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Facial Massage: Experience the Benefits

Contact Author Lydia Sarfati December 2012 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

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“Some physicians suggest that stress may be responsible for 75% of all diseases in the Western world, including skin diseases (e.g., psoriasis and eczema), headaches and migraine, digestive disorders, high blood pressure and heart-related diseases, as well as backache and muscle pain, poor eyesight and depression … solution is to find ways to manage the stresses … one way is the use of massage therapy.”

—Stretch Dowse, MD, Eminent Victorian Physician, 1887

Today, it is known that effective massage goes way beyond relaxing clients. An ancient technique, massage has been around for more than 3,000 years, and was prevalent in ancient cultures, such as Chinese, Egyptian, Grecian, Roman and Indian as a therapeutic form of medicine. At the height of massage during the 19th century,
Pehr Henrik Ling, known as one of the fathers of modern massage, developed a Swedish movement system, which is now known as the Swedish massage. As the benefits of massage became undeniable, the art developed and advanced throughout time.


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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.

Although there are mechanical massage alternatives available today, it takes a deep understanding of the underworkings of the skin to optimize benefits and avoid the risk of exaggerating facial lines. A working knowledge of the bones, muscles and lymphatic system of the face will give you a competitive edge over mechanical alternatives. (See How-to: Facial Massage.) Your knowledge of calculated facial massage techniques will allow you to combine the benefits of high touch and high tech during any facial treatment.

Practice perfect techniques

Facial massage has a plethora of benefits for your client’s appearance and health. When done correctly, facial massage helps to provide your clients with glowing, healthy-looking complexions. Educating yourself and practicing perfect techniques will allow you to provide your clients with superior results within any facial treatment, which will bring them back to experience even more of your menu.

Lydia Sarfati, president and founder of Repêchage, is an internationally recognized skin care expert. Sarfati has more than 30 years of experience as an esthetician, spa owner, manufacturer and consultant.

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How-to: Facial Massage

Duration: Every professional facial treatment should include at least a 10-minute facial massage after cleansing and before a mask.

Frequency: Clients should experience a facial massage with each treatment they receive. Typically, a facial treatment is recommended once a month or as often as needed.

Contraindications: Those with acneic, broken or bruised skin should not receive facial massage. For sensitive skin, apply light effleurage or a lymph massage in order to avoid further irritating the skin.

Step 1: Apply a massage cream to the face and décolleté to provide the ideal glide to perform a proper facial massage. Apply the cream in light upward and outward strokes. These strokes improve circulation in the blood vessels near the surface of the skin. Once you begin effleurage, your hands must never leave the face.

Step 2: Petrissage is a compression technique that includes kneading, squeezing and pinching. This friction affects the deeper muscle tissue of the face. First, crisscross massage toward the hairline and repeat to the middle of the forehead, moving toward the bridge of the nose. Bridge over the right eyebrow to the temple, and then return to the same spot by the hairline. Repeat the entire process over the left eyebrow to the left temple.

Step 3: Now, using your middle fingers, use effleurage again, this time in circular movements around the eyes. Move in circles going from the outside of the eye, underneath the eye and toward the bridge of the nose, and then up and around the eyebrow back toward the temple.

Step 4: Still using effleurage, begin figure eights around the eyes. Keep the thumb of your opposite hand on the center of the client’s forehead and use your opposite index finger to create large figure eights around the eyes. Repeat three times, then switch hands and repeat the entire process.

Step 5: Place your index and middle fingers on the bridge of the nose, and use a slight pressure to “step-up” to the corrugator muscle on the forehead. Your middle fingers apply the pressure to the motor points under the brows, and your index fingers run up to the corrugator in a
gliding motion.

Step 6: Vibration is a highly stimulating movement to be used very sparingly. This is a shaking movement, and it is performed over areas of broad muscle mass. Hold the head steady with one hand and work with the other. Start at the temple with the ring finger and quickly move your finger up and down in vertical movements. As you move across the forehead, add your middle finger, then remove, ending with your pointer finger at the opposite temple. Repeat back and forth three times.

Step 7: This effleurage movement is a two-part cycle. Using your fingertips, circle the eyes once. Bridge over the right eyebrow to the temple, and then make a second circle around the forehead. Repeat the two-step procedure twice.

Step 8: Tapotement is a percussive stroke in which the fingertips strike the skin in rapid succession. This technique improves circulation by stimulating the diffusion of the capillary network. It helps nourish the skin by releasing nutrients, and helps purify the skin by releasing carbon dioxide and other waste material. Use a light tapping movement in a circular movement around the eyes, moving from the outside of the eye, underneath the eye and toward the bridge of the nose, then up and around the eyebrow back toward the temple, and then around the cheeks.

Step 9: Using the middle fingers of both hands, use effleurage to circle your client’s entire face. Starting at the top of the forehead, move under the chin, and then outward and upward onto the cheeks. Your fingers should move outside of the eyebrows. Repeat twice ending with the finger at the chin.

Step 10: Now it is time to give your client’s neck and shoulders a little relief with effleurage. Using your middle fingers of both hands, move in down-and-outward movements away from the heart.

Step 11: Gently knead the cheeks and along the jaw down the platysma. On the larger muscles, continue with tapotement, rolling and pinching, finishing with slow effleurage on the forehead.

Step 12: To complete the facial massage, end by referencing the motor points of the face located behind the earlobes, at the temples, the orbicularis oculi muscles inside the corners of the eyes and at the top of the vertebrae. This will help to stimulate the muscles of the face and to relieve tension. At this time you can also apply pressure to the lymph nodes of the face—the occipatal, retroauricular, parotid, superficial cervical, buccal, submandibular and deep cervical. Light pressure on the lymph nodes helps boost the immune system, improve the appearance of the skin, reduce water retention, relieve pain and promote the body’s own healing mechanisms.

Step 13: End the massage as it began with light effleurage movements and then light, gentle pressure on the temples.

Step 14: This step is optional. If you have a high-frequency machine in your spa, Viennese is also an effective facial massage technique for dull, sluggish or tired skin. After cleansing and toning the skin, prepare the client by applying talc to her hands to absorb any excess oils. Have the client hold onto the electrode from your high-frequency machine with both hands and ask them to relax. Apply a massage cream to the face and with one hand, hold the client’s head and with the other, turn on the machine. Using both hands, begin the massage using effleurage, pettrisage and rotation movements. Begin and end at the temples with effleurage. This facial massage should last for 5–7 minutes.

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