It is morning, and you are standing in front of your beauty mirror massaging your face - with smooth strokes outward, cold and stimulating. Except your tool is made of sparkling gems of deep green jade, soft pink rose quartz, dark obsidian, purple amethyst: stones unearthed from mines across the world.
Colourful gemstones, metal and vibrating tools have become central in the skincare industry worldwide – touted to have a range of benefits, including reducing fine lines, improving skin firmness and elasticity, and especially with the gemstones, a number of ‘healing’ properties. You’ve probably seen reports of Jennifer Aniston swearing by a little gold t-shaped tool, Deepika Padukone’s 2020 instagram post with a metal facial roller, and innumerable Tik Tok posts about the lifting effects of facial Gua Sha. Sometimes rather chunky metal rollers also populate online feeds.
But how different is the one tool from another really, and does it work? Gulf News spoke to Dr. Fiona Cowie, Board Certified Specialist in Aesthetic, Laser and Skin Care Medicine at Beverly Hills Wellness and Aesthetics, Five hotel at Palm Jumeirah to find out.
What is the deal behind facial tools?
Quite simply – massage. Massage in any form increases blood flow and improves lymphatic drainage. This means it can help decrease puffiness by helping remove retained fluids that cause it. When the tool is cold, this also helps with decreasing redness from inflammation and makes your facial blood vessels constrict temporarily – giving an appearance of tighter, smoother skin. Facial massage is proven to have long-term benefits: a 2007 study published in the International Journal of the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors, by Japan-based researchers, showed that facial massage had initiated significant recovery of reduced elasticity in the skin of a group of subjects over 30 years who was showing evidence of more than normal ageing.
All these work in the same way by increasing the blood circulation to your skin, giving it a lovely glow, helping the penetration of creams and lotions into the skin and massaging facial muscles. It also helps with lymphatic drainage to reduce facial puffiness. It can have benefits such as relieving sinus pressures, headaches, and help with pain associated with Teeth, Mouth and Jaw (TMJ) spasms – such as pain from tooth grinding, jaw clenching etc.
Dr Cowie says, “All these work in the same way by increasing the blood circulation to your skin, giving it a lovely glow, helping the penetration of creams and lotions into the skin and massaging facial muscles. It also helps with lymphatic drainage to reduce facial puffiness.
“It can have benefits such as relieving sinus pressures, headaches, and help with pain associated with Teeth, Mouth and Jaw (TMJ) spasms – such as pain from tooth grinding, jaw clenching etc.”
A 2018 study by Japan-based researchers published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine, an online peer-reviewed journal, showed that acute massage using the studied metal facial roller showed an increased skin blood flow in the area instantly, but after 5 weeks of daily massage, even the vascular dilatation response improved, boosting blood flow responses to various stimuli. According to the study, as increased blood flow enhances oxygen and nutrient supply to cells, as well as removes metabolic waste – this could have favourable effects on skin.
2021 facial toolkit
Here’s a quick roundup of available facial tools:
1. Jade roller
This is a green, often-double edged roller that is said to trace its routes to Chinese royals in the Qing Dynasty. New York’s Metropolitan Museum, and Brooklyn Museum amongst others, actually have jade massage rollers dated back to 1644-1911 in the Qing Dynasty period.
Now, Meghan Markle’s facialist recommends it for depuffing, Emilia Clarke uses it everyday (as per her Vogue interview earlier this year), and even Kendall Jenner includes it in her go-to products. They are made of jadeite or nephrite, but according to Insider, most ones on the market are made of Xiyuan jade, a serpentine crystal that is still included under the jade family in China.
However, there are many fakes on the market made of materials that could potentially irritate your skin. Another concern is that jade is a semi-porous material and can harbour bacteria within it, especially if not cleaned thoroughly. This is one of the reasons why gynecologists warned against using the jade vaginal eggs touted as game-changers by Goop, as they could cause the life-threatening Toxic Shock Syndrome.
2. Rose quartz roller
Rose quartz is a pastel hard crystalline mineral made of silica, harder than jade but also porous. It is said to stay cool even in contact with skin, and does not warm as easily as jade.
3. Amethyst rollers
Amethyst is a violet quartz, which is of a similar composition to rose quartz.
4. Obsidian roller
This black stone, actually birthed from lava when it cools down rapidly. Also called volcano glass, it was initially used to make weapons and tools and is now also used as a facial roller. According to worldofstonesusa.com, obsidian is also slightly porous.
5. Gua Sha? Here’s a surprise – facial ‘gua sha’ is not actually Gua Sha
Also sometimes made of jade, these flat, carved pieces originate in Traditional Chinese Medicine. ‘Gua’ means to scrape, and this ancient practices includes scraping firmly at body skin to produce a red discolouration, also called petechiae (represented by the Sha) and is said to have a variety of benefits.
Usual facial ‘gua sha’ certainly doesn’t go that far, and is more a gentle facial massage. A 2020 study published in the Journal of Chinese Medicine, an English journal on all aspects of Chinese medicine found an improvement in fine lines and wrinkles in a case study.
Dermatologists I reached out to had nothing to say about these as they are not medically recommended. I know, you’ve probably heard a lot about jade rollers, rose quartz and gem ‘energies’ – and creating balance. Of course, if you personally prefer the gems, their colours or textures, for example – that’s completely up to you.
Beauty practices such as facial massage could be more fun if you have beautiful tools, and placebo, at the very least, is scientifically proven to make a difference in effectiveness.
6. Ice roller
Ice rollers are made from a variety of materials, to be stored in the fridge for a chilling addition to your skincare. They are meant to take advantage of the cold’s effects of constricting your blood vessels to tighten skin, and reducing redness from inflammation. The massage can also help with lymphatic drainage.
If your skin is sensitive, you can try it over a barrier such as a sheet mask.
7. Microneedling tool
Microneedling is a cosmetic procedure that works by making tiny tears on your facial skin, to stimulate production of new collagen-rich tissue.
According to Dr Cowie, home microneedling face tools don’t penetrate as deeply as medical devices used in the clinic but work the same way. Dr. Cowie says, “The microneedles penetrate the skin up to 100 per cm2 and stimulate new collagen and elastin production, as well as liberating stem cells, which help regenerate new, better quality skin. They can also be helpful in pushing mesotherapy (a cosmetic treatment that uses injections of chemicals such as vitamins and enzymes to tighten skin and remove fat), serums and such deeper into the skin than what the other rollers can do.“
She adds, “It can also help reduce fine lines and open pores, by regenerating better quality skin and will also help with reducing acne scarring.” The other rollers can’t do this. However, she says that aestheticians sometimes recommend microneedling at home as an addition to clinical treatment to speed up skin renewal, scar reduction or to help medical creams penetrate deeper.
8. Stainless steel roller
This is where the rollers differ, as stainless steel is metal, completely non-porous and hygienic.
9. Electric facial massagers
Electric facial massagers, usually made of metal, come with added vibration to aid in massage.
Dr. Cowie says, “They are different and come with various attachments. Generally, they have a roller ball attachment which works as a facial massager, an abrasive head to remove dead skin from the face and body.”
A 2017 study by US and France-based researchers published in the journal PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed open access scientific journal published by the US-based Public Library of Science found that using dynamic mechanical stimulation could lead to an ‘amplification’ of an anti-ageing cream, by making it more effective and reduce skin sagging at the same time.
Vibration from electrical massagers also enhance penetration of serums and creams. The vibration especially works like acupressure and can relieve muscular spasms.
What’s surprising is that the study showed that this mechanical stimulus actually caused changes in the expression of some proteins, including two types of collagen. According to the study, thus it could support changes in the physical properties of skin but this needs to be investigated.
Dr. Cowie adds, “Vibration from electrical massagers also enhance penetration of serums and creams. The vibration especially works like acupressure and can relieve muscular spasms.” However, she warns that these electric rollers are more powerful and care needs to be taken around delicate areas such as the skin surrounding your eyes.
A version of an electric facial massager, a T-beauty tool, is amongst Jennifer Anniston’s beauty secrets.
When should you steer clear?
According to Dr Cowie, you should take caution using facial tools if you have medical skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis or dermatitis, damaged skin from acne scarring or pigmentation, darker skin prone to pigmentation or keloid scarring when using microneedling.
She adds, “Open sores, active acne and excessively dry skin should also taken as contraindications to use.” However, she recommends seeking advice from a dermatologist in any case.
• Do not rub too vigorously or apply a lot of pressure; it needs to be gentle and firm.
• Dr Cowie says, “Clean your face of makeup, add a serum or oil directly to your skin and then apply the roller to your skin in an upwards and outwards motion. Go over the same area three times and repeat in different areas of the face. “