You know those hangovers that make you wish alcohol had never been invented? There I was, stinking of high hell and well vodka, laying prostrate in my hotel bed, with a pounding in my head so percussive it could’ve been a part of Beyoncé’s drumline. Despite generally knowing better, I had stayed up late the night before drinking dirty martinis on an empty stomach. With the blackout curtains still drawn, I fumbled my way to the bathroom, and my hand meandered across the countertop, searching desperately for relief. Alas, Fate played her final cruel joke on me, daintily placing a cherry on top of the mountainous nightmare unfolding before me: I forgot to pack my facial massager.
I know what you’re thinking: This all sounds a little dramatic. (Have we met?) Maybe to you, the uninitiated, facial massagers probably seem like a whole bunch of superfluous hocus pocus, skincare fake news, an expensive accessory for Instagram. But please, listen to me when I say: Facial massagers are wonderful.
Don’t believe me? Consider the advice of Joe Holder, GQ’s fitness and wellness columnist, who was first given a face roller by a girlfriend. “Honestly, it’s a bit of a ritual that helps me calm down, especially when I’m spread thin,” he says of the beauty tool. “It’s a light stress reliever that I use when I don’t get much sleep or am under general stress.”
Facial massagers have been used for years to stimulate the skin—more specifically, to aid a process known as “lymphatic drainage.” Without getting too complicated, the lymphatic system is a part of the immune system that protects against infection and disease, and includes multiple lymph nodes and channels. Many facialists believe that a specific kind of massage can help activate or accelerate your system, which would thereby help with overall health and immunity. It’s also believed to relieve the body of puffiness, since it promotes internal functions.
The medical facts here are, unfortunately, relatively Goopy. If it is possible to achieve lymphatic drainage through facial massage, it is almost certainly not going to happen by dragging a massage tool over your face. “For true lymphatic drainage, there’s a very specific technique that you have to do,” concedes the aesthetician Renée Rouleau. “The average jade roller isn’t really going to accomplish that.”
But that doesn’t mean facial massagers aren’t effective—it just means they’re not the medical marvels they’re often marketed as. Instead, the immediate benefits of using a facial massager can really be derived from good old fashioned friction: stimulating your face and your skin, thus boosting circulation, which in turn will help deliver blood-flow (and, thus, color) to the areas that may appear sallow, tired, or overly puffy. This level of stimulation is likely not something you’re going to get from your average facial routine, but it does echo the kind of rigorous, quick massage you’ll get if you book a proper facial. Getting healthy-looking, glowing skin doesn’t just come from applying layers upon layers of products—it also comes from waking up the muscles in your face.
When you combine a good old fashioned massage with the fact that most facial massagers are made of materials that are cold to the touch—steel, jade, rose quartz—you’ve got a winning combination for better circulation, an overall perkier-looking face, and significantly less puffiness around the under-eyes, neck, and jawline. (For added relief, Holder keeps his overnight in the freezer.)
“My face is a marshmallow in the morning, especially under my eyes,” says the actor Johnny Sibilly. This became more of a problem for him when he moved to Los Angeles and started booking auditions—the early call times meant he was arriving to read lines before his “face had settled.” Now, he keeps his Herbivore Jade Face Roller ($30) in his glove compartment, and rolls away during his commute. “ It really feels like magic,” he said.
Sibilly posted his routine on Instagram as a break from his (very popular) comedy videos, but it was received just as well. “My DMs were poppin’ with people asking questions about it,” he says. His followers started snapping their own Boomerangs and selfies with their own rollers, tagging him and thanking him for the wisdom.
Celebrity makeup artist Hung Vanngo discovered the gold standard of massagers—the ReFa Carat Face ($220)—while browsing online. Eventually, he started incorporating it into his makeup application process for his celebrity clientele, which includes everyone from Gisele Bündchen to Emily Ratajkowski. “It’s great first thing in the morning, right after a flight, or when you eat too much salty food or drink too much the night before,” he says.
Vanngo first preps the skin with a few drops of an oil-based facial serum, which “helps the device to glide better” and hopefully will “help penetrate the product deeper into the skin.” He guides it in vertical motions up and down the neck and along the temples vigorously, then glides it along the jawline back and forth before applying it in outward motions along the cheekbones and the brows. (For more details on how to get the most of your massage, he says, the manufacturers generally release their own videos.) “Now, if I skip this step before makeup, my clients will actually ask for it,” he says.
Many men are wont to scoff at the idea of a facial massager, but Vanngo insists it’s not as unorthodox as one might think: “You go to the gym to have a fit and healthy body, don’t you? He asks. “Using this device is just like that—a workout for your face.”
Originally Appeared on GQ