The best facial of my life involved no extractions. There were no lasers, no microdermabrasion machines, and no high-tech tools or showy face masks. And yet, when I emerged, I couldn't stop staring at my face. I looked like I'd just slept for a century and somehow had plumper cheeks, a more sculpted jawline, and an effortless glow like never before.
I would have gone back to get that facial every other week, but here's the catch: It was in Tokyo at the headquarters of Japanese cosmetics brand Koh Gen Do. I'm willing to commute for a facial, but Los Angeles to Japan is a little farther than I will go. Devastating.
Luckily, a few weeks after this life-changing facial massage, its inventor, Koh Gen Do's senior managing director and lead facialist Megumi Setoguchi, came to L.A. and led a class on how to perform this facial massage on yourself. It is shockingly simple and takes just a few minutes, so you can easily incorporate it into your daily routine. Better yet, you don't even need to have the magical hands of an esthetician to see those lifted, contoured results—you can totally achieve them yourself. Ahead, Setoguchi and Dr. Jeannette Graf share the steps behind a macro beauty massage along with its benefits. Keep reading to find out how to do a macro beauty massage on yourself.
Meet the Expert
What Is a Macro Beauty Massage?
"The macro beauty massage is a unique method that relaxes the stiffness of your head, neck, nerves, muscles, meridians, and lymph nodes, which will help support beautiful skin," says Setoguchi. It is designed to promote skin health from the inside out. "Many women tend to concentrate on troubled skin areas, but usually, the causes of troubled skin are not apparent on the face surface," she adds.
Benefits of a Macro Beauty Massage
- Promotes overall skin health
- Reduces stiffness and muscle tension
- Improves lymphatic circulation
- Adds a glow to the skin
- Decreases the appearance of puffiness
- Relaxes tense contracted facial muscles
Overall, Graf says this massage technique promotes lymphatic drainage and will result in "an immediate release of tension in the face, reduction in puffiness, firmer skin, and a radiant glow due to the nature of sculpting the facial muscles to drain the excess fluid that causes puffiness."
"This method of facial massaging targets the lymph nodes underneath the ears and on the neck and drains the toxins built up underneath the skin that cause dull skin. More circulation in those areas brings more oxygen to the skin that stimulates collagen production overall skin nutrients and health," she explains.
The star of the treatment was a specific facial massage technique where the esthetician used the palms of her hands to firmly sculpt and knead my facial muscles, like a deep-tissue body massage. By the time I emerged, my face literally looked like a different shape—more lifted and more contoured. "I feel like I just had really good sex," I told a woman in the lobby who'd just gotten out of the same facial, and she heartily agreed.
What to Expect During a Macro Beauty Massage
There are two main goals of the massage: to relax muscle tension and to drain excess fluid in the face that causes puffiness. You'll want to use the surface of your palm instead of the points of your fingertips for this massage. The Koh Gen Do technique asks you to massage "deeply, slowly, and wide." The only product you'll need to execute this facial is a creamy moisturizer, like Koh Gen Do's Macro Vintage Royal Massage Milk ($210), which has firming and plumping ingredients meant to supplement the benefits of the physical massage.
The first part of the technique is dedicated to reducing tension: Start by applying your moisturizer evenly all over the face, using the surface of your palm instead of the points of your fingertips. Now place a palm in between your eyebrows. With firm even pressure, massage in circular motions up toward your hairline. Next, take both palms to your temples and continue massaging with firm pressure in circular motions. You can adjust how long you do this according to your tension level, but 20 seconds or so usually does it for me.
Now's it time to try to de-puff by draining the excess fluid from your face. Using that same level of pressure, place your palms underneath the cheekbones and massage backward toward the hairline. End by using the palms to cup the cheekbones and firmly pull upward for five seconds. Repeat these same steps from the jawline toward the sides of the face, ending by sweeping down the neck underneath your ears to drain the lymph. Feel free to repeat these motions five or six times.
Last, place the sides of your index fingers onto the nasolabial fold (aka the crease the connects the sides of your nose to the sides of your mouth) and sweep in one fluid motion toward the side of your face, ending by slowly sweeping your fingers from the jawline down your neck to drain the lymph. Follow the diagrams above if you need a visual or this video tutorial.
By the time you're finished, you might notice a visible change in your face shape (I know I do! See above—lookin' pretty contoured, no?). Shop the products I personally use and Graf recommends using post-massage below. Graf says to continue your usual skincare routine post-massage as well.
Koh Gen Do's Massage Milk is packed with avocado protein, probiotics, amino acids, and gentle brightening acids, all of which are meant to work to make the skin look smoother, plumper, and brighter. It's super silky, fragrance-free, and has never made my combo skin break out.
If my skin's feeling drier than normal, I like to add a couple drops of this oil to my massage milk. The non-greasy oil boasts ingredients like perilla seed oil, kukui nut oil, and cannabis sativa seed oil. These contain essential fatty acids and natural antioxidants, which restore the skin's moisture barrier and prevent dryness and fine lines.
To relieve dryness post-massage, Graf recommends using Saint Jane’s C-Drops to deliver hydration and antioxidants to the skin. Consisting of citrus botanicals, vitamin C, and active ingredients, this serum aims to revive dry, dull skin, as well as fine lines. She advises applying this serum after cleansing and before moisturizing.
Graf also recommends trying Isdin's Isdinceutics Melatonik Overnight Recovery Serum if your skin is feeling dry post-massage as well. Hero ingredients melatonin, vitamin C, and bakuchiol work together overnight to aid the skin in recovering from the day's stressors, according to the brand.
Zhang Y, Sunamura F, Bamba S, et al. Evaluation and visualization of facial massage effects by using ultraviolet stereo-image correlation. Skin Res Technol. 2020;26(3):349-355. doi:10.1111/srt.12809
Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-inflammatory and skin barrier repair effects of topical application of some plant oils. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;19(1):70. doi:10.3390/ijms19010070