation up, leading to better and longer-lasting results.
Here is a closer look at the benefits of facial massage for the skin.
Increases Blood Circulation
A 2018 study revealed that stimulating the skin with a five-minute facial massage increases blood flow for as long as 10 minutes. With greater blood flow comes more oxygen and nutrients - both of which are essential for the skin to carry out key functions.
The short-term result of greater blood flow is an immediate glow; as blood rises to the surface, the skin is infused with radiance from the inside out. The long-term result is greater and more efficient collagen and elastin production; over time, this contributes to a stronger and more resilient complexion.
Activates The Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system functions as the body’s garbage disposal: It helps remove waste and toxins from bodily tissues, including the skin. But, as Brian explains: “Our lifestyles tend to block the lymphatic system from doing its job because of the stagnant nature of our lives.” When it becomes sluggish, toxins build up and block our lymph nodes, causing the skin to look puffy.
Lymphatic drainage is a gentle massage technique that encourages the movement of lymph fluids throughout the body. This type of massage targets the lymph nodes under the ears and on the neck, helping to drain toxins and remove excess waste. This, in turn, minimizes swelling and helps to “de-puff” the skin.
Lifts & Plumps Skin
We hold plenty of tension in our faces, from furrowed brows to pursed lips and clenched jaws. When the muscles under our skin (close to 43, to be exact) are young and strong, they can bounce back quickly from facial tension. However, as Brian explains, “These muscles lose tone over time and the foundation begins to slip. When the foundation slips, we see jowls form, loosening of the tissue around the eyes and an overall drooped appearance for the entire face.” As these folds deepen, fine lines and wrinkles can also begin to develop (we’re looking at you, forehead lines).
These muscles lose tone over time and the foundation begins to slip. When the foundation slips, we see jowls form, loosening of the tissue around the eyes and an overall drooped appearance for the entire face.
Facial massage functions like a non-surgical face lift, helping to tone the muscles under the skin. Like the rest of the body, the more you exercise these muscles, the stronger they become. With time, facial massage (and even face yoga) can improve the skin’s strength and resilience, helping to smooth out wrinkles and keep it tight, firm and lifted.
Improves Product Absorption
Massage also helps to increase the penetration of the active ingredients in your favorite skin care. The heat that is created through the warmth of your hands and the activation of facial muscles make the skin more amenable to product absorption. This increases the efficiency and effectiveness of key ingredients as they can more easily reach the deeper layers of the skin (the foundation) to target specific skin concerns and conditions.
How To Do Facial Massage At Home
Convinced? Follow these facial massage steps to give yourself a treat at home.
1. Cleanse Hands & Face
Always (always) start with a clean base. Prep your skin by cleansing and removing all makeup. And, ensure your hands are clean so you don’t transfer bacteria to your just-cleansed complexion. The last thing you want is to massage dirt and grime back into your skin.
2. Warm Product In Hands
The key to a successful facial massage is slip. You never want to feel as though you are pulling or dragging your skin. A small amount of serum, oil or concentrate helps your fingers move more smoothly across your face - and ensures the actives reach the deepest layers of your skin. Simply apply a small amount of product into your palms and rub the formula to evenly distribute it over your hands and fingertips. Our pick: Rosehip Triple C+E Firming Oil. Or combine the massage with the cleansing step and choose our Stone Crop Cleansing Oil.
3. Use Gentle But Firm Pressure
You want to apply enough pressure that you can truly feel and move the muscles beneath the skin. Brian advises: “Work with muscle when it comes to massage, not just the surface of the skin, and use pressure with purpose.” That said, don’t go too hard on your skin. A facial massage is not a deep tissue massage: Use firm pressure, but keep it gentle.
Work with muscle when it comes to massage, not just the surface of the skin, and use pressure with purpose.
4. Start By Massaging The Lymph Area
Begin by activating your lymphatic system. Using the tips of your fingers, massage the lymph nodes under your ears and along the sides of your neck. Use wide circles, sweeping from under your ears, down toward your throat and back up along your jawline. This will encourage the build-up that is causing you to feel puffy or swollen to keep moving.
5. Knead The Sides Of Your Face
Next, target the sides of your face. Use circular motions to massage the perimeter of your face, along the sides of your jaw and up over your cheekbones. Remember to push your skin up and out - not down. This will help to lift sagging skin and prevent the skin from drooping further. Repeat for two to three minutes, concentrating on the areas where you hold the most tension (typically around the jaw).
6. Smooth Forehead Lines
Now for those pesky forehead lines. Press your fingers between your brows and slowly slide them up your forehead. Repeat this motion across your forehead, gently pulling the skin up and out. Massaging against the lines (rather than with them) will help to smooth them in the right direction.
7. Take Extra Care Around The Eyes
Next up is the eye area. As always, be extremely delicate with this area, where the skin is thinner and more fragile. Position your fingers on either side of your nose and gently run them upwards toward your temples. This action will help to combat puffiness, lift sagging skin and “wake up” the eye area.
8. Finish With Your Neck & Decolletage
Finally, target your neck and decolletage. Use light, vertical strokes to massage skin from your chest, up your neck and to your jawline. This will help to reactivate the lymphatic system and smooth out any fine lines that have collected in this oft-neglected area.
Explore Face Yoga At Home
Now that you've enjoyed an facial massage, you can also try face yoga to get the blood flow moving to that area. To release some tension from your upper body, bring your shoulders down to relax. Then, with the tops of your knuckles, gently smooth them across your forehead to the temples. While you're applying this gentle pressure, take a deep breath and exhale as your knuckles cross your forehead. You can do this four or five times, or until relaxed. Take three fingers, reach over to the temple on the opposite side and gently tap.
Another face yoga movement involves stretching our your neck. Start by straightening your head, relaxing your shoulders, and lifting your hand up and over to reach the opposite side of your head. Once you've placed your fingers on the opposite side of your head, gently stretch your neck and shoulders, holding for three seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Try This Pucker Lips Exercise
This is a fun one! You want to pucker your lips to the left and then to the right, with your head following the direction of your lips. Firstly, as you twist your lips to the left, turn your head as well, lifting it to a 45 degree angle. Hold this position for three seconds. Next, repeat on the right side, twisting your lips and head to the right, and holding your head at a 45 degree angle. Hold for three seconds. Repeat this exercise about five times.
Indulge In An Eye Massage
Take two fingers and circle under and around the eyes, over the brow area, pausing at the temples. You can do this five times. For another eye exercise, place your index finger on your upper lip and your middle finger below your lower lip. Then sweep up all the way to the temple, repeating five times on each side.
Relax With A Forehead Massage
Sweep ten fingers up to the temple five times on each side. Place your fingertips around the eyes and sweep your fingers up to the hairline. Finish by bringing fingers down the side of the face and neck. Another alternative is to glide up the side of the neck too.
For a full explanation of these lymphatic facial massage techniques, check out this In The Mix video with our Lead Skin Care Trainer, Natalie Pergar.
Should I Use Massage Tools?
You can certainly use devices like jade rollers and gua sha to perform your facial massage, but we’re partial to using the hands. This allows for greater control over pressure and the ability to use your fingers to zero in on areas that are particularly tense. The exception: Your eye area. A cool jade roller - or the stainless-steel rollerball of our Hibiscus Ultra Lift Eye Cream - can work wonders for puffy, tired eyes. Simply pop it in the fridge before application for a super-soothing eye treatment.
How To Add Massage To Your Skin Care Routine
The secret to long-term results is to practice facial massage regularly. Beauty experts recommend adding a facial massage to your skin care routine two to three times per week. This can be beneficial in boosting circulation, softening tension and - over time - lifting and toning your complexion. Whether you choose your morning or night time routine is up to you. We suggest before bed to give your skin an extra boost (it does, after all, perform the majority of its key functions while you’re asleep).
This post was originally published in September, 2019 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.