I remember the first high-intensity face massage I had (it wasn’t called that, it was Suqqu’s signature Gankin massage). A tiny lady pretty much lifted me out the chair by my cheekbones and pummelled my temples with such ferocity, I wondered what I’d done to miff her off. But, much like an intense workout for your bod, wimpy little strokes and movements don’t cut it if you want to make a tangible difference to the condition and appearance of your skin.
That high-intensity massage I mentioned? My face muscles felt the same as my stomach muscles after a HIIT class (both being a rare occurrence). The tenderness let me know I'd had a good workout, which to be honest, is exactly what I'd had. "Massages in particular boost circulation, bring fresh blood and nutrients to the upper layers of skin and help drain toxins and waste through the lymphatic system. This enables the skin to be brighter and more radiant," explains top aesthetician, GLAMOUR columnist and founder of Black Skin Directory, Dija Ayodele. "When these things are done repeatedly, they condition the skin, the same way exercise conditions the body," she adds.
Just like our bodies, our face muscles can benefit from stimulation to make them stronger and tighter. Massaging techniques can make facial muscles less tense, and it can help lift them, says Dija, "so it's great for mature skin that is starting to sag," she explains. Even better, it can help to heal scarring. "Improving blood flow in your skin will improve skin healing, meaning spots and any injuries to the skin will heal faster and are less likely to scar," she adds. "On black skin in particular it can lessen hyperpigmentation." Long-term this means skin is "more resilient and better able to withstand daily stresses," confirms Dija.
Face workouts work in much the same way as a regular fitness class – you want to use different exercises to work different areas of your face and jaw. "Facial massage uses different movements – some fast, some slow; some long and flowing strokes called effleurage, which I guess you could say is like walking lunges across the gym floor, or short punchy repeating strokes which are like boxing or bench press," explains Dija. "Tapotement (tapping) movements are similar to jogging on the spot. Some movements such as kneading petrissage movements worker deeper muscles like you would work the glutes and booty in squatting," she adds. "They all stimulate the skin and facial muscles in different ways to improve that circulation, brighten, lift and tone."
Of course, it's not just about how you work your skin, it's about what you feed it, too. Diet and exercise go hand in hand and the same theory applies to your complexion. Facial treatments and high-tech skincare are the equivalent of protein shakes, supplements and a balanced diet. "Advanced treatments like chemical peels, laser and micro needling stimulate the skin to work harder and ‘recharge’ skin cells to be less sluggish and perform at an optimal level," explains Dija, so it's worth incorporating them into your facial fitness plan.
At-home face workout
Forget Joe Wicks – you've got this. "The best way to work out your face at home is through a comprehensive skincare routine including exfoliating acids and Vitamin A to improve your skin cell turnover and collagen production," says Dija. "Spending time firmly massaging and pressing your products into your skin will help products to penetrate the skin," she adds. And, while we love a good face roller, you don't necessarily need them. "The best tool you can use is your hands and fingers, as your can gauge the proper pressure that is comfortable for you," Dija explains. "Massage and draining towards your lymph nodes (at the bottom of the ear lobe) is best as that speeds up the removal of waste and toxins," says Dija. Want some extra help? We've put together some of our fave at-home massage techniques here.
Pro gym for your skin
We love some at-home action, but to keep your skin on track, a PT sesh with a pro will help to supercharge results. It's worth heading to a skin expert or aesthetician for a really deep workout, as they'll know which muscles need flexing. FaceGym for instance offers studio workouts (aka face sculpting massages conducted by their experts) in its three London Locations, or virtual facial fitness classes led by master masseuses for clients nationwide.
Likewise, "in-clinic treatments such as chemical peels, laser, microneedling and LED are basic skin stimulating treatments that do a lot of heavy lifting," says Dija, who offers a range of treatments from her clinic, West Room Aesthetics, such as medi-facials, microcurrent, chemical peels and light therapy. A couple of relaxing sessions can totally re-invigorate your skin.
And, we're seeing new innovation come through that can reboot and transform skin thanks to next-gen technology – much like cryotherapy has helped to enhance recovery time and muscle strength after a workout. The Cell HIIT sessions at London's Eudelo clinic, for example, uses pioneering German technology IHHT (intermittent hypoxia-hyperoxia treatment) to help your cells’ mitochondria (the cell’s powerhouses) regenerate and provide anti-ageing benefits on a sub-cellular level. It sounds science-y but during the treatment, breathing air is switched between lower and higher oxygen concentrations in a controlled manner using an oxygen mask, giving your cells an exceptional cell regeneration workout, without having to lift a finger. The technique, which replicates altitude training, just so happens to be used by top athletes to boost cellular fitness, stress resistance strengthen immunity and even to support fat metabolism, which means you get a full body workout while making your skin glow. Not bad.
By Elle Turner. This originally appeared on Glamour UK.