"What's your skincare routine?" is probably one of the first questions you think to ask someone with a radiant, glowing complexion, and while the products they use are certainly a key part of this, so is the way to apply them. One of the most underrated methods to achieving happier, healthier skin is facial massage, which can help address everything from wrinkles to firmness to circulation with its targeted techniques—and the likes of Meghan Markle and Cate Blanchett are fans, so you know it's good. Want in? We spoke to estheticians and other experts to get the full lowdown on this practice, from the benefits to how to perform it. Keep reading for six facial massage techniques that will help you to embrace the best version of your skin.
Meet the Expert
- Sonya Dakar is a Beverly Hills esthetician and the founder of Sonya Dakar Skin Clinic.
- Diana Morrison is the lead esthetician at Massage Envy.
- Way Ettner is the spa director at The Spa at Chateau du Sureau in Oakhurst, California.
- Sarah Kimmel is a licensed esthetician and COO of Lunita Beauty Co. in Glen Cove, New York.
Benefits of Facial Massage
Facial massage may sound like a luxurious experience reserved for spa days, but working the practice into your self-care routine via at-home massage can majorly benefit your skin. Some of the main benefits of regular facial massage include reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, helping with lymphatic drainage, and relieving muscle tension, as well as reducing stress and helping you to feel more relaxed overall.
"A quick stimulation of the tissues reinvigorates your face and helps to promote healthy skin," esthetician Diana Morrison tells us. "You'll see the benefits as a glowing and firm complexion." Our experts recommend massaging your face daily as part of your regular skincare routine, and incorporating the right facial massage techniques can be the secret not only to improved radiance but to a firmer, smoother complexion.
Kneading the skin improves circulation, which brings "more blood cells to the skin, more oxygen, and better absorption of products," explains esthetician Sonya Dakar. She says that certain methods can also smooth forehead and frown lines and reduce stress and headaches, which, in turn, can minimize signs of aging moving forward with consistent practice. Ahead, see a few of these key techniques, each of which is targeted to specific skincare goals.
Lifting and Firming Facial Massage Technique
According to Morrison, the following technique is simple, free, and can be used anytime you cleanse, apply serum, or moisturize:
- After applying your product of choice, begin by sweeping your fingers down the bridge of the nose, following the shape of your face. Then, in one fluid motion, continue sweeping the fingers under the eyes and outward.
- Next, bring your fingers over the cheekbones, and sweep outward. Repeat the same motion under the cheekbones.
- Now you'll move onto the forehead. Use the same lightweight sweeping technique, working from the center of the forehead out and using upward motions from the eyebrows to the hairline. You'll want to use your thumbs to perform vertical strokes and keep the rest of your fingers close together for horizontal strokes.
- Next, the chin: Use the sides of each pointer finger to sweep from the bottom lip down to the jawline. Move from the center of the chin outward to the ears.
- After that, use two fingers on each hand to sweep from the center of chin out and up to the ears. One finger should go above the jawline, with the other below.
- Perform light, quick strokes up your neck to the jawline to help lift the skin, then make small, circular movements with your fingertips from the center of your décolletage outward. This will help smooth wrinkles created from sleeping on your side.
Remember to use sweeping motions with your fingers, starting from the center of the face and working your way outward. Light pressure (not too aggressive) will be enough to encourage lymphatic drainage and rejuvenate the skin.
Wrinkle-Smoothing Facial Massage Technique
If you'd like your facial massage to be a little more targeted toward wrinkles, Dakar has a technique that will help address this specifically.
- First, apply a facial oil that works for your skin type all over a clean face. Dakar's own Organic Omega Oil ($38) is a great, nutrient-packed option that comes in two formulations—one for dry and sensitive skin and the other for oily/combo skin.
- Then, use your middle finger to apply pressure to the center of your forehead. "This technique can help smooth frown lines across your forehead," Dakar says. "As a bonus, it can also help you get rid of stress and headaches, which stops you from frowning."
- Apply this pressure for three seconds and repeat for three sets. "To improve the effects of this facial acupressure technique, work your middle finger down until you reach the spot right in between your eyebrows," Dakar suggests.
- If you're looking to target crow's feet, "use your index fingers to apply pressure on your nose's bridge, right below the inner eyes," Dakar tells us. "Do this for five seconds at a time for a total of three sets." Better yet, this technique can relax your eye muscles so you naturally squint less, and it can also minimize the formation of dark under-eye circles.
Lymphatic Drainage Facial Massage Technique
“Facial massage is very relaxing and helps to work products or serums into the skin,” The Spa at Chateau du Sureau director Way Ettner tells us. “Also, it's great for circulation and helps to release sinus congestion. You can do lymphatic drainage at home with knowledge of the pressure point technique.” The below technique employs a jade roller, which does the work for you by offering pressure throughout the face as you roll.
- Apply a lotion or light cream all over the face and neck.
- Using a jade roller (such as Mount Lai's De-Puffing Jade Facial Roller, $36), roll from the center of your face outward, which will naturally stimulate the lymphatic system to drain excess fluid.
- Gently move in the direction of your face’s contour, finishing with the outer sides of the face.
- For best results, Ettner advises repeating this process at least once per month: “This treatment is typically done monthly.”
Store your jade roller in the fridge for the most benefits—cooling the tool will allow it to help address puffiness and under-eye bags.
Reflexology Facial Massage Technique
Facial reflexology is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that focuses on acupuncture points on your face. "Facial massages have a lot of benefits many people don’t even realize," says licensed esthetician Sarah Kimmel. "Besides feeling amazing, a facial massage helps relieve tension in our facial muscles, reduces inflammation and puffiness, and may sometimes even relieve sinus pressure." Here are three popular ways to incorporate facial reflexology into your everyday routine:
- Taiyang: Place your middle and index finger at your temples. Then, rub in a circular motion while slowly breathing in and out.
- Bitong: Place your middle or index finger on both sides of the part of your nasolabial groove that is closest to your nose.
- Yintang: Lean your head forward and place your middle or index finger in between your eyebrows to support the weight of your head. Rub your finger in a circular motion while breathing in and out.
Gua Sha Facial Massage Technique
Gua sha facial massage is based on an ancient healing technique, first referred to in a classical Chinese medicine text called the Shan Han. Using your gua sha tool, you apply a combination of strokes across the face with soft pressure, which helps with lymphatic drainage and can reduce bloating. "Gua sha tools are created specifically to the curvatures of the face," Kimmel notes. "Compared to our fingers, they allow equal pressure to run across our skin and facial structure. Our fingers (while phenomenal tools) may distribute pressure unevenly. Another benefit to a gua sha tool is they can be tossed into the fridge (unlike our fingers) for a cooling effect. A cool gua sha will also help tighten facial muscles (temporarily) and [reduce] puffiness." Here's how to use one:
- Start by applying a facial oil or moisturizer to your face, neck, and décolletage. A well-lubricated surface is key to help the tool glide across your skin.
- Beginning with the neck, sweep the wide side of the tool (a durable, high-quality option is Sacheu's Gua Sha Stainless Steel, $32) up towards your jawline with light to medium pressure. Repeat the technique on the other side of your neck.
- Next, swipe the curved side of your tool from your chin along the jawline until you reach your ear. Repeat on the opposite side.
- For cheeks, place the flat, wide edge of the tool by the side of your mouth. With medium pressure, slowly drag your gua sha up past the cheekbone and stop just before reaching your ear. Repeat on the opposite side.
- Place your tool below the inner corner of one eye and gently swipe the narrow side across your under-eye area to your hairline. Repeat on the opposite side.
- Next, start at the middle of your eyebrows and sweep the tool to the side until you reach the hairline. Repeat on the opposite side.
- Lastly, place your tool at the top of your eyebrow and swipe upwards toward your hairline. Repeat on the opposite side.
TMJ Facial Massage Technique
If you have TMJ dysfunction or otherwise deal with jaw tension and pain, facial massage can be a helpful way to manage your symptoms. According to a study, facial massage and other related therapies such as dry needling and low-level laser therapy reduced participants' pain levels by more than half, in addition to increasing mobility and normalizing muscular activity. While that's no guarantee and you'll still want to consult with a professional on your best treatment options if you are experiencing TMJD, here are a few tips on how to massage your masseter muscle:
- Wash your face, then optionally apply a serum or moisturizer before starting for more slip and an added skincare boost.
- Locate your masseter muscle, which is under your cheekbone at a mid-distance between your ear and mouth. To do this, feel around the underside of your cheekbone using your thumb until you find a notch.
- Relax your jaw as well as you can, as the goal of this massage is to help you release tension.
- Grab your masseter muscle area with your fingers, then gently pull outward, away from the face.
- Release, then gently move the muscle from side to side.
- Repeat these motions throughout the area as needed. You can also apply constant pressure or move in small, kneading circles, depending on what feels best.
- After massaging your first side, pause to open and close your mouth, and take note of the difference between the sides. Repeat the massage on the other side, aiming for as balanced of a result as possible when you finish.
Is it okay to massage your face every day?
Yes, gently massaging your face for about 10 minutes daily is recommended.
When should you do a facial massage?
The best time to incorporate a facial massage is during your skincare routine, as you'll want your face to be clean and your serums and moisturizers can help with lubrication. You can include it in the morning, at night, or both.
What do facial massages do?
Facial massages can help reduce fine lines and wrinkles. They also improve circulation within your face, which can lead to less bloating and promote lymphatic drainage. Facial massage also can help with stress and relax the muscles in your face.
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
Pessoa DR, Costa DR, Prianti B de M, et al. Association of facial massage, dry needling, and laser therapy in Temporomandibular Disorder: case report. Codas. 2018;30(6):e20170265.