The Science of a Relaxing Facial

Learn the science behind a relaxing facial, including pressure points, aromatics, my go-to products, and more.

It’s not uncommon as I’m wrapping up a facial for a blissed-out client, to hear the question, “Why are facials so relaxing?” It’s really no mystery. In fact, there’s a science to it. I’ve learned through experience and research that a relaxing facial requires understanding the body as an interconnected system, and putting that information to work with my hands — and the power of plants. Below, I’m sharing four ways I turn that knowledge into action, along with a few of my favorite botanical oils and creams that can help you take a facial to the next level of bliss whether you’re working with clients or treating yourself to a facial at home.

1. Vagus nerve

What it is: The vagus nerve connects the brainstem to the body, acting as a link between the brain and the heart, lungs, and other organs. It’s part of the autonomic nervous system, which regulates the automatic processes we don’t have to think about, like breathing, digestion, and heart rate. Specifically, it’s part of the parasympathetic side of the autonomic nervous system, helping to decrease blood pressure and heart rate, bringing the body out of tension and into a calm, relaxed state.

Why it’s important for a relaxing facial: “Vagus” means “wandering” in Latin,” because this long nerve meanders from the brain through the neck, into the chest and abdomen.

My facials include a neck and shoulder massage that stimulates the vagus nerve, prompting the parasympathetic nervous system to lower blood pressure and deepen the breath, initiating a cycle of further relaxation. My favorite blend for this part of the facial is Stony Creek Aromatics Mind-Body Massage Oil, which I created especially for this purpose. The blend contains calm-promoting lavender, mood-lifting sweet orange, rose otto to regulate cortisol, sandalwood to slow the stress response, and patchouli to help clear a cloudy mind. It’s applied to the neck and shoulders, and it’s key to my recipe for a relaxing facial.

Many thanks to Elaine Economou at MOVE Wellness, for pointing out how valuable the vagus nerve is to a relaxing facial.

2. Pressure points

What they are: Pressure points are specific areas on your body that connect with larger systems, or energy channels, throughout the body. These were developed by the longstanding system of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and are built on the same foundational knowledge as acupuncture: the idea that a blocked channel can create pain or discomfort. Stimulating these points on the body stimulates the larger internal system, directing the body’s innate healing forces to where they are needed.

Why it’s important for a relaxing facial: Pressure points are found throughout the body, but those on the face — especially those along the center of the face — are believed by proponents of acupressure and acupuncture to:

  • restore focus
  • promote calm
  • reduce anxiety
  • improve sleep

I like to enhance the relaxing effects of pressure points near the eyes — there’s one between the eyebrows and another at each of the temples — with Eminence Organics’ Lavender Eye Cream. This is an age-corrective cream formulated with leading-edge botanical science. Soothing and calming lavender is its star ingredient. It replenishes moisture as we work with pressure points, and relieves minor skin irritations. Both lavender and evening primrose bring aromatic benefits (more on that below), while Eminence’s unique anti-aging stem cell complex rejuvenates skin and leaves my clients’ skin radiant.

3. Energy meridians

What they are: The pressure points mentioned above lie along energy meridians, channels through which Qi (life energy) flows. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, these meridians link external points on the face, hands, and feet to internal organs — heart, lungs, bladder, intestines, kidneys, stomach, liver, and spleen — meaning a facial massage can stimulate and help balance the body’s internal systems. In Western medicine, energy meridians might be explained as the workings of the peripheral and central nervous systems, but these are really two completely different approaches to thinking about the body and its systems.

Why it’s important for a relaxing facial: Like acupoints, we can use knowledge of the meridians along the face to promote balance in the body as a whole. I love to use Eminence Organics’ Lavender Concentrate when I’m working with facial meridians. Like the eye cream above, this age-corrective formula is based on the latest research in plant-based skin care. It moisturizes and soothes as we move stagnant lymph fluid and blood, removing toxins and increasing circulation. This has benefits for the skin itself, and is another way a relaxing facial supports relaxation and balance throughout the body.  

4. Aromatics

What they are: Aromatics are highly scented plant extracts, typically sourced from fragrant herbs. You might be familiar with the term “aromatics” from its use in the kitchen. These plants are used in aromatherapy too, typically in the form of essential oils. The same volatile oils that hold the plant’s scent often possess constituents that benefit our skin and can even impact mood. 

Why it’s important for a relaxing facial: Different plant constituents have different effects, but my focus during a facial is typically on utilizing aromatics to relieve stress and reset the brain and body equilibrium. Lavandula angustifolia (common lavender) has a soothing and toning effect on the nerves largely due to its high linalool content. Research suggests the scent alone can alleviate tension and stress, and support healthy sleep. All of the products mentioned above — Stony Creek Aromatics Mind-Body Massage Oil, Lavender Eye Cream, Lavender Concentrate — employ the benefits of lavender as an aromatic in a relaxing facial. 

Perfect Pairing

Lavender Eye Cream + Lavender Concentrate: If you love lavender, you’ll love this collection, containing an eye cream and serum. Experience the relaxing power of lavender, with the added benefit of age-corrective skin care. Both products are from Eminence Organics, a skin care line that combines the best of nature and science for pure, plant-based products that get results. As part of your evening ritual, after cleansing, apply a lentil size amount of the Lavender Age Corrective Eye Cream to the entire eye area. Next, apply three pumps of the Lavender Age Corrective Night Concentrate to the entire face and neck. Finish with your favorite moisturizer.

Purchase the Lavender Love Collection for $117 (a savings of $21).

In Closing,

A relaxing facial is as much of a science as an art, and with a little knowledge and practice you can put these four factors to work for yourself.  Whether your giving yourself an at-home facial or you’re an esthetician in a spa setting, high-quality herbal preparations will help you take this experience from “nice” to “bliss.” You might want to get ready for that question: “What makes a facial sooooo relaxing?”

Gifting for others (or yourself)?

Schedule a facial or purchase a gift certificate to treat a loved one to a facial — or send the link to a loved one as an idea for a gift you’d be sure to use. 😉