By: Shivani Shah
My earliest recollection of hearing about facial massage as a beauty treatment was in 2014, when Meghan Markle told Glamour magazine that it is one of her favorite beauty treatments. When the Glamour piece was released, I was a high schooler (gosh). At the time, my consternation generally stemmed from matters concerning college acceptances or the prom. During these halcyon days, I had little awareness of any form of “skincare” however, that Glamour article was one of my first memories of being intrigued by skincare. Today, both facial massage and facial exercises are some of my favorite accouterments to a skincare regimen because they are low-cost, non-toxic, and can be done from the comfort of your own home.
The earliest written records of massage therapy come from Egypt and China. Historical records show that gua sha, which means “scrape away illness”, was used as an ancient therapy when people fell sick or unconscious. The facial benefits of this practice were discovered by accident. Gua sha is just one type of facial massage. Others include acupressure, cupping, and knuckle kneading. Today, facial massage receives rave reviews from beauty experts and social media skincare pundits alike however, there are few studies to confirm the laundry list of purported benefits offered by these techniques.
Although most evidence is anecdotal, a 2018 study conducted by researchers in Japan found that facial massaging using a roller can in the short-term, increase blood flow to the skin and in the long-term, improve vasodilation (the widening of blood vessels). This increased blood flow can lead to an improved appearance in the skin. In another small study conducted in 2018, researchers at Northwestern University found that regular facial exercise resulted in fuller upper and lower cheeks. Lead author Dr. Murad Alam shares that facial exercise can “enlarge and strengthen your facial muscles, so the face becomes firmer, more toned and shaped like a younger face.” This is because aging results in decreased skin elasticity and thickness. Firmer muscle under the skin can help make the face look more full and toned.
There are many great tutorials performed by professionals demonstrating how to incorporate facial massage and exercises into your routine. To get you started, I am going to share a few of the facial exercises used in the Northwestern Medicine study. These exercises were conducted daily or every other day for 30 minutes at a time. As always, consult a professional before incorporating new exercise or products into your routine.
Cheek lifter: While smiling, place your fingers on your cheekbones and gently hold the skin taut. While doing so, open your mouth to form an elongated “O” shape. Hold this for 5 seconds and repeat 10 to 15 times. You should feel a resistance in your cheek muscles.
Eyebrow lifter: While smiling, place your three middle fingertips under each of your eyebrows and gently press down to force your eyes open. Create resistance while furrowing your eyebrows downward, against your fingertips. Breathe and hold for 20 seconds. Release, relax, and repeat 3 times.
Alam, Murad, et al. “Association of Facial Exercise with the Appearance of Aging.” JAMA Dermatology, vol. 154, no. 3, Mar. 2018, p. 365., https://doi.org/10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.5142.
Carell, Julianne. “Meghan Markle's Favorite Toronto Beauty Spots.” Glamour, Glamour, 21 Aug. 2014, https://www.glamour.com/story/meghan-markles-favorite-toront?mbid=partner_pubexchange_article_bellasugar.
Ejindu, Anna. “The Effects of Foot and Facial Massage on Sleep Induction, Blood Pressure, Pulse and Respiratory Rate: Crossover Pilot Study.” Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, vol. 13, no. 4, 8 May 2007, pp. 266–275., https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2007.03.008.
Hy. “6 Facial Exercises to Tone Your Face and Neck.” Hy Vee, Hy Vee, 26 Oct. 2021, https://www.hy-vee.com/recipes-ideas/advice-how-tos/living/beauty/facial-exercises. Accessed 3 Oct. 2022.
January 3, 2018 | By Marla Paul. “Facial Exercises Help Middle-Aged Women Appear More Youthful.” Northwestern Now, Northwestern Now, 27 Oct. 2022, https://news.northwestern.edu/stories/2018/january/facial-exercises-help-middle-aged-women-appear-more-youthful/.
Yin, Yin. “Subscribe to Free Email Newsletter.” Gua Sha, 25 Apr. 2013, http://en.chinaculture.org/info/2013-04/25/content_456628.htm.