Massages don't just feel good, they actually do good. For stronger, healthier hair and more radiant skin, take a hands-on approach.
When it comes to rubdowns, your back, shoulders, and feet hog all the attention. But anyone who has ever had the pleasure of a scalp or face massage will be happy to know that top-floor TLC has benefits beyond simply feeling blissful. "Massage increases blood flow, which plumps up slack skin, encourages lymphatic drainage (the shuttling of toxins out and away from cells so that more nutrients can travel in), and adds vitality to a dull complexion and lackluster hair," says Kimara Ahnert, owner of the eponymous skin-care studio in New York City. Here's how you can re-create a therapist's handiwork at home.
Why it helps: Steady, rhythmic pressure in certain areas leads the blood to fully infuse the skin tissue, leaving it nourished and glowing, says Catherine Raubiet, education director for Lierac Paris. Rubbing upward can also prevent wrinkles and stop skin from sagging.
How often to do it: Every day, unless you have very sensitive skin or a condition like rosacea, which can become aggravated by too much fussing, says Raubiet.
What to use: A facial serum's long-lasting slickness can help avoid tugging on the fragile skin around your eyes. No serum on hand? Regular moisturizer is a worthy stand-in. For an extra treat, use a micro-massaging device like Clarisonic($195, sephora.com).
DIY: "Start with a generous amount of serum or moisturizer," says Silvana Mos, an aesthetician at the Kimara Ahnert Studio in Greenwich, Connecticut. Face your palms inward and hold them horizontally. With upward strokes, one hand quickly following the other, massage your cheeks and neck from left to right. Next, apply pressure with your middle fingers to the inner corners of your eyes and circle around the sockets three times. Then use your middle fingers to draw small heart shapes from left to right on your forehead. Finish by applying gentle, steady pressure on your temples with your middle and ring fingers.
Head and Scalp
Why it helps: Many women spend hours on their hair but totally neglect their scalp. Big mistake. "The health and vitality of your scalp is the foundation of your hair's growth and health," says Elizabeth Cunnane-Phillips, a trichologist at the Philip Kingsley Trichological Centre in New York City. Massaging the scalp helps boost blood flow, which can reduce dandruff.
How often to do it: A few minutes of noggin kneading a day relaxes and revives your head, says Kenneth Milstead, lead aesthetician at Bliss 49 in New York City. If you have serious scalp irritation or eczema, stick to once a week.
What to use: Set down your brush and steer clear of those gimmicky scalp massagers, advises Cunnane-Phillips. While the little nibs on these items feel good, they can lead to tangles. Opt for a nonmechanical method, such as the Philip Kingsley Scalp Mask ($7, philipkingsley.com), which has a menthol base to further enhance circulation and decrease flaking. If your hair isn't already wet, coat it with a rich conditioner before you start massaging. "It will reduce the friction that can roughen up the cuticles and cause split ends," says Cunnane-Phillips.
DIY: Using all 10 fingers, start at your temples and gently but firmly massage your head in a circular motion. "Don't scrub or rub the hair together—the process should be nearly silent to minimize damage," says Cunnane-Phillips. Continue working upward through the front of your hairline and then move back toward the crown, ending at the nape of your neck. Repeat three times for five minutes.