I Thought Gemstone Facials Were a Gimmick — Until I Tried One

Gemstone Facial
Photo: Marci Robin

If you had told me when I was little that crystals and stones would have a pretty major moment in 2019, I wouldn't have believed you — but only because I thought they were too awesome to ever not be having a moment. In addition to regularly begging my mother to let me rummage through the tumbled-rock bins at The Nature Company, my very first "grownup" necklace was a hexagonal rose-quartz pendant on a sterling-silver chain. It looked like a pastel-pink icicle, and I thought it was the prettiest thing in the world. I even ascribed it magical powers. Granted, I also ascribed magical powers to my cupcake-shaped eraser around that time, but still.

That belief — that crystals and gemstones could be magical — is ironically the very thing that kept me from jumping back on the bandwagon during their current pop-culture and beauty renaissance. Gemstones and crystals feel like they're everywhere on social media — for healing, for improving energy, and more. Call me jaded (no pun intended), but as I grew to trust science over superstition, it became hard to maintain any sincere belief in the power of pretty rocks. I still find them as beautiful as ever, but I wouldn't ask them for any preternatural favors.

So when I saw Elizabeth Trattner's signature gemstone facial ($240 for the first appointment, $200 for follow-up appointments) popping up all over Instagram, I had mixed feelings. Photos showed clients in repose on a cushioned table, acupuncture needles expertly arranged on their faces — not unusual for someone who's a doctor of Chinese and integrative medicine and board-certified in acupuncture. What sets it apart from other cosmetic acupuncture treatments is the array of gemstones and crystals placed on and around each client. The pictures are stunning, but I wondered if what I was looking at was just an exquisite gimmick.

Gemstone Facial
Marci Robin

Eventually, my curiosity got the best of me. I visited Trattner on a sunny Wednesday morning at her home in Miami, where she's been in practice for more than 20 years. After greeting me with a genuine warmth that matched the weather, she gave me a tour of her incredible collection of crystals, including a gigantic rose-quartz bowl, a big ol' slab of amethyst, and an impressive collection of gem eggs.

"I love Gwyneth, but none of these have been in my vagina," Trattner unsolicitedly told me, referring to the scientifically questionable yoni egg trend. She went on to tell me that yoni eggs are often loaded with heavy metals, and because they can be porous, the bacteria they potentially hold could end up being absorbed by vaginal tissue. None of this was relevant to the gemstone facial I was about to experience, but it strangely put me at ease. It was clear she didn't blindly buy into alternative wellness practices just because they're done with a colorful rock, or because they've gained popularity among celebrities with New Age leanings.

I sat down with Trattner for nearly an hour before my facial, taking turns answering questions — me about my personal health history and current skin concerns, and her about what she'd be doing and the tools she'd be doing them with. It became even more apparent that she's just as put off as I am by the unsubstantiated claims and whimsical ignorance that have come hand-in-hand with the current trendiness of crystals. For example, Trattner uses jade and rose-quartz rollers during her facials, but not because there's anything particularly magical about them. "Rollers are beautiful, and I use them to reduce puffiness and induct product into the skin," she told me, but "there is no science with facial rolling, per se. It is the act of massaging the face — whether it's with a roller, hands, a poultice, or your cell phone — that creates the circulation, not the roller."

That said, "Gua sha has loads of science behind it," Trattner explained of another technique she uses in the gemstone facial. Gua sha, which involves stroking the skin with a flat tool typically made of stone or jade, "has been practiced for thousands of years in Chinese medicine," she told me. "Along with facial sculpting, lifting, and increasing circulation, it can be used for pain, prevention of colds, boosting the immune system, and releasing of muscle adhesions." She would be using a gentle version of this therapy during my facial.

I climbed onto the table with a more open mind than I had anticipated, and as I lay there, she created a "crystal grid" of blue aragonite, aquamarine, amethyst, and scolecite around me. Then, in an effort to open my "energy centers," she placed apatite on my first chakra, singdang agate on my second, third, and fourth chakras, amethyst on my fifth and sixth chakra, green and white quartz also on my sixth chakra, and clear quartz on my seventh chakra.

"The blue, purple, and white crystals were chosen because they represent the element of water in Chinese medicine — the element of the winter season. During the wintertime, it is very important to build and ground individuals," Trattner told me, explaining that amethyst moves energy, quartz crystals have a piezoelectric effect, and scolecite — part of the zeolite family — helps clear toxins out of the body. "Zeolites have been used to help clean up nuclear accidents," she informed me. I'm sure she didn't mean to imply that my body was akin to a nuclear accident, but it was nice to know the scolecite could probably handle me nonetheless.

The facial portion of the gemstone facial began with the application of Ayuna Serenity Serum, a skin-brightening formula that helped Trattner lightly glide the gua sha tool along my face to help improve circulation and lymphatic drainage, decrease puffiness, break up fascia, and generally sculpt the area. A rose-quartz roller was used to further massage my face and encourage the serum to penetrate my skin.

As relaxing as that felt, I enjoyed the cupping segment even more — but only after being assured that it wouldn't leave big, red, raised lumps all over my face like I'd seen cupping do to people's backs.

"Where body cupping leaves a mark, facial cupping does not because the cups are always moving," Trattner assured me about the lymph-stimulating treatment, also noting that facial cups are much smaller. In fact, there are now at-home facial cupping kits available to laypeople; however, Trattner warns against them — especially the glass kind. "I have routinely heard patients confessing to using facial cups and getting a big, red bruise because they did not know the proper technique," which requires an understanding of the arteries and veins in the neck and face, she said. "Stop watching social media influencers who have no idea what they're doing. Yanking delicate skin under the eye can cause damage to the skin."

I didn't realize it until I saw the pictures Trattner took of me, but I think she hooked me up with way more acupuncture needles than most of her clients. "Acupuncture points can vary just like the individual receiving it," she told me. "Although there are certain points that are specific for the face, it depends on the patient, their underlying constitution, what is currently going on in their system and on their face." I admit, I have a lot going on in my system and on my face, so perhaps that called for a Hellraiser look.

I didn't look totally like Pinhead, though, thanks to the gemstones that have made this facial such an Instagram sensation. And while Trattner arranges them differently on each client, she has been using the same amethyst, light amethyst, blue topaz, citrine, green quartz, green tourmaline, purple tourmaline, phrenite, and yellow topaz on everyone she has treated for over 20 years. "I can't imagine how many bodies and faces they have been on," she told me. "So many of my patients know that the gemstones have been part of my treatments for years and are not some fad I cooked up recently."

Although she didn't just come up with her gemstone facial to take advantage of the widespread crystal obsession, it was that fad that brought it to my attention, and I'm truly glad that it did. As I relaxed on the table — truly, deeply relaxed, not to mention significantly more informed than I'd been just a couple of hours earlier — I felt my long-held skepticism spring a leak. Trattner didn't try to convince me that anything she was doing with the crystals and gems was magical; in fact, she pooh-poohed that notion, citing research where it was available and making it clear when there was none, appreciating the ongoing espousal of crystals in holistic therapies but expressing annoyance over widespread misunderstanding and misuse.

Beyond all of that, my skin was undoubtedly glowing after the treatment. The most noticeable difference was my overall face shape. There was a subtle lifting at my jawline and cheeks that created a smoother, more oval appearance, as opposed to the "Yep, gravity has definitely started impacting my facial structure" look I've been sporting for the last few of years. I would even go so far as to say the effects lasted a couple days, probably because I was markedly more relaxed and not scrunching up and picking at my skin. That relaxed feeling alone would be enough to get me back to for another treatment.

"If a patient comes to a practitioner for facial acupuncture, they get a treatment. The gemstone facial is more than that as it addresses beauty from the inside out," Trattner told me. "Patients leave with more than just a gorgeous face and an awesome Instagram photo. They leave with information and tools regarding their skin and body health that they can use for a lifetime."

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