I have a confession to make: I rarely get a facial. As a beauty editor, I’m often asked to recommend a good facialist and I don’t have a ready answer because I haven’t found most facials to be all that effective. Any benefits for me have been short lived. And, as I have sensitive skin, I’m often left worse for wear. Until now that is, for I have discovered the advantages of facial massage – proper, rigorous facial manipulation where the underlying muscles are kneaded and pressed, leaving you with a glowing complexion and tightened skin.
“You must go to her!” declared former Ford model Nina Griscom about London-based facialist Alexandra Soveral. “She has the hands of God!” And with that kind of recommendation, I ran to Alexandra’s west London treatment rooms on a recent trip to the UK.
There, the sought-after esthetician began her ministrations by brushing my dry face with a pair of soft, small round brushes and before proceeding with the massage, tested the condition of my skin by spraying on the divinely scented Floral Rain.
With a pH of 4.5 to 5.0 (which is the ideal pH balance for the skin) Floral Rain can detect your skin’s sensitivity. A burning sensation or even a tingle means that the skin is sensitive and possibly too alkaline. The skin’s reaction (or lack thereof) guided Alexandra as to how much pressure to apply and which products to use.
And now, we were ready for the massage which involved gentle but firm kneading of jawline, cheeks and forehead, using her natural oils and salves. Her practiced hands worked their way down the back of my neck, shoulders and décolletage. It was bliss for this jet-lagged traveler.
“Facial massage has to do with creating the best possible environment for skin to thrive. And to achieve that, you need to do the underlying work,” explains Alexandra. “You have to clean house first because everything that the skin is showing is a mirror image of what’s going on underneath. If your skin is dull and tired, why put creams on that dull, tired skin? You have to detoxify the lymph nodes and let everything drain down.”
It’s all about lymphatic drainage. It’s about ridding the body of the toxins and fluid build-up that has accumulated with the stresses of the day. “If someone says ‘I’ve got very dark circles,’ why are they just going to put a serum on it?” wonders Alexandra. “No, you have to drain the eye and then put a serum on it. Otherwise, it’s like cleaning your house and just brushing dirt under the carpet.”
The lymphatic drainage occurs as a result of the increased blood flow to the skin. As the lymph system doesn’t have a pump, explains Alexandra, it piggybacks on the circulatory system. When blood travels to the skin, it brings needed oxygen and nutrients with it. When it recedes, it carries the toxins away. This is why Alexandra recommends a daily facial massage even if it’s just for 30 seconds. “If you do your face massage at the end of each day, you’re erasing whatever happened during the day,” counsels the facialist who consequently considers daily at-home facial massages to be more effective than professional treatments done on a monthly basis.
There are additional benefits in addition to lymphatic drainage and improved circulation. The resultant stimulation “aids in a deeper penetration of products that can address minor skin conditions such as dryness, breakouts or fine lines,” explains New York-based esthetician, Amity Spiegel who cautions, however, that in the case of severe acne or inflammation, a pressure point massage is best.
Benefits also include the relieving of tension in the face and of TMJ symptoms. Plus, it’s a pleasant, relaxing experience.
And last but certainly not least, facial massage helps tone the muscles according to Amity. Indeed, for a day or so afterwards, the muscles in my face feel taut, as if they’ve had a workout. My jowls are tightened and my eyebrows are lifted. I emerge from the treatment rooms bright-eyed and glowing. Now, that is one exercise regimen I will gladly adhere to!
Alexandra’s expert tips:
I think people should perhaps be doing less. We’re overloading our skin and we should really be thinking of skin care as skin food. If it’s something that’s not natural or not recognized by the body, people should not be using it unless it’s absolutely necessary such as medicine. We have to start thinking that the skin acts like a stomach, meaning that it processes what you put on it. If what you put on your skin is man-made, the likelihood is that it will end up inside of you because manufacturers make molecules that are really, really small so that they penetrate through the skin, whereas nature makes molecules too fat to go into the skin apart from a very few things such as vitamins and essential oils. Nature is very clever.
With regard to exfoliation, I am not against it. But I am completely against skin resurfacing products and treatments. If your cells are dead and you’ve got a lot of dry skin, doing a skin brush or a very soft exfoliation to get that dry skin out is absolutely fine. But once you take the first layer of skin off, you are actually asking for trouble because you are removing what your body has tried very hard to build over time which is your acid mantle and you’re also disrupting the pH balance of your skin.
Skin should naturally have a pH level of 4.5 to 6 at the very highest. Acidity allows the good bacteria to thrive which enables the skin to fight various pathogens. So, when you peel off the top layer of skin, you are opening yourself to anything that comes at you. And no wonder that everyone is sick all the time. Everyone has got skin allergies, dermatitis, eczema, rashes, unexplained skin conditions that are being diagnosed as rosacea, but who knows what they actually are? So, every time you do a peel or a deep exfoliation, your skin then has to start re-building that acid mantle. We’re talking about chemical peels, dermabrasion, fruit acids. Just because they’re natural doesn’t mean that they don’t take off the first layer of skin.
Alexandra will share more of her knowledge and advice in a book that will be published in the fall.
For more beauty tips and information, follow Delia on Instagram: @chasingbeautywithdvn