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The Art and Science of Facial Massage

By: Lydia Sarfati
Posted: March 26, 2009, from the April 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
woman getting facial massage

Looking back on my career as an esthetician, spa owner and now a manufacturer, one of the most important assets that I had was the ability to administer a perfect facial massage.

Early in my career, clients always booked extra facial massages because they found that not only did the service help them completely relax, but also the benefits lasted longer and resulted in a wonderful, youthful, radiant glow. Truly therapeutic effects can only be achieved when the practitioner has complete scientific knowledge of the skeletal and neuromuscular functions.

History of massage

Massage was practiced by the Chinese 3,000 years ago to help with vitality, and 19th century massage popularity reached its peak as Pehr Henrik Ling (1776–1837) brought it to the United States. Later, Johan Georg Mezger (1838–1909) adapted French names to denote the basic massage strokes used today.

In 1887, Thomas Stretch Dowse, MD, wrote, “Some physicians suggest that stress may be responsible for 75% of all disease in the Western world, including [psoriasis and eczema], high blood pressure, backache, poor eyesight and depression … the solution is to use massage therapy.” How timeless is this statement today, especially in dealing with hard economic times. An anti-stress massage might be what your clients need today more than microdermabrasion. There are, however, some contraindications for massage, such as acne, broken or bruised skin, and clients who have suffered strokes.

Skin foundation

The skin protects a person’s internal organs from injury and infection, and skin elasticity withstands physical pressure and reduces injury. Skin is also an organ of exchange and sensation. Nerve endings in the epidermis respond to heat, cold, touch, pressure, pain and pleasure. So that’s why the correct touch, the right pressure, and the temperature of the cream or lotion that is applied will have an impact on the way the skin reacts. Administration of a successful massage must include the knowledge of muscles, nerves, bones and the lymphatic system, as well as the function and dysfunction of the skin.