While we’re all for the expensive creams and whizzy machines tending to our skin, there’s no denying that the best part of a rejuvenating facial is the massage. Not only does it feel heavenly, but the immediate glow-inducing results are second to none. It’s little wonder that the beauty industry is cashing in on the astounding effects of facial massage, from gua sha tools and jade rollers to at-home products that come with specific massaging techniques.
But even though everyone from Chanel to La Mer is doing it, facial massage isn’t anything new. It’s been used for thousands of years in Ancient Chinese and Indian medicine, and in Ancient Greece. It’s even reported that facial massage is Meghan Markle’s secret to looking so sculpted. Bet we’ve got your attention now…
So, what’s all the fuss about? Well, in short, facial massage helps detox the skin and the entire body as it boosts lymphatic drainage. Our lymph nodes collect all the horrible stuff we don’t want in our bodies, filter it out, and use the power of white blood cells to destroy it. If our nodes become blocked, a backup of toxins occurs, which can cause everything from acne and blocked pores to inflammation and excess sebum – not ideal. And as our lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump, it relies on things like exercise, breathing, and (you guessed it) facial massage to keep it in check.
To get the lowdown on all things facial massage, Savoir Flair sat down with Nataliya Robinson – a.k.a. “The Skin Whisperer” – who’s famed for her magic hands and amazing massage-meets-facials. From the techniques you can use at home to help you fall asleep and finally get rid of puffiness to the endless beauty benefits it offers, here’s the 101.
What type of facial massage do you specialize in?
I practice Russian facial massage, which is a wonderful alternative treatment for aging and many other things! Russian face massage is an umbrella, and underneath that are lots of different techniques. So if I have a client who has acne or rosacea, I choose a specific technique for their massage. And if somebody has fine lines, premature aging, or even sunburn? There are different techniques for that.
How is the Russian technique different from others?
I think other types are quite narrow, whereas the Russian school is all about incorporating and putting lots of different skin conditions on a plate and choosing the right technique. That’s why it’s difficult to learn, and you really have to practice – practice is the most important thing when it comes to facial massage. I learned it in Russia, but I wanted to expand, so I went to Ukraine and found a medical professor who taught me more about face lifting and sculpting, using massage.
Facial massage isn’t just for outer beauty, it’s for inner beauty and health. And beauty comes with health – always.
What are the benefits of facial massage?
When you lie down or have a little snooze, your parasympathetic nervous system is relaxing. When we’re stressed, we are in ‘fight of flight’ mode, so our parasympathetic nervous system never relaxes. A massage is not just for your muscles and your body, it’s double rejuvenation because you are relaxing. In that sense, facial massage is like beauty from the inside out, and all of this is proven by science! You really need to take that time to relax every day.
My top tip is to get a little spoon and take a moment to sit with your eyes closed, holding your spoon. If you start to fall asleep, the spoon will fall to the floor and you’ll wake up! We are ruining our adrenal glands because we do too much and don’t relax. That’s why sleep is so important as it’s when the body rejuvenates. Facial massage isn’t just for outer beauty, it’s for inner beauty and health. And beauty comes with health – always.
Speaking of sleep, are there any facial massage techniques that can help you sleep better?
Yes, absolutely! Pressing gently around the eyes is great, and massaging in the hollows of your cheeks, where your chewing muscles are, helps your jaw relax. Many of us hold a lot of tension there or grind our teeth at night, so doing that really helps you relax.
The feathering technique is very good, and so is gently stroking up along the forehead to the back of the head. The frontalis muscle goes from your eyebrows to the back of the head, and stroking upwards along it really helps promote relaxation. You can do this on yourself or somebody else to help them, too. If you read a lot or spend a lot of time looking at a screen, you can pinch and knead along your eyebrows, as if you’re making homemade dumplings! It’s all about spending time with yourself.
My Quantum Botanika herbal water is a great product to use. It contains rosemary, rose, calendula, and thermal water, and it smells of nature. That natural smell helps you relax as it brings you out of all the pollution we live in. I even use it in place of deodorant, as I don’t like using deodorants.
What about reducing puffiness?
If you have puffiness, it’s congestion. You should think about your diet – no coffee, no wheat, no dairy because they all cause congestion. Also, no hot showers because they’re not good for filtration. You want cold, which is why ice cubes are so good. You can also try gua sha, which is when you use a cold stone. When you have congestion, you have inflammation and puffiness, and cold releases puffiness.
If you want to reduce puffiness, clean the passage by gently stroking down the face and down the neck, then lightly feather your fingers down your cheeks. It’s not about pushing the skin, it’s about gently stretching it. You don’t want to go against gravity, so always use downward movements. When you have a gua sha tool, you can press it gently under your eyes and move downwards, or just gently press and hold it on areas of puffiness. Also keep in mind that if you have puffiness around your eyes, you must minimize the amount of product you use because too much product can also cause congestion.
On the subject of gua sha, which tool do you think is best?
I think using hands is best, but you can absolutely incorporate cold stones – just no heat. It doesn’t matter what stone it is, so long as it has a smooth surface. Just make sure you’re using downward massaging motions. The drainage comes from around your heart, so that’s what you’re aiming for.
What else can facial massage be used for?
Facial massage can treat so many things. If you have rosacea or acne, or if you have spots or red and inflamed skin, it’s often because your skin is congested. Facial massage is all about lymph flow and a flushing system to drain it. When you talk about fine lines and wrinkles and dull skin, it’s more about invigorating and boosting circulation with deep-tissue and muscle-tension release.
If you’re having plastic surgery, it’s actually very beneficial to have a course of facial massage beforehand because you’re cleaning your lymph and all the congestion. You’re also releasing the muscles and improving muscle tone, and this is perfect pre-surgery as you want that elastic muscle tone. Ideally, we want to do everything we can to prevent going under the knife, but if you do choose to have surgery, it’s about the best recovery – and lymphatic drainage is amazing for that! You can also use facial massage post-surgery or in conjunction with injectables if you are doing Botox or fillers.
It’s your face, so you always need to think about the side effects! Even the best doctor can give you bad results.
Are there any side effects to consider?
The reason I love facial massage so much is because there’s no contradictions and no side effects. It’s your face, so you always need to think about the side effects! Even the best doctor can give you bad results.
What else should we do to help aid lymphatic drainage?
Lymph nodes are collectors – they collect all the bacteria and dust. So, when you’re changing your sheets and bedding, make sure a window is open to air out the dust. You also have to remember that your lymph nodes don’t have a pump, so you need to help stimulate them. That means tight bra straps and tight jeans are a big no-no as they prevent your lymph nodes from functioning properly. People don’t walk as much now, which can cause swollen legs, and that’s all because they’re not pumping their lymph! Also, check your glasses. Are they sitting right on the top of your cheeks? Then they’re sitting on your nodes! Always opt for a style that sits higher and doesn’t rest on the face.
If you’re on a plane or on a bed, you should bring your legs up to heart level to boost your lymphatic system and circulation. Even if you wear those compression socks, make sure they’re not too tight as you’re actually making it worse if they are. My top tip for travel is to wipe a little bit of my lip balm around your nostrils. It’s totally natural, and will act as a barrier to trap dust and dirt, so it stops you breathing it in and getting more congested. A/C is always bad, so always moisturize the air around you with a face mist or even just a simple water spray. Also, make your curtains damp, so the room is slightly humid. If the air is dry, it sucks moisture from you!
Quantum Botanika ‘The Lip Cure’
Nataliya Robinson is based in London but regularly visits the Middle East. To make an appointment, click here.