Firming. Lifting. Calming. Brightening. De-puffing. Hydrating. Nourishing. Plumping.
All words I myself have used right here on this very blog to describe beauty and skincare products. And while there are, without a doubt, clean, natural ingredients and formulations that will perform what each of those adjectives promises, there’s also a totally and completely natural way to get roughly the same results without a drop of anything touching your skin.
Any guesses? (Not magic, no. Though that would be very cool.)
If you said facial massage, you either 1) read the headline of this piece or 2) are very wise because yes, the simple act of gently rubbing your own hands over your own face can work wonders on your complexion and the health of your skin. A few drops of oil, five minutes of your time and the brainpower to actually remember to do it every day, and facial massage may just become the best part of your skincare routine.
Before I get into how, let me quickly explain the why. So many of our skin woes are caused by inflammation, both within our organs that then shows up on the skin or closer to the surface in the form of puffiness. When it comes to the former, the only way to control it is diet. But for the latter, much of it can be combatted by making sure our lymph system is free of blockages and flowing smoothly.
When lymph is circulating freely, draining and refreshing optimally, puffiness goes down significantly. It also means toxins that can mess with your skin are being continuously flushed from the body, which keeps the skin clear and glowing. Fortunately (or unfortunately), the lymph system relies mostly on external movement for circulation. When you eat a lot of salty, processed, fatty foods and then go to bed right away, I’d bet you wake up in the morning feeling and looking pretty puffy thanks to all that stagnant fluid that’s taken up residence in your body. But as soon as you really start to move again, getting the blood (and lymph) moving too, that puffiness starts to subside.
Now apply the same reasoning to your skin. Yes, your regular blood flow and exercise is helpful for the health and appearance of your skin. But just like you need targeted movements and exercise to strengthen and tighten muscle groups, you also need targeted care for your face. (No, facial crunches don’t exist…yet.)
Which is where facial massage comes in. By taking a few minutes every day to focus on moving your hands over your face in a specific way, you can help your facial muscles stay active, relieve tension, increase blood flow (hello, glow!), and help that lymph circulate and drain properly so puffiness doesn’t haunt your gorgeous head.
Ok, now the how.
First, a note on technique: You should approach anything having to do with the skin on your face with the utmost care and a very gentle hand. It’s better to underdo it and have it take a bit longer for the results to show up than to overdo it and damage your delicate skin. The pressure you use to massage your face should be similar to that with which you shave your legs — you’re not trying to dig into your skin with the razor (the horror!) and the same goes for massaging your face. A light touch is also better because lymph is close to the surface and responds better to gentle pressure. If you press too hard, you risk bruising that sweet, sweet face.
When it comes to technique, there are many. YouTube is rife with tutorial videos (though proceed with caution) and a quick Google search will also turn up many instructional pieces. Proceed however you like, though one constant you may recognize is direction; you’ll want to start with your fingers in the center of your face and move them out to the edge, then down. That’s because the direction of the lymphatic pathways on the face move from the center, out, then down to just above the collarbone where it all collects to be flushed away. When you empty the trash can in your kitchen, you don’t move the garbage bag into your bedroom — you take it out to the curb. Same goes for your face.
So with all this in mind, here’s my approach to facial massage. I do it every morning after cleansing and applying moisturizer, and every night on clean skin with a few drops of oil. As long as you stick to the basic rules of facial massage (gentle hand, moving from the center out, performing on clean skin with a bit of oil or moisturizer for some slip), you can make up your own pattern. I’m partial to the technique below because it was taught to me by a holistic facialist friend who has the most gorgeous skin you’ve ever seen and, when I skip a day of doing it, I notice the effects immediately, but you do you.
Facial Massage Sequence
Start with freshly cleansed skin and clean hands. Apply moisturizer or face oil as usual and, while it’s still absorbing into skin, start the massage. I do both sides of my face simultaneously since, you know, I have two hands, but feel free to perform one side, then the other.
Place your index, middle and ring fingers at the top of the neck, just below the ears (outer corner of the jaw). Apply gentle pressure and drag your fingers down the neck until you hit the collarbone. Repeat 5x.
With your thumb and index finger in a light pinching formation, start in the center of your chin with the pad of the thumb pushing up into the jawbone and the index finger resting a few centimeters above it. Gently drag your fingers out toward the earlobes along the jaw bone, keeping that slight pinch the whole time so it’s almost like you’re lightly gripping the jawbone. Repeat 5x.
Make peace signs with your index and middle fingers with the pads of the fingers facing you. Rotate the peace signs 45 degrees so they bracket your mouth. Apply gentle pressure and move your fingers out toward the edge of your face, pulling up slightly at the end. Repeat 5x.
Starting at the outer edge of your nostrils, sweep your index and middle fingers along your cheekbones out to the middle of the ear. You’ll be able to really feel where the cheekbone is, so no need to go digging for it. Repeat 5x.
Very gently, press your ring finger into the under-eye area once at the inner corner, once in the middle (beneath the pupil) and once at the outer corner. Repeat the pattern 5x.
With your middle finger, gently press into the eyebrow bone at the inner edge of the eyebrow. Slowly trace the eyebrow out to the temple. Repeat 5x.
Place the palm of your hand on your scalp so your fingers hang over your forehead. From the center of your eyebrows, sweep the fingers up the forehead to the hairline and back. You can even lightly run your fingers through the hair for a mini-scalp massage. Repeat 5-10x.
Starting in the center of the forehead, sweep the fingers out toward the temple. Repeat 5x.
With all fingers but the thumbs, start in the center of your forehead and bring your fingers up to your hair. Then, sweep the fingers along the hairline, out and down toward the temples, behind your ears (like you’re tucking your hair back) and down the sides of your neck to your collarbone, just like that first move.