There are 43 muscles in the face. We use them to laugh, cry, chew, smile and talk. We clench them when we’re stressed, and we scrutinise them when we’re feeling puffy and tired. They carry the weight of our emotions. But unlike the other muscles in our body, we aren’t in the habit of training them, let alone maximising their recovery. And while our skincare vocabulary has expanded over the past few years as brands and beauty experts focus on educating audiences about ingredients, the health of our faces lies deeper than the surface.
Jessie Whittaker, founder of Sydney massage and wellness space The Calmm, put a face treatment on the menu to help her clients fully unwind. “Tension in the face can translate into tension in the neck, back and even hips,” she says.
Anyone can benefit from facial massage, but you’ll find particular relief if you clench your jaw or grind your teeth at night. “The muscles hold tension that can then lead to headaches and pain in the mouth and face,” Whittaker says.
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Techniques and tools
Whittaker suggests getting started with a simple lymphatic drainage routine. This can help reduce inflammation which leads to puffiness in the face. “First you need to open the ‘doors’ so that the fluid in the face can actually drain out and you’re not just pushing it to the edges. Gently pump the gland under your earlobe with your fingers for about 30 seconds at the speed of your heartbeat,” she says. Whittaker recommends applying a few drops of your face oil to help glide your hands as you sweep across the cheeks, under your eyes and to the outer edge of the face. “It’s all about repetition. You want to use the motion you normally would when you put moisturiser on. But instead of swiping your hands once or twice, do it ten to 15 times.”
Whittaker believes that hands are one of the most effective tools. “They’re always on you,” she says. “But a gua sha can help while you’re getting to know your anatomy.”
Usually made from stone, a gua sha can be used to sculpt along the jaw and cheekbone, and to help smooth across the eyebrow and forehead. They’re a fixture in traditional Chinese medicine, proponents of which believe a lot can be learned about your body from understanding its meridian connections. “Use the divet in the gua sha along the jaw. Or, focusing on one side at a time, pin your eyebrow down with your fingers, while using the gua sha to pull up and away over the forehead,” Whittaker says. Silicon face cups are another tool you can try. “You want to embrace a routine that encourages your body’s natural ability to cleanse, recover and restore,” Whittaker says.
11 face oils to try
Golden Haze Face Oil, Alpha H
Packed with nine Australian botanical oils (including jojoba and camellia seed), this lightweight formula leaves you with a delicate golden glow without feeling too sticky. It works to strengthen the skin barrier, lock in moisture and help with fine lines as you gently massage it into the skin.
Face Hero, Go-To
Offering bang for your buck at $45 a bottle, there’s a reason why this potent plant and nut-based oil heroes (wink) the skincare routine of so many. Powering away with a host of essential fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants, a few drops go a long way to deliver deep hydration and a radiant finish.
Conserve You Face Oil , Conserving Beauty
A nourishing blend of nine ingredients including antioxidants like blue tansy, bisabolol and vitamin E, this water-free formulation helps to soothe surface irritation and redness while maintaining a healthy skin barrier. Lightweight and fast-absorbing, it’ll leave your skin with a dewy glow without looking greasy.
Australian Blue Cyprus Face Nectar, Ere Perez
Dial up hydration with just a few drops of this everyday oil to relieve dry or stressed skin. Featuring naturally derived botanical ingredients like Australian blue cypress, camellia and cedarwood, this Aussie brand’s oil packs a punch. Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties are an added bonus.
Glow FACE Intensive Rejuvenating Oil, The Beauty Chef
Working to reduce the appearance of fine lines, firm skin, support a healthy skin barrier and deliver a smooth, supple complexion, this is a great all-rounder. Packed with bakuchiol, vitamins C and E, and over 20 plant extracts, use morning and evening to see best results.
Antioxidant+ Facial Oil, Grown Alchemist
This certified organic facial oil is gentle on the skin. Rosehip extract promises to replenish moisture, while a blend of natural oils packed with vitamin C and E, including rice bran and cranberry seed, claim to help fade spots and even your skin tone.
100% Plant-Derived Squalane, The Ordinary
Dry skin will thank this simple, no-fuss oil-like serum. Made from sugar cane-derived squalane, it’s fast-absorbing and delivers a serious dose of hydration. It’s also non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog pores, making it suitable for all skin types. For a blend of squalane and other nourishing ingredients, try the brand’s B Oil.
Restorative Face Oil, Ikkari
This Australian-made oil is formulated with natural plant oils (prickly pear, camellia seed and bakuchiol, among others) to help with fine lines and improve skin health. Massaging a few drops onto your face will help leave skin feeling supple, moisturised and radiant.
Rejuvenating Facial Oil, Habitual Beauty
Adore Beauty’s senior beauty editor Sadaf Razi says, “Few beauty brands have so quickly reached peak popularity”. And this Australian-made hero oil has something to do with it. A bit of a splurge (but worth it), it’s powered with hydrating ingredients like jojoba seed oil and squalane as well as bakuchiol, a natural alternative to retinol.
Australian Jojoba, The Jojoba Company
Popular for its deeply moisturising properties and budget-friendly price tag, this 100 per cent jojoba face and body oil is perfect for all types of skin including sensitive skin, and is even suitable for babies. Great to layer over moisturiser, it works to soothe dryness and leave you with a more youthful-looking complexion.
Cactus Face, By Oli Oli
This little indigo bottle is filled with 100 per cent cold-pressed prickly pear seed oil rich in essential fatty acids, omegas and minerals helping to firm, balance, brighten and hydrate the skin. Effortlessly absorbed, expect a glow without leaving an oily residue.
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