7 Facial Tension Massage Techniques Experts Recommend

It may be easy to pinpoint tight muscles after a workout or too many hours at your desk, but tension also has a way of building up in your face as you go about your day. In fact, if you pause and tune into how you feel right now, you might notice that your jaw hurts or there’s some tightness between your brows. If you’re nodding yes, a facial tension massage might be in order.

Facial tension can happen as you encounter emotional and physical stress, like when you’re anxious or super-focused, says Courtney Brown, PA-C, a board-certified physician associate with Rothaus Cosmetic Surgery and Haus MD. This can cause you to furrow your brow or hold your face in a way that makes your muscles tense or tired. “Other causes include bruxism or teeth grinding, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), and migraines, which all commonly stem from stress,” she tells Bustle.

Depending on the cause, your facial tension might feel like pressure, fullness, pain, or discomfort, says Julia Gialanella, an aesthetician at Modrn Sanctuary. “Pain can vary in degrees, too, from tension, tingling, and soreness to even dull throbbing and aches,” she tells Bustle. While it’s always a good idea to get to the root of the issue, giving yourself a face massage is an excellent (and easy) first step for relief.

By treating your face with a quick rub down, you can release knots caused by tension, bring oxygen and blood flow to the area, and reduce swelling by moving your lymph, Gialanella says. (Lymphatic drainage helps eliminate excessive the fluid that causes puffiness.) “Massaging the face can release pressure that you didn’t even know you had,” she adds. Try these techniques two to three times a week or daily if you need to loosen things up. Here’s how to get started.


Sinus Pressure Massage

A key tip when massaging your face? “Harder does not always mean better,” Gialanella says. “Lymphatic massage is actually very light and uses techniques that feel more like feathering or gentle sweeping movements.” So go easy.

– Start by washing your face.

– Apply a light oil with a lot of slip, like jojoba or grapeseed.

– Using the knuckles of your index fingers, press on each side of your nose right under your occipital bone.

– Use light pressure and swipe up under your eyes towards your temples.

– Continue 3 times at a slow pace.

– Next, take the same knuckles and find the soft spot under your cheekbones a few centimeters lower.

– Use a light amount of pressure and make the same sweeping motion up towards your ears.

– Repeat this motion 3 times as needed.


Forehead Massage

Gialanella also suggests massaging your forehead, an area where a lot of tension hangs out.

– Use your fingers or a gua sha tool to press at the base of your eyebrows between your eyes.

– Press lightly as you move your fingers or tool in a circular motion until tension releases.

– Repeat as necessary.


Lion’s Breath Face Yoga

Dr. Jennifer Levine, a double board-certified plastic surgeon, points to the face yoga technique called lion face or lion’s breath as an effective “massage” for releasing tension.

– Scrunch up your whole face.

– Release and open your mouth wide.

– Stick out your tongue.

– Let out a big sigh.

– Repeat one to two times per day.


Jawline Massage

Oksana Shenker, the lead aesthetician at Julien Farel Salon & Spa, suggests starting with a few neck stretches, since tight neck muscles can be a source of facial tension. Once you do that, try this jawline massage.

– Place your fingers on your chin.

– Begin to move them in small circles up along your jawline.

– Stop just below your ears.

– Gently press behind your ears.

– Lightly move your fingers down your neck.

– Open your fingers toward the collarbones as you go.

– Repeat 3 times daily.


Temple Massage

Always sweep towards the sides of your face to encourage lymphatic drainage, Brown says.

– Use your fingertips to gently knead your temples.

– Run your fingers out towards the lymph nodes.

– Move to your neck, sinuses, or other areas of tension.

– Continue to knead any tense areas.

– Perform this massage for 5 to 10 minutes.

– Repeat in the morning and in the evening.


TMJ Massage

Daniela Ranallo, a licensed esthetician at Jhouse Spa, recommends massaging the masseter muscles in your jaw for a few minutes before bed or during the day to help with TMJ-related pain.

– Prep your jaw by sliding your fingers from your chin all the way back to your ears.

– Repeat 5 times on each side.

– In a slow, clockwise motion, begin to massage your masseter muscle, which extends from your cheekbone to your jaw.

– Apply light to medium pressure.

– Repeat on both sides of your face.

– Rub gently until the pain lifts.


Full Face Massage

According to Joshua Ross, a celebrity aesthetician with SkinLab, this massage will help move lymphatic fluids in your face to relieve muscle tension.

– Apply a layer of oil to your skin.

– Place your fingers in the middle of your forehead.

– Push down gently and sweep from the middle of your forehead to your hairline.

– Repeat 3 times.

– Continue to work your way down your face.

– Gently drag your fingers or a massage tool from the inside to the outside of your face.

– Repeat 3 times on your forehead, mid-face, and lower face.

– When you reach your jaw, use your fingers to trace your jawline up to your ear.

– Tap three times behind your ear with firm pressure.

– Finish by sweeping your fingers down to your collarbone.

Studies referenced:

Castrillon, EE. (2018). Sleep Bruxism and Pain. Dent Clin North Am. doi: 10.1016/j.cden.2018.06.003.


Courtney Brown, PA-C, board-certified physician associate with Rothaus Cosmetic Surgery and the med spa Haus MD

Julia Gialanella, aesthetician at Modrn Sanctuary

Dr. Jennifer Levine, double board-certified plastic surgeon

Oksana Shenker, lead aesthetician at Julien Farel Salon & Spa

Joshua Ross, celebrity aesthetician with SkinLab

Daniela Ranallo, licensed esthetician at Jhouse Spa

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