Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know about Tuning-Fork Facials
It’s much more than music class for your face.
Like me, I assume you often feel bombarded by all of the “new” anti-aging beauty treatments that pop up almost daily. Even as a beauty editor, I worry that I’m not keeping up enough! So, when I was assigned a piece about tuning forks, I thought to myself, “What the…” before diving into the topic.
Oddly, it’s more of a word-of-mouth phenomenon—Madonna is rumored to love “fork” facials as well—with only a handful of international practitioners from the United Kingdom and Australia. Luckily, I came across New York–based facial acupuncture educator, author, and practitioner at Chi-Akra Center for Ageless Aging, Mary Elizabeth Wakefield, who created her Facial Soundscapes: Harmonic Renewal treatment roughly 15 years ago.“The use of acu-muscle treatment points, combined with planetary resonance, is wonderfully effective in treating facial lines and sagging tendencies,” she explained to me via email. “This tuning-fork facial is non-invasive, non-toxic, and restores the natural harmony of the facial muscles.”
Already intrigued, I tapped Wakefield along with a few more skin-care experts to give me the scoop on what is panning out to be one of 2019’s hottest skin-care treatments. Keep scrolling to learn more.
What Is It?
By definition, a tuning fork is “a two-pronged steel device used by musicians, which vibrates when struck to give a note of specific pitch.” But beyond elementary school music class, tuning forks have grown in popularity as a “wellness tool used to promote relaxation and bring your nervous system, muscles, and organs into harmony,” according to dermatologist and founder of Marmur Metamorphosis Skincare, Dr. Ellen Marmur.
“This vibrational sound therapy is a needle-free treatment that effectively rejuvenates the face, mind, body, and spirit. You definitely will want to seek a professional to perform this treatment at first. They will know the best way to give you the results that you want,” she explains.
What Does It Do?
New York–based aesthetician Britta Plug of Studio Britta is also a believer in the method. She learned about tuning-fork facials after taking one of Eileen Day McKusick’s foundational classes. Once Plug started using the tuning forks in her popular facials, she observed how dramatically it increased lymphatic flow while helping to ease muscle tension. As she says, “The vibration can relax tense muscles, increase lymphatic drainage, and encourage the client to enter a state of deep relaxation.”
What’s the Deal with the Sound?
It’s no secret that sound healing is thousands of years old, but its growing popularity might be due to our dependency on technology. “We inhabit a world which is increasingly discordant, in which we are constantly bombarded with deleterious noise,” adds Wakefield. “The use of healing sound allows patients to experience a modality which is intrinsic to our nature as human beings. The vibrations are transmitted readily throughout the body and have the capacity to impact our cellular structure at the DNA level.”
According to facial acupuncture and gua sha expert Samantha Story, learning to use tuning forks can be as complex as learning an instrument. “Tuners work to stimulate circulation, function in skin and hair, and relaxing muscles,” she explains. “There are also non-weighted tuning forks that work more with etheric energy. Each chakra corresponds to a different note. Different frequencies affect different aspects of the body.”
Can It Replace Botox?
Dr. Marmur quickly shuts down this claim, stating, “Tuning-fork facials are an acoustic and vibrational relaxation method, compared to FDA-approved neuromodulators, which attach to receptors in the neuromuscular junction.” She adds that most tuning-fork facial clients have to undergo at least 12 sessions in order to see lasting results, versus more immediate changes via injectables.
Wakefield emphasizes that tuning-fork facials have “nothing in common with Botox, which paralyzes facial muscles. The use of resonance on acu-muscle points enlivens and lifts the muscles,” explains Wakefield. “Over a series of treatments, the muscles are re-tuned so that they may return to their optimum level of functioning naturally. It is a holistic alternative to cosmetic surgery procedures.”
Where Does It Work?
Story recommends starting with one fork to “activate” a few points or chakras. “Too much vibration on the head can be overly stimulating, so for home use, just activate a few points and always making sure you feel grounded,” she warns. “Tuning forks are excellent at calming the nervous system. We heal in a state of relaxation, hence the phrase ‘beauty sleep.’ I like to use them at the beginning and end of facial sessions, in the beginning to set the nervous system up for success, and at the end to activate points and drain lymph.”
Dr. Marmur suggests targeting areas like the chin, jowls, and “anywhere the patient has wrinkles.” According to her, the forks help to relax or tighten the muscles as needed. “This is temporary, but for people who carry tension in their jaw and face, it can be like physical therapy to relieve and retrain their muscles,” she adds. However, she does stress that this should not be confused with a medical-grade treatment. “[Think of] using sound as more like a lovely facial massage.”
Wherever you land on the topic, different forms of healing are experiencing a real resurgence. “Maybe because, as our technological world disconnects us from our bodies, we crave a deeper connection to ourselves to balance it,” ponders Story. “I think it’s great that people are exploring different healing modalities.”
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