Rejuvenating facial massage--a bane or boon?

Int J Dermatol. 2002 Jul;41(7):407-10. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-4362.2002.01511.x.


Background: Facial massage is an extremely popular form of beauty treatment and is thought to rejuvenate the skin. We decided to study the benefits and untoward effects of this form of facial beauty treatment.

Methods: One hundred and forty-two women (aged 17-63 years), who had received facial beauty treatment in three well-established beauty parlours in New Delhi, were entered into the study and observed for a period of 12 weeks after the facial beauty treatment. Twenty-seven of the subjects had a repeat facial beauty treatment 4-6 weeks after entry into the study, giving a total of 169 massage episodes observed. Immediate and delayed effects of the beauty treatment were examined.

Results: Facial beauty treatment generally consists of three steps: vigorous massaging of the face with creams, steaming (using a hot towel or a steaming gadget), and application of a face mask containing adsorbents and astringents. In our study, the creams used for massage included "off the shelf" creams manufactured by standard cosmetic companies in 95 (56.3%) subjects, herbal creams in 61 (36.1%), and creams containing exotic ingredients, such as gold salts, in 13 (7.7%). Sixty-one (36.1%) patients developed erythema and puffiness within 15 min to 2 h after the beauty treatment. This lasted for 2-6 h. Forty-one (24.3%) women underwent the procedure of comedone extraction after steaming. In 12 (7.1%) of these women, persistent erythema was noticed at the site of comedone extraction. Eight (4.7%) women developed mild dermatitis on the face, 2-7 days after the facial beauty treatment. Patch testing with constituents used in the facial beauty treatment was positive in four patients (herbal cream, 1; witch hazel, 1; orange face pack, 1; and gold cream, 1). In 47 (33.1%) subjects, an acneiform eruption was observed 3-10 weeks after the facial beauty treatment (mean, 6.1 +/- 3 weeks). Thirteen (27.7%) of these subjects had taken the facial beauty treatment for the first time, whereas 34 (72.3%) developed an acneiform eruption after every facial massage. The predominant lesions were deep-seated nodules, although a few comedones, especially closed ones, were present in some patients. Lesions were always present on the cheeks, an area of focus during the facial massage, and healed with hyperpigmentation. The benefits of facial beauty treatment, as mentioned by the subjects, included a feeling of freshness and rejuvenation in 84 (59.1%), keeping the skin supple in 76 (53.5%), feeling of warmth and tightening of the skin in 71 (50%), and delaying the onset of wrinkles in 21 (14.8%).

Conclusions: Although there are several subjective benefits with facial beauty treatment, there may be immediate side-effects, such as erythema and edema, as well as delayed problems, such as dermatitis and acneiform eruption, in about one-third of patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Beauty
  • Cosmetics / adverse effects*
  • Cosmetics / therapeutic use*
  • Face / pathology*
  • Face / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Massage / adverse effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Rejuvenation / physiology*
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Skin / pathology
  • Skin / physiopathology
  • Skin Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Skin Diseases / pathology*
  • Skin Diseases / physiopathology


  • Cosmetics