Japanese facial massage developed to improve one’s health and longevity, emphasizing the prevention of problems rather than the curing of existing ones. When properly administered, it improves one’s beauty, removes toxins from the face, and balances ki, or life force, to improve overall health.

Japanese facial massage is a profound combination of traditional Japanese medial concepts and distinct hand manipulation techniques. It is a branch of Japanese medicine, and is built from the long tradition of diagnostic medicine in the traditions such as Anma and acupuncture. From its technical origins in Anma, the procedure has reached its present refinement in the last 200 to 300 years within the beauty and cosmetology industry. Today, Japanese facial massage is an independent modality, standing on its own as an area of specialized therapeutic care.

Japanese Facial Massage Compared to Western Techniques

The aim of Japanese facial massage is unique. While Western facial massage addresses the external skin itself, Japanese facial massage is concerned with the condition of the skin, subcutaneous musculature and what is referred to as ki, or the life-force energy, often translated as "bioelectricity." Traditionally, the purpose of Japanese facial massage is to work specifically and precisely with the facial meridian and tsubo (acupuncture points) to achieve a balance in the entire facial skin, the facial muscles, and the internal organs.

There are distinct differences between Japanese and Western facial massages. The core of western facial massage is smooth, light stroking of the surface tissues. Japanese facial massage utilizes a much larger, more varied, and much more refined application of techniques, a variety of surface strokes, as well as deeper pressure massage. There are also many technical differences in hand and finger applications. It is based on percussive techniques, and combines this with deep kneading technique to work the musculature underneath the surface tissues.

The greatest difference between the two approaches is the rich knowledge of ki flow in the Japanese tradition. Although both Japanese and western modalities focus on the condition of the skin and muscles, the Japanese approach begins with attention to the basic energetic health of the body and tissues. Knowledge of the ki flow in the face, and the ability to balance the flow of energy through the internal organs and consequently balance emotional conditions is a very important and unique characteristic of Japanese facial massage.

Incorporating Japanese Facial Massage

A Japanese facial is easily incorporated into your massage therapy routine. Japanese facial massage gently stimulates the nervous system to increase blood circulation, reduce and prevent wrinkles, repair and balance the condition of the skin, minimize the ageing process, and leave your clients faces looking healthy and feeling great. Whether you’re a massage therapist or an esthetician, Ki bi do’s Japanese massage techniques will add an Eastern philosophical and technical approach to your facials, and will increase your repertoire of techniques to enable you to effectively treat various facial conditions.

Western-style facial massage

In Western massage, a facial massage as part of a full-body treatment is different from a full facial treatment, which includes masks, steaming, and similar techniques. A regular massage simply includes massage of the face, usually at the beginning or the end of the massage session.

For a Western facial massage, a gentle effleurage (gliding) movement is most often used. To perform the facial massage, the strokes must be gentle as well as stimulating, in order not to stretch the skin. Pressure strokes should move upward to give the muscles of the face a lift rather than dragging them down.

A typical facial massage includes the following steps:

Before the massage, wash hands with soap and clean water. If the person to be massaged wears contact lens, ask her or him to remove them. Position: The most comfortable position has the client lying down on a massage table or sitting in a chair. Facial massage can be done, however, on any flat surface like a clean floor.

Using a small amount of cleanser, gently wash the client's face. Wet cotton pads or facial sponges or wedges can be used to apply the cleanser. Then remove the cleanser, using fresh damp cotton pads.

Apply the massage cream or lotion and begin massaging the face and neck areas in small symmetrical circles. The strokes should move up the neck and along the contour of the face. Do not leave out any facial muscles.

Next, gently glide the back of the hands across the forehead with light pressure. Placing the thumbs side by side on the center of the forehead with the hands cradling the face, draw the thumbs outward towards the temples and make a gentle sweeping movement around the temple. Repeat the movement several times to relieve tension in the temples.

Apply pressure in the hollow areas under the eyebrows by placing the hands along the sides of the face; use the thumb to press gently under the ridge one spot at a time. Move the pressure point from the inner to the outer edge of the brows and repeat the thumb pressure. This technique can help relieve tension headache.

Position the thumbs alongside the nose bridge with hands cupping the face. Firmly slide the thumbs downward to the nostrils and outwards along the contour of the cheeks applying pressure along the way. Gently release the pressure when the thumbs reach the hairline. Then pull both hands up alongside the face towards the top of the head and away from the face. Repeat this motion two more times.

Position fingertips in the cheek muscles and gently make circling movements counter-clockwise for a few times moving along the cheek muscles. This motion alleviates tension in the cheek area.

Gently stroke the ears with the index fingers and thumbs while moving along the rims of the ears. This technique is very relaxing and enjoyable. Position the fingers just behind the neck while pressing with a thumb pad on a spot in the jaw area and circling this spot before moving to the next one. Holding the chin with the fingers, stroke the chin with the thumbs using circular motions downward. Finish the jaw massage with gentle strokes alongside the chin. This movement releases tension in the mouth and jaw.

Make circular motions on the scalp and comb the fingers through the hair to release tension from the face and the head and to stimulate the scalp. Finally, remove the massage cream or lotion with fresh and damp cotton pads. Most facials end with a special lotion applied to the face.


Beck, Mark F. Milady's Theory and Practice of Therapeutic Massage, 3rd ed. Albany, NY: Milady Publishing.

Gach, Michael Reed, with Carolyn Marco. Acu-Yoga: Self-Help Techniques to Relieve Tension. New York: Japan Publications, Inc., 1998.

Novick, Nelson Lee. You Can Look Younger at Any Age: A Leading Dermatologist's Guide. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996.

Price, Shirley. Practical Aromatherapy, Chapter Four, "Yin, Yang, and Shiatsu." London: Thorsons, 1994.

Tourles, Stephanie. Naturally Healthy Skin. Pownal, VT: Schoolhouse Road, 1999.

The Shiseido Facial Massage

Use your ring and middle fingers to ensure soft, even pressure. Remember to work with light, gentle strokes. Massage slowly and rhythmically, matching your movements to your breathing. Slow down the pace as your massage progresses.

Step 1: Forehead - Tones muscles to prevent the formation of horizontal lines.

Starting at the center of forehead, gradually move fingers across the brow in 6 complete circular motions. Repeat 3 times. Finish by gently pressing the pressure points at the temples for 3 counts. To locate your pressure points, feel for slight depressions between the bones at the temples. Pressure applied should feel pleasant and invigorating, never painful.

Step 2: Nose - Prevents the formation of horizontal lines.

Slide fingers downward along the sides of your nose, starting from the inner hollow of the eye. Use left hand to massage the right side of the nose, and the right hand for the left side. Repeat 3 times on each side of nose.

Step 3: Nostrils - Helps unclog pores and prevent blackheads and blemishes.

Circle back and forth around nostrils, applying extra pressure during the upward stroke. Repeat 6 times.

Step 4: Mouth - Minimizes lines around mouth and sagging at lip corners.

Massage along the lower lip, moving outward and upward to lift the corners of the mouth. Release gently. Repeat 3 times.

Step 5: Cheeks - Helps prevent sagging.

Massage outward from the chin to the earlobe, in 6 circular motions, focusing on the jawline. Glide fingers to corners of the mouth and massage up to the middle of the ear. Glide again to the nostrils and massage to the temples. Glide back to chin and repeat all steps 3 times. Finish by pressing the pressure points at your temples.

Step 6: Eyes - Prevents the formation of wrinkles and sagging under eyes.

Makes eyes look less tired by minimizing dark circles and puffiness. First, press the pressure points just under the brow bone below the inner eyebrows and count to 3. Then glide fingers under brow, around and under the eyes, and back to the starting point in 6 counts. Repeat entire procedure 3 times, moving gently over the eyelid to press at temples on the final count.

Step 7: Neck - Prevents the formation of horizontal lines and sagging.

Helps ease tension and stiffness at the nape. Using the palms of your hands, massage your neck by gently stroking upward from the collar bone to the base of the chin. Alternate hands as you move from the center to either side with 6 strokes out, then 6 strokes back. Glide lightly at the center of the neck and increase pressure as you move outward.

Step 8: Chin - Tones muscles to prevent sagging.

Grasp your chin between your index and middle finger at the jaw, and gently slide your fingers across the length of your jaw, creating a scissor-like motion. Bend index finger and place it under the jaw. Use the side of the index finger and pad of the thumb, massage back to right ear. Repeat with left hand. Repeat entire procedure 6 times.

Step 9: Ears - Regulates the body's overall balance through stimulation of pressure points that send reflexes to other parts of the body.

Massage upward in spiral motions, using the thumb and index fingers, counting to 5. On the 6th count, slide your thumb down the jaw as close to the ear as possible, and back to the earlobe to stimulate the numerous pressure points in this area. Repeat 3 times.


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Professional Magazines

American Salon

Beauty Digest

Beauty Handbook Magazine


Cosmopolitan's Beauty Guide


National Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology, Bulletin

Northwest Stylist and Salon

Southern Style

"You can add essential oils for extra therapeutic benefits. Mix 5 drops TOTAL to your base oil and blend together. Make your blend from one essential oil or a combination of the following; Dry skin; chamomile, lavender, peppermint, rosemary. Oily skin; basil, eucalyptus, lemongrass, ylang ylang. Normal skin; rose, geranium, neroli."

Please remember that the face is a delicate area. Follow the facial massage technique and use light pressure.

You will need a base oil of cold pressed vegetable oil. About 1 teaspoon in small clean bowl will be sufficient for a single massage.

Pour your oil or oil blend into the palm of your hand. Rub your hands together and apply all over your face and neck.

The facial massage technique Forehead… Begin in the middle of the forehead making small circular movements out towards the temples. Repeat 5 times.

Eyes… From your temples, glide your index fingers over your brow and circle your eye sockets. The pressure should be very light. Repeat twice.

Nose… Slide your fingers down each side of your nose to the tip and up again. Repeat 5 times. End at the top of the mouth.

Mouth… Use your index and middle fingers and start at the chin, gently massage in a circular and upward motion around the mouth and lips. Bring the massage motion to the top of the mouth, under the nostrils. Repeat 5 times.

Cheeks… In a circular motion, massage outward from your chin to your earlobes, from the corners of your mouth to the middle of your ears and from your nostrils to your temples. Repeat twice covering the whole area of the cheek.

Chin… Beginning on your right where the jaw meets your ear. Using your thumb and index finger, gently slide across the jaw to your chin. Massage back to the starting point with circular motions. Repeat on the left side. Repeat 3 times each side.

Neck… Beginning at the back of the neck, massage upwards to the head with small circular motions. Repeat 5 times. Come around to the front of the neck and gently stroke upwards from the collarbone to the base of the chin. Repeat 3 times.

Essential Oil Recipes:

Peace of Mind

5-10 drops of Orange
3 drops of Geranium
2 drops of Peppermint

Be Well

3-5 drops of Peppermint
2 drops of Tangerine

Sleepy Time

5-10 drops of Lavender
3 drops of Orange

Stress Less

5-10 drops of Lavender
3 drops of Cedarwood


2 drops of Geranium
2 drops of Rosewood
2 drops of Bergamot

All of these blends can be;

Diffused or put into your oil burner (with water of course) Mixed with almond oil (10 ml) or a fragrance free cream and used for massage Dabbed onto a tissue and inhaled Added to your bath

You will come up with your own favorites through experimentation. Often the best way to select oils is to choose what you feel like - let your intuition be your guide.

Essential Oil Uses

Here are some everyday uses for aromatherapy.

Burn calming oils in a burner or diffuser in your room before you go to bed

Burn oils next to your desk while you work

Mix 40 to 60 drops of essential oils with 120 ml of distilled water in a spray bottle for an air freshener

Add a little eucalyptus oil to your mop and clean your floors the environmentally friendly way

Mix up a paste of bicarbonate of soda and peppermint and use it to clean your shower – the tiles and screen will gleam

Put a few drops of cedarwood and lemon onto a cloth and rub down your timber furniture

Put some lavender or lemon on a cloth and throw it in with your clothes when you tumble dry them There are so many uses, limited only by our imagination.

If you thought all essential oils were the same then think again. The ability of an essential oil to work it’s magic is all based on it’s purity.

Some are contaminated with pesticides, diluted with other ingredients or worse yet, synthetic.

Aromatherapy speaks to your soul. You want the source to be as pure as possible.