Say hello to buccal massage, the “inside-out facial.”
It was episode three of Netflix’s Bling Empire when Anna Shay hosted a spa day at her Sunset Boulevard mansion for a few of her closest friends. When they arrived, Shay was perched upon a massage table, the hands of an aesthetician inside her mouth, her cheeks and lips being stretched in various directions. What Shay was enjoying was a buccal massage—reportedly Meghan Markle’s favorite type of facial—and a contouring method proving particularly beneficial, especially during stressful times like these.
To find out more about the “the inside-out face massage,” we tapped facial massage expert and author Joomee Song, and board-certified dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian, to break down everything about the unconventional mouth massage—from how it should be done to its benefits internally, and when you know it’s time for you to try one out for yourself.
How It Works
“More and more people are realizing that having stiff muscles in your face can cause unhealthy blood flow and poor lymphatic circulation,” says Song. “This means our tissues do not receive enough nutrients and oxygen, thus resulting in inadequate detoxification in our system.” The result of that is often a dull complexion, puffiness, and drooping of the cheeks due to the weight of water retention. That’s where a buccal massage comes in.
“The buccal massage is one of the facial massage techniques that specifically targets the drooping of the jowls (the lower region of the chin), a universally known problem area,” Song says. She explains that while many try to tighten the area through topical means, like face creams and oils, it’s often ineffective. “It gets to the point that there are only a couple of methods that will actually meet your expectations,” she says. “One is through a medical procedure [like facial fillers], and the other option is through a buccal massage. Which one would you rather try first?”
A buccal massage looks a lot like a traditional lymphatic massage of the face, except it takes place inside the mouth, of course.
1. After an aesthetician thoroughly cleanses and protects their hands (usually with medical-grade gloves), they’ll proceed to administer pressure starting from the crease of the nose, moving downwards to the chin.
2. They’ll then target the muscles that surround the mouth, the orbicularis oris, lightly tugging and massaging the lips.
3. Then they massage from the inside of the cheeks with a combination of the thumbs and index fingers, pulling the skin up and down and massaging in a circular motion.
4. From start to finish, a buccal massage generally takes around 30 minutes.
“Lymphatic massages and even just deep pressure along the inner skin can temporarily decrease puffiness and enhance the natural curvatures and bone structure of the face,” Nazarian says. “The practice of a massage in that region can improve blood circulation and can also stimulate repair pathways in the skin and promote younger-looking tissue.”
She says that by removing excess fluid that settles in the soft tissue, the natural bone structure of the face is highlighted, including the cheekbones. Song agrees, explaining that having optimal function of our facial muscles will bring more supple, chiseled, brighter, tighter skin with less redness. As a result, the facial features are more defined because the skin is receiving enough nutrients and oxygen, thus more optimal detoxification of the system (and less puffiness overall).
Who It’s For
“If you’ve engaged in a lot of late nights, alcohol or sugar intake, or have been ingesting a diet high in sodium, you may feel your skin is appearing inflamed and puffy or swollen,” Nazarian says. “A buccal massage can improve circulation, decrease the puffiness, and stimulate repair of tissue.” And if you’re like the rest of us—stressed out as ever and holding a lot of tension in the face and jaw—or if you wake up with jaw pain and headaches, you might be able to benefit from a buccal massage as it can decrease tightness and tension in your face and relieve some of these symptoms. It’s also a great option if you simply desire an overall renewed look. “Anytime you feel that your complexion is dull, your face seems puffy, or you want to try a more natural approach to tighten and rejuvenate your skin, a buccal massage is a great option,” Song says.
And finally, while a buccal massage may seem like something you can easily do at home, it certainly comes with a risk if not performed correctly. Song says that irritation, inflammation, or even an infection can be easily caused in the mouth, so she doesn’t often encourage people to do it themselves. If you just can’t resist trying it out, be extremely gentle and quick. “Remember, too much stimulation can cause adverse effects,” she says.
Placement can also make transforming the massage into a DIY treatment quite difficult. “The correct angles and pressure points are best accessed by an experienced facialist or masseuse,” Nazarian says. “The best at-home version would be doing a technique called gua sha, which also helps improve circulation using a smooth tool.” However, she adds that this would be accessing lymphatic circulation from external pressure, not internal, like with a buccal treatment. In other words, when it comes to facial massage, it might be best to leave the inside of your mouth to the pros.
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