Study finds evidence for benefits of facial massage rollers

Visualization of changes in skin blood flow, indicating higher skin blood flow in the massaged area (right cheek) shown in the bottom right image.

New research has found that facial massage rollers can increase skin blood flow during, and for more than ten minutes after, their use. They can also improve vasodilation (widening of blood vessels) in the long-term.

Facial massage rollers have been around for hundreds of years. Sources say they date back to 7th century China, but they’ve seen a boom in popularity over the past couple of years. Beauty experts, bloggers, and magazines sing the praises of these rollers, many of which are made of jade, rose quartz, obsidian, and other crystals. They’re said to have healing and energy balancing properties, to reduce puffiness, under-eye circles and wrinkles, and to increase blood circulation. But these claims are mostly anecdotal and, until recently, there wasn’t much in terms of scientific evidence.

Now, researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology have found evidence of benefits to skin vascular function.

Naoyuki Hayashi of the Institute for Liberal Arts, Tokyo Tech, and colleagues at Tokyo Healthcare University and the Research and Development Center, MTG Co. Ltd., conducted two experiments – one short term and one long term – with healthy male and female volunteers, to examine whether facial massage rollers have an effect on facial skin and blood flow.

Short term effects on blood flow

In one experiment the researchers found that a five-minute massage (using a Y-Type roller) can significantly increase facial skin blood flow in the massaged cheek, with a relative change of “up to around 25%,” and they were surprised at the duration of this effect.

“The increase in skin blood flow after applying the massage roller persisted much longer than we had expected,” the researchers said, according to a media release. “Short-term mechanical stimulation by a facial massage roller increased skin blood flow for more than ten minutes solely in the massaged cheek.”

Long term effects

In another experiment, the researchers examined the effects of daily massage to the right cheek over a five-week period. For this they looked at the reactivity of facial blood vessels to a heat stimulus, in order to test for changes in vascular dilation response.

Findings suggested that the use of the roller improved blood flow response, or what they called “vasodilatory response,” to heat stimulation. An explanation for this, the researchers said, could be that endothelial cells in the massaged area produce more nitric oxide, known to be a potent vasodilator.

They wrote: “We can suggest that applying a facial massage roller exerts measurable effects on local vessels.”

The findings were published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine.


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