I'll admit, when jade rollers resurfaced into the cultural beauty zeitgeist a few years back (they're actually a centuries-old practice used in Chinese medicine), I was skeptical. My boyfriend, even more so. I'd placed one in the freezer, as I'd been instructed to do by several beauty brands so that the coolness would help tighten my skin, and after finding it one day, he asked me what in the world a "mini pizza cutter" was doing next to the frozen vegetables. While certainly a unique piece for your vanity (or, in my case, an icebox), jade rollers claim to promote lymphatic drainage in the face by placing pressure on the lymphatic system so that excess fluid flows outward. Sure, this made sense to me. But the green tool is also marketed as a way to contour the face, a claim I always felt held a bit too much weight, and one I'd never seen play out on my own face. And yet, posts on social media claim jade rollers help achieve noticeable lifting and toning, which, for less than $10, sounds like a serious bargain, though is perhaps too good to be true.
"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."
Meet the Expert
Renée Rouleau is a celebrity esthetician based in Austin, TX. She is also the founder and creator of her eponymous skincare line.
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. (There are also rollers made of rose quartz.) 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.
"Many will claim that jade rolling helps with lymphatic drainage to reduce puffiness. For true lymphatic drainage, it's a very specific technique that you have to do to 'drain' your face. The average jade roller isn't really going to know how to do that due to the shape of the roller. The wide 'rolling pin' shape just can't get into the specific areas it needs to to allow for true drainage to de-puff the face."
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. The key is, when doing it yourself, you don't just want to haphazardly rub it over the face. You must know the exact way to perform this if your intention is to make the skin look less puffy. If you don't get it just right, you won't get much of a result or you can actually cause more puffiness. 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 then 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.
Rouleau is also a fan of vitamin C and its proven ability to brighten, boost collagen, and protect the skin from sun damage.
Next is chemical peels. Getting a professional peel (or using an at-home product like Rouleau's Triple Berry Peel) helps 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 the number one cause of skin maturation), and we won't ever tire of singing its praises (nor will Rouleau).