Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

The Benefits of Facial Massage January 31, 2013

Almost two years ago I wrote a post about how facial exercises are a waste of your time but a facial massage is very beneficial for your skin.  In this post thought I would expand on why facial massages are so helpful for your skin and your overall wellbeing.  Last year I even had a client who would just come to me for facial massages, not a full facial.  She was originally from Europe and explained to me that this was not an unusual treatment, just having a facial massage, in Europe.  I could definitely understand her thinking.  I believe that a facial without some sort of massage is not really a facial.  That is how strongly I believe in the benefits of facial massage.

According to the Skin Inc. article by Lydia Sarfati, Facial Massage: Experience the Benefits, there are quite a few ways that facial massage helps clients:

When performed correctly, massage can provide clients with a wealth of benefits for their health and skin. Specifically, facial massage:

  • Stimulates circulation;
  • Detoxifies;
  • Stimulates sebaceous production;
  • Relaxes the nerves;
  • Releases toxins trapped between the tissues and muscles;
  • Oxygenates skin tissues;
  • Provides physiological and psychological benefits;
  • Aids in the extraction process;
  • Hydrates by bringing nutrients to the surface layer of the skin;
  • Increases lymphatic flow; and
  • Eases muscle tension.

Almost every skin condition can benefit from a facial massage.  Your esthetician just needs to know what type of massage to perform on each client according to what is going on with their skin.  In another Skin Inc. article, this one by Danae Markland entitled Facial Massage: More Than Relaxation, different types of massages for varying skin conditions are explained:

Massage can greatly benefit acne, rosacea and other inflamed skin conditions. Acne is a wound to the skin, and increasing blood flow encourages the healing process. Many skin care professionals are taught to avoid massage with acne clients because of the risk of cross-contamination and overstimulation. Although this is a valid concern and many traditional massage techniques are not appropriate for acne sufferers, light manipulation for a short period of time increases blood flow, which brings oxygen to the skin, killing the anaerobic bacteria responsible for breakouts and providing significant improvement. Similar to acne, rosacea and other sensitive skin conditions involve chronic inflammation, which also benefits greatly from the enhanced circulation associated with massage. When dealing with acne and other inflamed conditions, limit massage time to no more than 10 minutes.

There is no denying that massage of any kind improves the appearance of the skin for a short period of time after a treatment. This instant improvement is again due to an increase in blood flow and, ultimately, an increase in cellular oxygenation. As with many aspects of the skin, circulation decreases with age, leading to a dull appearance. Massage improves circulation, leading to a more youthful complexion. Clients who smoke and those who engage in air travel regularly also benefit from enhanced circulation, because smoking and air travel limit the amount of oxygen obtained by the cells, leading to lifeless complexions.

YouTube is a great way to see different types of facial massage since each esthetician eventually develops her own facial massage technique.  In my opinion there isn’t a “right” way to perform a facial massage.  As long as it feels good than your on the right track to relaxation and healthy skin.

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Stop Doing Those Facial Exercises! Give Yourself a Facial Massage Instead April 11, 2011

A while back a college friend of mine contacted me via Facebook to tell me that she was doing facial exercises nightly in order to maintain and improve her appearance and thought that she was getting good results.  But she was wondering if perhaps she was just seeing things and if facial exercises actually work.  I quickly emailed her back with a link to Paula Begoun’s take on facial exercise which, in a word, is that they are bogus. 

What are facial exercises anyhow?  I’ll quote from the book The Yoga Facelift in order to explain:

Facial expressions that reflect worry, unhappiness, and anger have a way of becoming permanent.  The good news is that we are not stuck with what we see in the mirror – if we don’t like what we see, we can change it.  There are a number of ways we can effect change.  First of all, from a purely physical stand-point, exercises do a lot to counteract the effects of time and gravity.  Over time our muscles lengthen as gravity pulls ever downward, causing the sagging we start to see everywhere in our faces; eyes start to droop, foreheads and cheeks sag, and jowls start to form until it’s almost like watching a snowman melt in slow motion.  Exercising shortens muscles, and so we end up with tighter, firmer faces as we tone the musculature underneath.  This method of addressing sagging is far superior to plastic surgery, the other option, because it actually improves your appearance over time. 


Sounds rather persuasive, doesn’t it?  The program outlined in this book takes an hour to perform and you need to do that hour long program once a day for about three months before you can go on a maintenance program that only requires you to do facial exercises for 10 to 15 minutes a day.  I tried a number of the exercises in the book just for fun.  Some were strange, uncomfortable, and difficult to do while others were just relaxing.  Truthfully even if I did believe that facial exercises worked I certainly don’t have a free hour each day to perform them.  But even if you do have that amount of free time to devote to facial exercises don’t waste your time!  Here’s why (I like how Paula Begoun explains why facial exercises don’t work so I’ll quote her here):

For the most part, facial exercises are more a problem for skin than a help. Facial exercises provide little or no benefit because loss of muscle tone is not a major cause of wrinkles or sagging skin. In fact, muscle tone is barely involved in these at all. The skin’s sagging and drooping are caused by four major factors:

  1. Deteriorated collagen and elastin (due primarily to sun damage);
  2. Depletion of the skin’s fat layer (a factor of genetic aging and gravity);
  3. Repetitive facial movement (particularly true for the forehead frown lines and for smile lines from the nose to the mouth);
  4. Muscle sagging due to the loosening of facial ligaments that hold the muscles in place.

Facial exercise is not helpful for worn-out collagen, elastin, or the skin’s fat layer, because none of that is about the muscles. It is especially not helpful for the lines caused by facial movement! Instead, facial exercises only make those areas appear more lined. The reason Botox injections into the muscles of the forehead and facial lines work to create a smoother face is because Botox prevents the muscles from moving!

Facial exercises won’t reattach facial ligaments; that is only possible via surgery. One procedure in a surgical face-lift is to re-drape the muscle of the cheek and the jaw, drawing it back and then literally stitching it back in place where it used to be. Exercise doesn’t reattach the ligaments, it just tones the sagging.

The ads for facial exercises often tout the fact that the facial muscles are the only muscles in the body that insert (or attach) into skin rather than into bone. They then use this fact to explain why, if you tone facial muscles, they directly affect the appearance of the skin. What this doesn’t say is that skin movement is one of the things that causes the skin to sag. If you are doing facial exercises and can see your skin move or frown lines and laugh lines look more apparent, it only makes matters worse.

 Now if doing facial exercises relax you after a long day then that is the only time I am all for them.  If you really want to do your skin and face some good consider giving yourself a nightly facial massage.  By giving yourself a short facial massage you are able to release tension that you hold in your face, relax, destress, relieve muscle pain, and make yourself feel good.  A facial massage also stimulates blood flow to your face and helps with your circulation.

In my opinion the easiest facial massage you can do on yourself is a pressure point massage.  Take your index fingers and gently make about 15 circles on the pressure point.  See the photos below for some ideas of where you can find pressure points on your face.  Only press as hard as you feel comfortable.  The idea is relax not hurt yourself.  I hold a lot of tension in my jaw so I particularly like to rub that pressure point.  A pressure point massage can be performed on any skin type even on someone with acne.  You can do it while watching TV.  Give it a try – you won’t regret it!


Book Review: “Nourish Your Skin and Body with Traditional Chinese Medicine” January 13, 2010


For some time I have been very interested in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  About six years ago I had a very positive experience with acupuncture which made me even more curious about Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Once I started learning to be an esthetician I wondered if there were any books available that would discuss Traditional Chinese Medicine and skincare.  I found  Michelle O’Shaughnessy’s book Nourish Your Skin & Body with Traditional Chinese Medicine to be a comprehensive introduction to the subject of Traditional Chinese Medicine as it relates to skincare. 

My first comment about the book would be – I want more!  I wish the book was twice as long and went into greater detail.  Having said that it is a great introduction to how Traditional Chinese Medicine principles and philosophies can be applied to taking care of your skin.  The information in this book is certainly not limited to use by the trained professional.  Anyone interested in both Traditional Chinese Medicine and skincare will find useful information this book.

What made the purchase of this book extremely worthwhile for me was the pressure point massage or the facial acupressure massage as it is called in the book.  Each step of the massage is clearly outlined and explained.  Each step also has an accompanying photo.  I tried the massage both on myself and on a client who suffers from acne.  As estheticians know a “regular’ facial massage might be too stimulating for a client suffering from acne.  Estheticians usually do some sort of pressure point massage on clients who have acne.  The client that I tried this facial acupressure massage on really enjoyed it and found it very relaxing.  I plan on incorporating some of the pressure points from the facial acupressure massage into my “normal” facial massage that I do on most clients.

Though the book is only 162 pages it manages to cover a wealth of topics including (but not limited to) the history of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Chinese herbs (with photos – very helpful), tongue diagnosis, an introduction to acupuncture and facial acupuncture, and recipes for soups that nourish and help the skin.  I found the chapter about the meridians of the body very interesting.  As it will become very clear from reading this blog I am personally very interested in acne so I found it fascinating to read about the ren meridian.  This meridian is in charge of most female issues.  Women who suffer from monthly breakouts on their chins can “blame” this on an imbalance in the ren meridian.

Bottom Line:  A great introduction to how Traditional Chinese Medicine relates to skincare.  The facial acupressure massage is wonderful!  You don’t need to be an esthetician to take advantage of this massage.  Anyone can practice on themselves.

Links and Extras:

I purchased my copy of Nourish Your Skin and Body with Traditional Chinese Medicine through at a reasonable price.  I was surprised to see the price for the book when I looked for it today on  A little research lead me to Michelle O’Shaughnessy’s clinic’s website.  Through her website you can purchase her book Traditional Chinese Medicine: An Esthetician’s Guide.  So what is the difference between that book and the one I have reviewed above?  The book I own was published in 2009 and is 162 pages long.  The book that can be purchased through Michelle O’Shaughnessy’s website was published in 2008 and is 132 pages long.  Without having seen the second book I cannot really comment about how different they are.

I found it very interesting to look at the blog section of Michelle O’Shaughnessy’s website.  The case study presented in the blog is fascinating.  I just wish the blog had been updated.  The last entry is from almost two years ago!

One final note.  Michelle O’Shaughnessy will be speaking at the Face & Body Conference in Chicago in March, 2010.

If anyone has had any experiences with Traditional Chinese Medicine as it pertains to skincare I would love to hear from you.


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