During times of emotional duress, many people treat themselves to a spa service, like a hot-stone massage or a 50-minute facial. But in the current climate, with salons and spas closed and the chiropractor out of the question, we're tapping into DIY approaches to tension relief.
To cope, you might livestream a yoga class, run a hot bath with epsom salts, or get out your gua sha and give yourself a face massage. Not only will an at-home facial stimulate blood flow and release pressure in your jaw and temples, but there's the fringe benefit of leaving your eyes de-puffed and cheekbones sculpted, so you can go makeup-free to your morning Zoom meeting.
That being said, a good DIY face massage is more than just pressing your fingers into your skin (after you've washed your hands, of course). That's why we asked facial pro and FaceGym founder Inge Theron to walk us through the process of what she calls "face training," which works deep into the muscles beneath the skin. Ahead, find her simple three-step guide to the most effective at-home facial, for both sculpting and stress relief.
Start With A Warmup
Like your living-room yoga class, a purposeful face massage begins with a little warmup, which you'll want to preface by washing your face and hands and applying an oil-based skin serum. "This will allow your fingers to glide over the skin without any dragging or pulling," Theron explains. "I recommend the FaceGym Training Serum, which we designed to give just the perfect amount of slip. It's important to note that if the oil is too dry, it will absorb into the skin too quickly."
For the warmup itself, Theron says you'll want to literally heat the skin up with your hands. "Begin with the flats of your knuckles, in an upward and outward motion," Theron says. "Then do some pinching and twisting by lightly pinching the skin with the thumb and index finger and giving tiny twists. Work from the chin up, to wake up and activate the muscles in an upward direction. You will begin to feel your skin heat up — this is good, as it means you're getting the blood moving."
Locate Your Tension
While the tightness in your shoulders or lower back is easy to pinpoint, the tension in your facial muscles might be harder to detect. To find the knots, Theron recommends starting with active jawline pressure. "We all tend to hold tension in our jaw, especially during high stress times," she explains. "Take your pointer and middle fingers to make two claws and start at the chin moving out and up along the jawline with medium to firm pressure. If you feel any knots along the way, pause and apply more pressure to release the tension. This will also help for muscle lifting and lymphatic activation as well."
Roll & Drain
To get into the sculpting, Theron says the method is twofold: rolling and draining, which can be done with your own fingers or a tool, like a gua sha or a handheld massager.
If you're using your fingers, you'll want to initiate rolling the muscles with semi-firm sweeping motions. "With the cheekbones, you'll want to place your two pointer fingers at the top of your nose and thumbs under your chin. Then, applying medium pressure, sweep the thumbs out toward the ears," Theron instructs. "Next, you can work on the nasolabial lines, otherwise known as the laugh lines. Using semi-firm pressure, begin walking the fingers outward from the nose to roll and smooth any wrinkles."
For lymphatic drainage under the eyes — the thin, delicate skin that's prone to puffiness — Theron recommends a two-handed approach, working one side at a time. "Place your pointer finger in the corner of the eye to support the skin," she says. "Then take your other pointer finger and glide it extremely lightly under the eye, out to the hairline, and down to the ear to release the lymph fluid."
At this point, Theron says your skin will look refreshed, with a natural glow due to increased blood flow and circulation. Of course, like your yoga or meditation practice, consistency is key when it comes to getting the most out of your at-home face massage. "The more in tune you become with the muscles of your face, noticing where you hold tension and which areas need more work, the more effective your practice will be," Theron says. "Take your time to ensure your form is correct — then even just five minutes of work will make a difference in your skin's tone, tightness, and lift."