photography by PHUONG NGUYEN
As they say, the best things in life are free. And I bet whoever came up with that maybe had a facial massage in mind (or, you know, love and peace and joy).
But back to that facial massage. Yep, it doesn’t cost you a thing, and it’s pretty easy to do yourself.
Your body gets a massage, so do your hands and feet sometimes, so why are you leaving your face out of the mix?
The facial massaging is nothing new; it’s an ancient and valued aspect of a lot of cultures, each with their different massage techniques. Facial massage is the art of stimulating facial muscles to bring oxygen to the area, which brings more blood flow to the face. That increased blood flow is the key to everything: glowing and vibrant skin, reduction of the appearance of fine lines, exfoliated skin, accelerated healing, released muscle tension, lymphatic drainage—the benefits are endless.
“Massage is basically passive exercise,” says celebrity massage facialist Thuyen Nguyen. Nguyen has developed a signature complex marriage of massage, acupressure, and facial cupping in alignment with face and body meridiens to dramatically increase lymphatic drainage.
His fingers move a mile a minute, which makes sense, he’s been using them for awhile: he’s been a massage therapist since 1996, then he started developing his signature facial in the early 2000s after studying techniques from around the world. He started to build his celebrity clientele after becoming the creative director of the Greenwich Hotel spa, where his facial massage was available, but off the menu. He created his own practice in 2011, and has had a cult following since then (a few of his clients include Katy Perry, Cindy Crawford, and Jennifer Aniston).
But fear not, friend. While you should visit Nguyen if you ever have the chance, a facial massage (not quite at his intense level though) is completely doable at home, and in fact, recommended on a semi-daily basis.
And it works on every skin type. If your skin is oily, it calms the active oils down. Acne occurs less because of the detoxification of skin. Dry skin is gently exfoliated daily. Rosacea or eczema reacts well because it builds up the immune system and calms skin.
How do I do it?
“I encourage every client to tag it with your daily shower, every time you’re in there, take 30 seconds to a minute, and massage,” says Nguyen. “I call it car washing, because don't try to choreograph it, just stimulate the face, creating local blood flow. Just do it, don’t try to think about it, do anything that feels good, just keep stimulating the skin. The reason why I tell people not to choreograph it is because when you create rules, people tend not to do it.”
What he means by this stimulation is to massage in circles all around the face, vigorously if your skin can handle it, and it feels good. And use some type of glide or slip with a cleansing balm or oil (like coconut, olive, or jojoba based oils).
“The more you challenge your skin, the more it strengthens, same philosophy as working out. The goal is ultimately to create stimulation and challenge the skin, and bring the blood flow to the area.”
Now you can get creative or technical, but most important is just to do it. You could do circles and strokes and stimulate skin. Or a light, sweeping movement. Or for the advanced, a acupressure massage with gentle pushing. Or combine all of them.
Need some visuals to aid you through? Take a glance at this epic video that walks you through it all, by the goddess Lisa Eldridge, makeup artist to the stars, Creative Director of Lancome, and author of New York Times bestseller Face Paint - The Story Of Makeup.
Nguyen also suggests pairing the massage with the practice of tightening pores. “You can also train each pore to soften and open up through steam or hot water, and then wash the face, and then ice with ice cubes or splash with cold water. You constrict and dilate the skin, which is good, it tightens skin and improves elasticity.”
And there are gadgets galore, which take the massage to another level. From $25 jade stone rollers (which are incredible) to $70 massagers to a $325 face stimulator.
But the only tools you’ll need to start out are your hands.
Get more skincare tips:
DIY Face Masks, Straight From Your Kitchen
These Innovative Masks Work Magic While You Sleep
De-Puff, Cool, and Tighten Your Face In Minutes With This Tool