I Tried Facial Reflexology—And It Was As Weird As It Sounds
When I initially looked into facial reflexology, I expected to find some kind of detoxifying facial massage that would somehow help boost the skin’s radiance—an expectation that proved to be pretty shallow. As it turns out, facial reflexology is comprehensive and treats far more than just the skin. Practitioners use tools, facial meridian points (like acupuncture), and a little pressure and movement to get insight into your health, energetic imbalances, and what systems need more support. It’s a full-body healing endeavor accessed through the skin, fascia, and points on your face. You can improve stress levels, hormonal health, joint pains, and more with facial reflexology. And of course, for anyone with skin concerns, bringing the body closer to balance will always improve its outward appearance.
Facial reflexology works will with other healing modalities.
I went to see mindbodygreen collective member Jessa Blades, natural beauty expert, makeup artist, and herbalist, for my very first facial reflexology treatment. Blades combines her facial reflexology sessions with Ayurvedic massage work, as she feels the two are complementary.
The first step was to take a test to determine my current Ayurvedic dosha constitution and send Blades the results. When I did it a few weeks ago, I was presenting with a pitta imbalance. I’m a pitta vata dosha type, and my pitta energy was particularly high. It's worth mentioning that I’m in the throes of my own personal health crisis. I’ve seen many specialists and no one knows for sure what’s going on, but my doctors suspect the root of it is autoimmune, so I’m doing everything I can to complement the Western medicine with holistic healing.
She started off with a heavenly massage on the hands, feet, arms, and head. “How oily can I get you,” she asked me before session. “ALL THE OILS!” I responded. Oil is an important part of Ayurvedic bodywork, as many practitioners believe it pulls toxins from the body, and yes, I'd like some of that please.
When she started the facial reflexology portion of our session, I understood why it’s important to complement it with another modality. Facial reflexology is strangely specific, and while relaxing it’s not quite massage and not always gentle or soothing. The Ayurvedic massage was centering and helped coerce the body into a parasympathetic state, where healing takes place. “These ancient techniques help rebalance the whole body,” Blades said. “They keep chi moving and get energy unstuck,” which presumably helps boost overall health and assuage ailments like mine.
Working on specific facial points improved my skin and sleep, big time.
Blades began with a diagnostic tool that felt like a little nub and ran it over the contours of my face, a phase that lasted no more than a few minutes. This part was interactive: She asked me to speak up if there were areas of the skin or muscles underneath that felt “spicy” or tense as the tool touched them. For the record, nothing hurt, and I wondered whether I was “doing it right.” The most tender spots were around my nose and on my forehead.
“Since you’re going through a slew of Western medicine conventions, I wanted to complement that and not disrupt it,” Blades said. She decided to focus on a few different reflexology points for me: insomnia (which is a side effect of one of the medications I’m taking) on the forehead, ear, and chin, the immune system, and the mind at the center of the forehead. “Trying to quiet an active mind is difficult, but my goal with this session was to bring you back into your body so healing could occur,” Blades said. Which is no easy feat, by the way—anyone who has gone through a healing journey knows that sometimes it’s easier to leave your body than to stay with it. I've found that the best healers will help you create a safe and comfortable container in which to heal.
The reflexology itself felt strange. Strangely good.
After the diagnostic, she pulled instruments from her toolbox (some are pictured above) and started to work with the points. The tools are reminiscent of a cross between what you'd see on the tray at the dentist’s office and zen gardens from the 2000s—there are small rake-like apparatuses, double-ended facial rollers, wands, and probe-like sticks. Blades kept her movements gentle and relaxing, and the sensations were unexpected but in a welcome way. It kept me guessing as to what would happen next. Some of the “tougher” points felt like a very mild version of trigger-point release or foam rolling on the face. After a long skin savasana, I felt completely rejuvenated. Blades told me to drink lots of water and to keep an eye on my sleep.
That night, I had a horrible night’s sleep—worse than I had in weeks. Maybe it was the unseasonably warm temperatures or maybe it was the reflexology working its magic. After a few nights of relentless tossing and turning, I was about to give Blades a call and ask what was going on. But then I had the first consistent glorious sleep I’d had in ages. I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night, and when I did rise in the morning I felt ready to go. I can’t remember the last time I woke up and didn’t want to just stay in bed! It's been years. Feeling recharged felt completely foreign, and Blades had unlocked it with her reflexology magic.
The following days, my skin started to turn a corner, too. My face is a little puffy and that didn’t go away (it’s a side effect of the medication I’m taking), but everything looked uplifted and healthier. Three different people commented on the brightness of my eyes about a week after the treatment, saying they looked clearer and bluer than they had before—a hallmark of health and healing.
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