Can Facial Massage Slow the Appearance of Aging?

Hannah Gay navigates the Australian professional beauty industry, one burgeoning trend at a time.

What’s in a facial? We know they’re designed to elicit a response in the upper dermal layers of the face; to kick cells into gear with the aim of revitalising the skin, repairing surface-level damage and slowing the aging process. But it’s the incorporation of massage takes this rewiring process to the next level.

While traditionally, a facial massage is considered an exciting add-on to a starring deep clean, some aestheticians are opting to hero the humble massage in consideration of its very own skin-enhancing benefits. Leading Melbourne-based facialist, April Brodie has focused a sizable portion of her 40-year career on the exercise and has built a business synonymous with her incredibly effective Buccal Fusion Facial.

The facial, which involves several components, focuses on relieving muscular tension and draining built-up fluid which in turn, can have a significant impact on the look of the facial features. Massage is performed along the face, neck, shoulders and jawline, as well as inside the mouth in order to access hard-to-reach areas. “When muscles are tight, they are shorter and contracted,” April explains. “When released, they are longer, and appear to have a slimmer, smoother appearance, not to mention are much less tight and painful!”

I met with April at Sydney’s Intercontinental where she was hosting treatments for the media. On hearing April’s story, it’s obvious from the get-go how far she’s come, recounting in detail the hurdles she’d jumped in order to master the treatment that would become her specialty; so much so, she barely paused to take a breath.

After discovering the unique treatment being demoed in a London department store, April set her sights on bringing the experience to her own clients. It wasn’t until a Russian trainer took her on as a student that she was able to commence her education. Language barriers slowed her progress, and so she enlisted the support of American Cecily Braden who trained April in the art of gua sha. “Combining the techniques and theories I had gathered to date provided me with the missing pieces I had been searching for,” April reflects, “and I finally felt that I had elevated my treatment to the level I was happy with – and the one I deliver today.”

April Brodie is a master of the Buccal Facial

While she received extensive, internationally accredited training, April believes the few Australian facialists who perform the treatment do so with their own unique spin. “When I first started to master Buccal Facial Massage, I realised that it was much more than just a facial – it was a complete holistic experience. There is a deep connection formed when massaging inside someone’s mouth, and my clients get off the treatment bed feeling completely transformed. This is when I realised the innate power of touch that you can wield when you truly understand how the body works and connects.”

Experiencing April’s Buccal was like nothing else: not only did I look more awake and my complexion more even, but my jawline was noticeably more sculpted as though any excess weight I’d been carrying around under my chin had been removed along with any niggling anxieties – a result unsurprising to April. “Relaxed, lifted, and with a luminous complexion,” April concludes.

“There is a deep connection formed when massaging inside someone’s mouth, and my clients get off the treatment bed feeling completely transformed.”

— April Brodie
April Brodie’s tools of the trade

April is not alone in her ethos that a facial experience is more than a moment to treat the skin, but one to heal the mind, body and soul through the power of touch; to reflect an internal state of calm on the face. Kimberley Conboy, Educator and Skin Specialist at endota believes the range of benefits from undergoing massage treatments are “huge.”

“Mentally you experience relaxation, stress relief, emotional detox, and a boost of endorphins. Physically there is relaxation of the muscles, stimulated circulation, superficial lymphatic drainage, hydration and pain relief; a regular massage really does improve one’s mental and physical health!” Kimberley says. The endota franchise integrates massage into their facial offerings and lists a range of stand-alone massages across its treatment menu.

To ensure consistency across their sites, Kimberley explains that “each treatment is trained in theory, then practiced and observed by our education team to ensure brand standards and consistency. Each spa also appoints an in-spa trainer that continues to support and guide training in each spa location for continuous support and development.” Online resources on specific massage techniques are available to therapists to access at a time that suits them. “We commence training as soon as they are hired. Training is paramount to the therapist’s role, so it does require setting aside the time and cost to do so, but this ensures our clients are receiving the very best service.”

Exterior and interior photographs of Sydney’s Wonder

For boutique salon owner Adie Robertson, who founded Wonder in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, hiring highly trained physiotherapist Saila Insua Lopez meant clients were able to undergo the aesthetic and medical lymphatic drainage technique Saila specialised in. “[Saila] strongly advocates lymphatic drainage before and after any cosmetic and surgical procedures, as it will enhance the recovery process,” Adie vouches. “Lymphatic drainage encourages the natural flow of lymph which can become sluggish over time. It will help to oxygenate the tissues of the body, as well as activate the metabolism, assist with the elimination of toxins and waste, and boost the immune system.”

“Unfortunately due to a modern lifestyle plagued with inactivity and stress, as well as a diet of processed food rich in sugar and toxins, the residue is left in our gut contributing to problems like candida overgrowth that will show up in the skin, our largest organ as dermatitis, acne, melasma and psoriasis,” Adie says. “Encouraging the lymphatic system to flow effectively through manual drainage will expediate the elimination of metabolic waste and toxins through the elimination channels effectively reducing the flow of toxicity to the skin.”

On describing the muscle-skin connection, April compares the network of muscles to a fine chain that is knotted. “You have to work from the outside and slowly undo it. We hold a lot of tension from the neck up and this tension pulls down or contracts other facial muscle groups. Releasing tension and working up the body from the shoulders has a concertina effect, releasing pressure and creating space.” For Adie, massage done right can lift, plump, encourage production of collagen and elastin, smooth fine lines, as well as “feed the skin with greater product penetration.”

When I asked April where she stood on the perspective that massage should be incorporated into the training of all therapists, I was surprised by her response: “There is not a one-size-fits-all solution for aestheticians or their treatments; not everyone is passionate about massage! We have seen massive segmentation of the industry in respect to certain treatments and specialisations, and I believe we will continue to see this. There are incredible practitioners that are brow specialists, or are amazing at brazillians, or experts at laser, or even specialist nail artists. I believe this trend will continue. Some people feel that massage is outdated, but I personally believe the power of touch can be truly life changing.”

Life changing, and face changing, it seems.

This article originally appeared in the March-April 2022 issue of Professional Beauty.

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