There is no limit to the number—or extremity—of things we’ll do to our faces in the name of anti-aging, so when compared with the rest of them, facial massaging is extraordinarily tame. Silly, yes—but tame. Kate Moss employs a technique that is executed from inside the mouth, at the hands of London-based celebrity facialist Nichola Joss; Sienna Miller prefers an “intense facial massage” experience that involves freezing ice masks “that make you feel as if your brain is going to fall out of the top of your head.” Delightful.
Facial massage devotees swear that it boosts circulation and encourages lymphatic drainage for brighter, tighter, younger-looking skin—a natural facelift, if you will. But in the real, non-celebrity world, a standing appointment with a pricy, massage-trained facialist isn’t always in the cards, nor is the time, patience, or knack for following instructions required for giving yourself a thorough DIY version (as in, rubbing your own face with your own hands for twenty minutes at a time).
This is where the handheld facial massager comes in. The selling point is rather appealing: You can forget about expensive facials or having to figure out exactly where to place your fingertips on the part of your jaw where your lymph nodes are to get maximum drainage of, like, whatever’s under your skin. Just roll this somewhat sinister-looking, nodular thing over your face and hope for the best! They’re available at all different price points—$4 for this new one from e.l.f., $8 for The Body Shop’s bamboo-handled take, $38 for the Sarah Chapman Skinesis Facialift (the most frightening of them all), $90 for this very pretty jade one by Ling, and a cool $195 for this beautiful gold-plated dildo. (Disclaimer: Not actually a dildo.)
The good news is that with the addition of these types of tools to the market, you, too, can now get a facial massage from the comfort of your desk, where you’ve been stagnating for the past nine hours. But should we all be rushing to get our hands on them in the pursuit of smoother, clearer, younger-looking skin? Maaaybe not so much. “There really isn’t much solid data to indicate that facial massagers offer any significant benefits to the skin,” says Dr. Julia Tzu, the founder and Medical Director of Wall Street Dermatology. “Massaging the face in general may help stimulate circulation, [especially] in the morning, to help speed up the the resolution of the ‘puffy’ look that some people get when they wake up.” Still, Dr. Tzu notes, “This is often already performed when one washes the face.”
The placebo effect, however, is alive and well, which is to say that facial-massaging tools feel great and are therefore not purely B.S. If you believe in them, and want to see a difference, your brain might just be kind enough to trick you into thinking you do. But if you really want visible anti-aging results, you’re probably not going to get them by rolling some plastic (or jade) over your face twice a day. Or by tapping the inside of your mouth, for that matter.