Jade rollers had a huge moment a few years back, and they're still a common part of many skincare routines. While the tool can be rather perplexing at first glance—a deeply rooted history shows that jade rollers were used for facial massage thousands of years ago as part of Eastern Medicine rituals—it is effective. Jade rollers claim to promote lymphatic drainage in the face by placing pressure on the lymphatic system so that excess fluid flows outward. The bonus contouring effect certainly helps, too—who doesn't want a contoured face without having to break out their makeup? But I wanted to know if they're really worth the hype, so I brought in some skincare experts to tell me whether or not jade rollers really are as good as I've heard. Read on as we explore whether jade rollers really work, with help from an esthetician and a dermatologist.
What Are Jade Rollers?
Put simply, "Jade rollers are stone rolling devices made of jade, which has been used traditionally in skincare for decades," Joshua Zeichner, MD, explains. The act of face rolling has been around for thousands of years, with origins that can be traced to China, where jade, a semi-precious stone that is said to have energy-healing properties that helped keep the skin youthful and cool, was mined. "The cold touch of the stone can help soothe inflammation in the skin," says Zeichner.
Meet the Expert
Joshua Zeichner, MD, is a New York-based dermatologist.
Renée Rouleau is a celebrity esthetician based in Austin, TX. She is also the founder and creator of her eponymous skincare line.
The Benefits of Jade Rollers
"Rolling the device over skincare products you have applied may help enhance penetration of the active ingredients," Zeichner explains. Anything that can potentially make my serums into SuperSerums is great in my book. Facial massage and face rolling do have some alike tendencies, but facial massage tends to work deeper into the skin tissues to relax muscles and ease tension. Both techniques help to boost circulation, leaving your complexion with a rosy, radiant look, and appearance of smoother, more taut skin.
Do Jade Rollers Really Work?
"Tools and lasers will try their best, but at some point, they just can’t work [for lifting the face]," says Renée Rouleau. "The muscles in the face will drop with age. It's just a reality. Jade rollers, due to their 'rolling pin' shape, can't target the muscles enough to be able to stimulate muscle tone and help with lymphatic drainage to reduce puffiness."
While not a fan of its contouring prowess, Rouleau is also not as convinced by the jade roller's ability to de-puff.
"The gemstone is said to draw out negative energy and balance your 'chi.' Aside from that, the main function is that it's a massaging gadget," says Rouleau. "Facial massage will help increase circulation to help bring fresh blood and new nutrients to the skin cells. I'm a big believer in boosting blood flow to the face, especially as you get older. It's why I do this three-minute trick every night and recommend my clients to do the same."
How to Effectively Use a Jade Roller
One of the best parts of face rolling is that it really can be done wherever you want, for however long you want. Jade rollers are a quick pick-up, great for vamping up your face right before a party or a meeting, since results can be seen in seconds. You can do it on clean, dry skin, over your makeup, or on top of your skincare products. Just lightly roll upwards and outwards, always aiming for the temples and front of the ears, towards where your body's lymphatic drainage points are: "When using your roller, start from the inner part of your face, and move to the outer part of the face. In treating the jaw and cheeks, start from below and roll upwards against the direction of gravity," Zeichner explains. When working on the neck, roll downwards towards the collarbones.
Beware back-and-forth motions: You want to move the jade roller in an upward sweeping motion, not rubbing.
Alternatives to Jade Rollers
This begs the question: Which tool can get into the contours of the face to relieve pillow face and water retention? According to Rouleau, that's the jade roller's sister, a gua sha tool.
"Like many estheticians, I've been trained in lymphatic massage, and I know it can definitely give results. I use my hands and/or facial cupping, but the gua sha tool can work well, too. You must know the exact way to perform this if your intention is to make the skin look less puffy or you can actually cause more puffiness," cautions Rouleau. "Lymphatic drainage massage with a gua sha tool can take up to 30 minutes if you really want to get serious about it, so you need to decide if the effort is worth the reward." Even after putting in all of the work, Rouleau says the results will typically only last 24 hours.
So what's the best tool for lifting the face? The answer is a bit hard to swallow. "For tightening, I still believe a traditional lower face-lift is the best."
For general anti-aging, Rouleau says you can't beat the gold standard: retinoids. "For smoothing away lines, wrinkles, and fading brown spots, there's just nothing more proven than a prescription retinoid," she says. "Or for sensitive skin types, a well-formulated retinol product can make a huge improvement." For the latter, Rouleau says to make sure it has the following four principles: It's stable (more on that here), it's in opaque packaging to protect it from sunlight, it's kept in an airless container (sadly no dropper bottles as these allow for a lot of air exposure), and it's a product from a trusted, reputable brand. An over-the-counter retinoid, like Differin's Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment, is a great entry point to retinoids because they're much milder than a prescription retinoid you'll get from your doctor.
Rouleau is also a fan of vitamin C and its proven ability to brighten, boost collagen, and protect the skin from sun damage. La Roche-Posay's Vitamin C serum is one of the most popular on the markets for a reason—it's a drugstore favorite with 10% pure vitamin C and salicylic acid to keep skin looking more radiant and hydrated.
Next is chemical peels. Getting a professional peel (or using an at-home product like Rouleau's Triple Berry Peel) may help give a smoother, smaller-pored appearance, which will result in the skin appearing younger.
Finally, sunscreen. We've waxed poetic about its anti-aging capabilities (photodamage is a major cause of skin maturation), and we won't ever tire of singing its praises (nor will Rouleau). Supergoop!'s Unseen Sunscreen is a great option because it's scent-free, light on the skin, and won't leave a cast—meaning you won't be worried about looking ghostlike.
Miyaji A, Sugimori K, Hayashi N. Short- and long-term effects of using a facial massage roller on facial skin blood flow and vascular reactivity. Complement Ther Med. 2018;41:271-276. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2018.09.009