The Power of Touch

The Best Facial Massage Techniques for Your Clients


Let’s face it – clients come in for better-looking skin. But what keeps them coming back is that blissed-out feeling that comes from a stellar facial massage. Many estheticians say it’s the most important part of a facial. “It is because it’s truly where the magic happens,” says Emily Davis, President of Education at Color Up Wellness Center and owner of Stratum Aesthetics located in Denver, Colorado. Aside from pure relaxation, a facial massage helps depuff skin, detoxify, increase oxygen flow, stimulate collagen production and more. Let’s take a look at five facial massage techniques that should be a part of any esthetician’s toolbox.


Effleurage is a French word meaning “to touch lightly on” and can be used in most facials. At Color Up Wellness Center, it’s performed in all of their facials, but more specifically incorporated into the Mile High Hemp Infusion Facial (60-minutes, $90).

Aside from pure relaxation, a facial massage helps depuff the skin, detoxify, increase oxygen flow, stimulate collagen production and more.”

“Proper effleurage technique is an essential step in every facial,” explains Davis. “It employs fluid and long, flowing strokes with the palm of the hands. It can be performed either quickly or slowly. When performed quickly with a medium to firm pressure, it engages the connective tissue to bring hydration and break up sticky tight fascia below the surface which can manifest as fine lines and wrinkles,” explains Davis.

This technique helps stimulate circulation, enhance blood flow, and bring vital nutrients to the skin “A slower, more syrupy flow with effleurage is a lovely way to engage the parasympathetic nervous system to calm the mind and ease the nerves. I love to start the beginning of my facial with flowing massage manipulations up the face and pressure on the forehead while leading quick, guided breathwork. It is really simple and elevates the treatment,” she adds.


Gua Sha, sometimes called “coining,” “spooning” or “scraping,” is an ancient Chinese healing technique using gentle short and long strokes to “scrape” the skin with a tool, such as a smooth rose quartz or jade.

“We use our rose quartz massage tool to stimulate the circulation of tissue to increase blood flow. This circulation reduces inflammation and brings oxygen to the skin’s surface, encouraging collagen production to sculpt and tone, giving the skin a natural facelift. The rose quartz stones carry heart healing energy, blocking negativity and promoting self-love. These stones, full of positive energy, revitalize the skin,” says esthetician Gina Montanez from Spa Edgewood in Stateline, Nevada.

Montanez uses this technique in her 80-minute facials, including the Rejuvenating Oxygen Ritual ($295). “Our signature gemstone trio – rose quartz, clear quartz and amethyst gemstones – is applied to restore and awaken the skin’s own natural ability to heal, regenerate, firm and lift the face. Together with expert application techniques, these therapies result in undeniable lifting and toning,” she says.

Her colleagues call her the “facial whisperer,” while clients have said that “her fingers move like a ballerina.” Montanez says “I feel like an artist. I’m painting a Picasso, and everyone is a beautiful work of art”. To learn this technique, Spa Edgewood teamed with Cindy Keske, owner of Rock On Minerals and Design, who specializes in gemstone therapy.


This Swedish massage technique uses an invigorating rhythmic percussion executed with either the edge of the hand, a cupped hand, or fingertips. It’s broken down into five categories: hacking, tapping, pinching or plucking, slapping and vibration, and can be used for any client except those with redness, swelling, pus, disease, bruises and/or broken scraped skin.

ONE Spa and Sea Wellness Spa & Salon in Santa Monica, California uses this technique in many facials, but it’s more prominent in Omorovicza’s Gold Resurfacing facial (60-minutes, $210, 90-minutes, $300), which uses Hungarian moor mud to detoxify, a copper lactic-acid peel to boost collagen, a gold serum to add healing and repairing benefits and a unique plumping massage to help re-surface fine lines and wrinkles.

For clients who want firmer skin, this is the method for them. “In conjunction with other techniques, tapotement helps to tone flabby muscles and activate fatty deposits. It also generates tiny muscle contractions by stimulating the nerve endings. This, in turn, improves muscle tone,” says Rachel Stacy, Director of Spa Operations.

“It also has a hyperemic effect by warming up and softening the tissues by increasing local blood circulation. The skin appears flushed and is warm to touch. Clients do not fall asleep during this technique because it is very invigorating,” adds lead esthetician Dijana Marjanovic.


Petrissage is derived from the French word petris, which means to mash or knead. This popular technique involves lifting, squeezing and releasing the tissue. “In doing so, metabolic waste is manually drained out of the tissue, like squeezing water out of a sponge,” says Director of Aesthetics Audrey Matney from Beauty Fix Medspa in New York, New York.

The main benefit of petrissage is that it drives fresh oxygen-rich blood into the muscles, which helps to improve muscle tone and increase circulation and cellular nutrition, resulting in healthier skin. Matney says the skin is first cleansed using both petrissage and friction techniques. “Friction is a warming stroke that is used on specific areas that need deeper work, which is why we utilize it during the cleansing process. It helps us evaluate the needs of the patient’s skin, while petrissage helps increase blood and lymphatic flow to the area being worked on.”

Petrissage is followed by light effleurage with slow flowing and relaxing movements to further eliminate any waste and promote circulation. “The combination of these techniques assist in the elimination of trapped toxins and improve blood flow through stagnant lymph, bringing oxygenation to the skin,” she adds.


Vida Organic Wellness in Seal Beach, California incorporates a unique lymphatic drainage technique that was developed using the Brazilian method background in most of their facials, including the Organic Customized Facial (60-minutes, $120), as well as their microdermabrasion, microcurrent, oxygen, and hydro facials.

“It activates the dormant lymph nodes located all over our bodies and then manually, sometimes with the assistance of tools, moves unwanted toxins, oil build-up, excess water retention, and inflammation towards these nodes to be filtered out and released from the body. The release process is a very important part, so drinking plenty of fluids and the correct herbal loose leaf teas will help the body to optimally cleanse itself,” says owner and CEO Julia Sackis.

Vida has its own version of the technique which incorporates very specific movements in a particular order to work effectively. “With the ultimate goal of moving those unwanted build ups and retention away from healthy cells, it’s a very relaxing form of body work and it works more superficially (above the muscle) targeting the lymphatic fluids,” she adds.

This method also helps the body to fight off infections, reduce fatigue, inflammation, swelling, and stress, and even helps with post-workout recovery and post-surgical care. “During the activation process of the lymph nodes, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated sending you into deep relaxation. This will help treat depression, anxiety, stress and has many other mental health benefits.”