I Always Skip This Step — But Could It Be the Secret to Better Skin?
My skincare routine is consists of the basics – cleansing, moisturizing, and slathering on SPF. As you can imagine, facial massage doesn't ever (like, ever) make the cut. I started to wonder if it was to my own detriment: Recently, facial massage is being touted as the holistic secret to glowier, youthful-looking, and all-around healthier skin. Videos of my friends massaging and de-puffing their faces with jade rollers show up on my Instagram feed more than avocado toast, and Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, reportedly credits her sculpted cheekbones to the treatment. If that's not enough to convince you of its popularity, there are actual spas solely dedicated to massaging (or working out) the face — one in New York City is wittily named Face Gym.
Simply put, people can't seem to get enough.
Though there are many different types, one of the most popular versions is called a lymphatic facial massage, which is a massaging of the lymph nodes in the face to help drain them of fluid (and ultimately, rid your face of puffiness). It's something you can do yourself with a jade roller, and it also happens to be the favorite of celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas.
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"Lymphatic drainage massage is very gentle and seemingly superficial, but it is really important as it helps restore function and balances the body," she explains. "The lymphatic system is a network that picks up fluids and waste products from the spaces between the cells and then filters and cleans them, so it helps rid the body of toxins, waste, and other unwanted materials. 70 percent of lymphatic vessels are located just below the skin."
These massages are said to result in a decrease of puffiness, and glowier, clearer skin, but Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a board-certified dermatologist and Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, says that there's really no real data to prove the point. It's all anecdotal.
"In some cases, jade rolling can give instantaneous benefits," Dr. Zeichner says. "It can give some modest improvements immediately from the physical act of pushing away excess fluid. However, when it comes to improvement of circulation to the skin, continued use over weeks to months are likely necessary before you will start to notice any changes in the skin."
Clearly, it's getting the 2018 stamp of approval, but it's worth noting that the technique is an age-old practice that's been around for hundreds of years. Jade rollers, for example, were actually used in ancient Chinese beauty rituals. It's newfound place in mainstream culture, though, might have something to do with the continued rise of self-care.
"I think people are more interested in taking care of themselves nowadays and have rediscovered the benefits of massage — whether it is body massage or face massage," Dr. Lamees Hamdan, the founder and CEO of Shiffa Skincare, says. "I also think there's a big movement towards more holistic remedies, whether it’s more natural foods, medicines, and more natural ways of taking care of our skin. Self-massage is a great way to ease a tense, stressed face, it is easy to do and works beautifully. There is little time and effort involved, and once you buy the tool, there is no expense either."
A skincare professional will probably have a highly targeted massage technique, so it could be worth getting a facial that includes plenty of massage if you're new to the practice. However, you can also DIY the treatment using a roller or your fingertips if you'd like. "I roll upwards and downwards — downwards because the flow of lymph is towards the heart, which is downwards on the face, and upwards to give a lift to the muscles and tone," Dr. Hamdan says.
Though it's certainly not a life-changing secret (and like Dr. Zeichner says, there's not a lot of science to back it up). However, the logic of light, regular facial massage makes sense — and it also feels amazing. The next morning I wake up to a puffed-up under-eye area, I might just break out my purple jade roller.