From seaweed wraps to green-tea face packs, the ancient traditions of the East have long been revered in the beauty business. But it’s only recently that their key anti-ageing weapon has taken the limelight. Massage for both the face and body has its roots in Chinese medicine and has been practised for millennia to relax muscles and improve circulation. Now some of the biggest names in the beauty world are designing products that work best when coupled with specific massage techniques.
“If you spend time massaging skincare products into your skin instead of just rubbing them on, the ingredients are pushed to a deeper level to repair and replenish at a cellular level,” explains Sanctuary Spa expert and celebrity therapist Nichola Joss who has worked on some of the most beautiful faces in Hollywood including Gisele Bündchen and Gwyneth Paltrow.
And yet many of us make the mistake of reserving massages as a ‘treat’ confined to spa visits and special occasions. But the truth is that you can reap the beauty rewards of massage in your home: after your morning tea, while you’re watching television or just before you put your pyjamas on. “People often neglect massage at home,” says Nichola. “It only adds a couple of extra minutes to your daily routine and makes such a difference that everyone should start incorporating massage into their beauty regime.”
If you’re not engaging in self-massage rituals, then you’re missing out on the opportunity to develop younger-looking skin or a leaner body. Limber up your fingertips and palms for DIY pampering with benefits.
Puffy bags, dark circles and laughter lines. The skin around your eyes is thinner and more fragile than anywhere else on the face so it requires extra TLC. Self-massage should be attempted with a softly-softly approach using your middle or ring finger, which are not as strong as your forefinger.
“For bright, younger-looking eyes, massage the eye area daily to de-puff, stimulate the lymph glands and keep the whites of the eyes clear and sparkly,” Nichola says. “Eye cream needs to be gently pushed into the correct part of the eye contour to nourish, brighten and repair the delicate skin.”
Use a nourishing eye cream (we like versions from Clinique and Pond’s, pictured) and Nichola’s eye massage to keep fine lines and bags at bay.
“First, put a pea-sized amount of eye cream on to your middle fingers,” says Nichola. “Place your index fingers on your temples and gently tap your middle fingers from the outside of the cheekbone inwards along the upper cheek bone and into the eye area and the bridge of the nose. The tapping movements will gently massage the cream into the skin.
“Moving upwards, apply more pressure and sweep your fingers above the eyebrow to the outer corners of the eye. This will gently lift the brows and
relax the muscle.
“Repeat and circle the eye six times. Finish by massaging any remaining product into the temple area.”
Whether it’s talking, blinking or making facial expressions, our facial muscles are getting a constant workout. Manipulation of these muscles through facial massage or maximising their movement through facial workouts can improve the flow of blood for a more radiant and toned appearance, says Alex Hurt of SensAsia Urban Spa in Dubai.
“Try raising your eyebrows as high as you can and hold them for five seconds. Pucker your lips out as far as possible into the shape of an ‘O’. Then change your expression into a wide smile. Repeat this several times.”
If you want your creams to penetrate on a cellular level, the ingredients can make a big difference, says Alex.
“I recommend hyaluronic acid. This is naturally found in our skin and acts as a transporter to carry the ingredients in our creams down to the deeper layers of skin and maximise their performance. Hyaluronic acid can be purchased from a reputable salon or spa and used on a daily basis as booster under your moisturiser. The temperature of ingredients can have an impact on their absorption too.
“Make sure you always warm products by rubbing them on your palms before applying to the face,” says Susan Harmsworth, founder of luxury spa company Espa. “Use light circular movements in an upwards motion, patting outwards, towards the lymph nodes, to remove excess fluid and toxins from the system.” Using a light facial oil such as Espa’s Regenerating Face Treatment Oil (pictured), follow Susan’s tips to stimulate the skin and promote cell renewal. “Pour a few drops of face oil on to your hands, warm between your palms and spread evenly,” says Susan. “Place your fingertips on your jawbone and, with light pressure, make a sweeping circle from the jawline up the sides of your nose to the centre of the forehead, out along the hairline and down the temples to meet at the jawbone. This gently stimulates energy and spreads the oil.
“Use circular movements with the tips of the index, middle and ring fingers, starting at the chin and travelling along the jawline and then up from the angles of the jaw to the temples.
“Pinch the skin on each side of the nose, close to the base of the nostrils, moving first under the cheekbones and then out, towards the tops of the ears.
“Placing the tips of the middle fingers at the inner corners of the eyes, slide your fingers upward, pushing against the orbital bone (around the eye socket), and then outward, just above the eyebrows, towards the ears.
“Finally, use circular movements to massage the forehead, starting just above the top of the nose, moving up towards the hairline, and then outwards until you reach the temples.”
The more attention you pay to your skin, the more supple it is. Regular massage can even help diminish cellulite dimples that just don’t seem to shift – kneading the skin helps increase circulation, which lessens the lumps.
“Start by exfoliating and using a dry body brush in an upward motion,” says Emma Cobb, an Elemis skin specialist. “It removes dead skin cells, which will help the oil to penetrate deeper, stimulates the blood and lymph system and brightens skin. If you use it morning and night, you can rid yourself of lots of toxins, and the brushing motion can help reduce fat deposits, tightening skin and toning muscles.
“Follow that with a circulation-boosting massage. It’s fantastic for helping skin feel firmer and more toned,” says Karen Bevan-Brown, a Liz Earle treatment expert. “A DIY body massage can help to encourage lymphatic circulation, aid the removal of waste, toxins and excess fluid and reduce muscular tension.”
Karen recommends following this five-step toning massage, using a hydrating oil or gel. “First, apply your body cream or gel with firm, sweeping movements, using alternate hands from knees to hips, making sure to cover all the problem areas.
“Finish applying the lotion by sweeping it towards the centre of your body to help encourage lymphatic drainage.
“Using your fingertips, perform circular movements, concentrating on areas that feel sluggish.
“Follow with a slightly deeper massage technique. Clench your fists and use your knuckles to perform circular movements, upwards and outwards.
This is great for the hips, thighs and bottom.
“Conclude your body massage by using clenched fists to lightly pound the outer thighs. This helps to stimulate the area and break down any build-up of waste.”