Old-school facials focus on deep cleaning the pores and preventing wrinkles, or erasing the ones you already have. But there’s a new kind of facial in town that aims to plump and tone the skin, while simultaneously relieving stress.
“It’s kind of like when all the endorphins are flowing after a great workout,” says Rachel Lang, founder of the facial-massage studio FaceLove. “You just radiate joy.”
Hoping to both chill out and tighten up, I tried several of these new self-care splurges, which mainly forego masochistic extractions for smoothing techniques such as massage and acupuncture. Bottom line? I’m probably not going back for a basic facial anytime soon.
If you want sculpting and skin care
Lizzie Hanes went to Paris last summer to train in the trendy inside-the-mouth massage called “buccal,” which is a medical term for cheek. Hanes pronounces it “boo-call.”
“The overall mission is to smooth out your fine lines and lift your face instantly, sort of a nonsurgical face-lift,” says the Brooklyn-based aesthetician.
Hanes starts with steaming, extractions and an outer facial massage before going into your mouth. When she does, she frequently wipes off her fingers (lubricated with jojoba oil) so you’re not coated in saliva during the 20 or so minutes she’s in there. Afterward, she deep cleans your face with a hot towel and finishes with a nourishing mask.
I went when I was recovering from a cold and had serious sinus pressure. When Hanes massaged the inside of my upper cheeks, it felt as if she were breaking up the congestion with her fingers. There were other noticeable results: The lines around my mouth were less defined, and my slightly lumpy chin was smoother. “You’re getting to the muscle from the other side you don’t normally tone,” Hanes says. “It makes sense that it works.”
$250 for an hourlong facial with Hanes, Carrie Lindsey Beauty, 674 Fulton St., Brooklyn; CarrieLindseyBeauty.com
If you want to feel as if you’ve been on vacation
FaceLove may be on 20th Street, but it feels like a resort, with low lighting, fluffy rugs and warming cups of tea. Lang led me to a low-slung chair and placed a weighted faux fur blanket over my body. Standing behind me, she massaged my face.
Lang says her “high touch” is transformative, and she wasn’t kidding. As she carefully kneaded my neck, scalp and face, I instantly relaxed. I couldn’t help but giggle when she massaged my ears, or when she led me through guided exercises. At one point, she squeezed my cheeks in and asked me to push them out in an exaggerated smile. Harder than you think!
She also had me work on my “face posture,” pulling my arms back as I leaned forward, to open up my shoulder area. “When you’re hunched over, it’s putting pressure on your face muscles, which can affect how you look,” she says.
Instead of leaving with fancy skin care products on my face — this facial doesn’t use any — I left with a smile. And a ridiculously smooth forehead.
30 minutes for $55 or 45 minutes for $75, in the back of Stretch*d studio, 27 W. 20th St.; LoveFaceLove.com
If you want a whole-body buzz
Don’t let the needles scare you: The disposable ones acupuncturists use are as thin as a human hair. And while acupuncture is most often used to relieve pain, it’s also being used for facial rejuvenation, says WTHN’s Shari Auth, who has a Ph.D. in Eastern medicine.
“Acupuncture is going to stimulate circulation, so that’s going to boost collagen and elastin,” she says. “Collagen plumps the face to reduce wrinkles and elastin firms the skin. It’s also going to relax the musculature of the face muscles that cause the wrinkles.”
WTHN’s Glow treatment targets the face, though Auth placed a few other needles on my body as well as I lay on a heated table (an amazing bonus!). Noise-canceling headphones played soothing binaural beats that helped me relax even more. I also had the ultimate add-on: a dome, placed over my head, studded with LED lights that Auth says increase cellular regeneration.
Treatments are customized to each client’s need, whether it’s smoothing out forehead wrinkles or nasolabial folds. Auth says the most common problem is the crow’s feet that come from tightening your eye muscles while peering into a screen. “As much as we can release that muscle, the better,” she says. “It’s the one that gives us headaches and makes us feel more congested.”
After 45 minutes, I emerged, filled with energy, as if I’d just had an awesome night’s sleep. I also looked well-rested.
$65 for the initial 45-minute session, $85 per session thereafter at WTHN, 20 W. 22nd St., WTHN.com
If you want a speedy, high-tech fix
At FaceGym, facials are called workouts. “It’s more fast-paced [and] you get that immediate kind of ‘pump’ [result] like you would at the gym,” says Erin Esparza, a FaceGym aesthetician, a k a “trainer.”
The vibe is more boutique workout studio than spa: Top 40 pop hits blast as trainers in red-and-black tracksuits do a “warmup” to prep the skin and face muscles before going into the “cardio” phase — moving their fingers rapidly over your skin. Next comes “sculpting”: a skin-toning massage from the trainer. Then, there’s an optional 10 minutes of microcurrent — a low-level electric current moved over skin to stimulate muscles, which gave me more defined cheekbones pretty much right away.
My favorite part was the “cool-down,” where Esparza worked a cold jade stone along my cheeks and under my eyes. “It’s really good for penetrating the product,” she says of the serum she chooses based on the client’s skin. “And it de-puffs and gives you a really awake look.”
“Signature” workout, $70 for 30 minutes ($95 with microcurrent); Saks, 2nd floor, 611 Fifth Ave.; FaceGym.com
By Catherine Kast