The surprising skin and health benefits of facial massage

A pink crystal gua sha tool lying on a white towel

Megan Douglas on natural massage and stress-busting techniques that help achieve an inner and outer glow.

The ability to journey through life, accepting its many pathways, with a graceful, resistance-free attitude, is what it means to “flow”. While it’s never an easy task, I believe that living in the “flow” is an important skill to master. The alternative is to be constantly railing against what you are experiencing, resulting in stress and an absence of calm – which shows up in various ways in your life.

Ultimately, everything is connected. If you aren’t living in the “flow”, you are not only in danger of feeling emotionally stressed, but there is a good chance your skin, or some other area of your body, will begin to reflect your unhealthy state of mind.

Sadly, the bulk of contemporary western beauty treatments fail to address the very modern malady of body stagnation and stress. Instead, in today’s skin clinics, we often find an environment dominated by the use of skin-perfecting machines; a menu of facials that are focused on deep (and sometimes painful) exfoliating or peeling sessions; and the ever-growing prevalence of injectable treatments, all containing synthetic chemical fillers.

What all of these techniques have in common is that they fail to re-energise, destress or balance the skin’s innate life force and flow.

Massage gold

Having said that, there are some western spas and beauty therapists who offer skilled and thoughtful facial massages. These can be fabulous when it comes to unblocking stagnant areas of the face and stimulating the underlying lymphatic and fascia systems. If you find a good holistic beauty therapist, they’re like gold for your skin and your stress levels.

You can also look towards the holistic beauty ritual of Chinese acupuncture to help bring back life, vitality and nutrients (through increased circulation) to the skin. Amy Chen, a cosmetic acupuncturist at the Origin’s Acupuncture in Auckland, explains how cosmetic acupuncture (which involves inserting fine acupuncture needles into the skin) provides an “effect like micro-needling and Botox”, only naturally.

It can increase the skin cell turnover rate and stimulate collagen production, yet it is non-invasive and without side effects. I’ve tried it and, after only one treatment, my skin certainly looked more firm, relaxed and freshly plumped.

Gua sha facial

If you wish to try an at-home “skin-flow” treatment, why not try a gua sha facial? Gua sha is an ancient Chinese massage tool that is used to boost circulation and relieve muscular tension. “Gua” means to scratch in Chinese, and “sha” means disease.

This ancestral technique, which is traditionally performed by a therapist, involves vigorously rubbing the skin of the back, legs, neck or arms to achieve lymphatic drainage, release toxins and activate blood circulation. You can practise a version of it at home (and perform your own beauty ritual into the bargain) by using a gua sha crystal stone – they are shaped to fit the contours of the face.

This fun and relaxing treatment can be an excellent alternative to more invasive skin injectables and provides visible effects for the skin, including a more dewy, glowing complexion.

You can also massage your face with your fingers, of course, but whether you are doing this or using a gua sha, work gently on any tender pressure points you find on your way, as this will help release stagnant energy. There are some great resources online to see what pressure points relate to different parts of your body and where you may be holding stagnation.

The side profile of a woman lying in water with gua sha massage instructions overlaid

Skin compressing

Another of my favourite techniques to stimulate flow in the skin, is the art of “skin compressing”. This can really melt away the tension, and it’s another beauty technique easily enjoyed at home.

For an at-home skin compressing beauty ritual, prepare two hand towels, including one that’s heavy enough to hold heat for a good period of time. Put one towel under hot water, wring it out and press this to your face, paying special attention to tense areas like jaw, forehead and around your eyes, before proceeding to the sides and back of your neck. Alternate with a cold towel. Keep alternating towel compresses, enjoying the feeling of any stored tension draining away.

You can also take skin compressing up several notches by using fresh spring water, or by adding honey, organic flower hydrosols or high quality herbal teas to the water you soak the towels in.

Deep facial massage benefits

In the end, releasing blocked flow and tension is the name of the game, as it not only releases stagnant energy, but also helps restore optimal circulation. This can result in the softening of deep lines, with the skin becoming more rosy and plump, and the worry and strain lifting from the face.

As to other tips to get that flow back into your skin, it may be that your face simply needs rest, nutritious food, simplicity, love, or more water. Or perhaps a bit of gentle sunshine or meditation.

Whatever it is, an acceptance of whatever life brings, and the ability to “flow” with it, will hopefully help you love the skin – and the life – you’re in.


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