As a sinus/allergy sufferer, the cherry-on-top moment during my massage always comes when the therapist begins working my face. Tension dissipates quietly and without fuss from my unknowingly tight jowls. There is great sinus relief and passage opening in even the most gentle of strokes across my cheekbones. If I happen to be visiting a new massage therapist who doesn’t work that final facial zone, I leave feeling a bit disappointed and undone, regardless how great the rest of the treatment went.
But facial massage is much more than just the cherry on top these days. It’s a booming sector of the massage profession that has a steady flow of new entrants, and has made its way–in one form or another–into most spas around the country. Facial massage touted as an anti-aging regimen with facelift effects has made even more friends amongst consumers, with new converts seeking out its benefits every day. Here’s a look at some of the players in this speciality and their take on this burgeoning family of technique.
Belavi Facelift Massage (Bellanina Facelift Massage)
As owner of Bellanina Institute (formerly Belavi Institute) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a worldwide trainer of the Belavi Facelift Massage, Nina Howard says the success of Belavi and other “anti-aging” facial massage treatments has come from an audience eager for the services. “There’s a market of people who want to look better. For us, it’s primarily the baby boomers,” Howard says of the customers who frequent her Bellanina Day Spa, which holds rank as the home of the Belavi technique.
The Belavi Facelift Massage is a viable, holistic option for those who want to look their best, but don’t want to undergo the knife to do so. “We answer the needs of those clients,” Howard says.
Utilizing acupressure, lymphatic drainage, and contouring strokes, Howard says Belavi Facelift Massage softens the appearance of wrinkles, slows the formation of new ones, and helps keep facial muscles from succumbing to gravity and time. Sessions are both pampering and relaxing, even as they stave off the effects of aging.
Howard says the Belavi massage gets all the metabolic processes stimulated–facial circulation is improved, capillaries are strengthened, the facial lymph system is cleansed, and the skin becomes blemish free.
The actual protocol for Belavi Facelift Massage begins with a cleansing and exfoliating of the face, followed by an application of warm towels to gently hydrate the skin and help the client relax. Once the face is prepared, the massage begins. As part of the treatment, acupressure points are worked to release additional tension.
“Energy coagulates around a trigger point or acupressure point,” Howard says. “When you open the channels of energy, the eyes soften and lines soften.” The process releases stress held in the facial muscles and encourages the flow of oxygen to the tissues.
Part of the Belavi protocol is a “honeylift” massage element utilizing tapotement, a process that gives the skin a pinkish glow and breathing room. After the massage is complete, a chin strap is applied to support the muscles, allowing them to relax and “remember” the tightening effect. Howard says clients usually leave feeling energized and eager to rebook.
Howard suggests a twelve-session regimen for those with aging skin, clients with younger skin should see results with six sessions. Coming in once every two to four weeks, plus massaging their face at home is the recommended protocol taught to clients.
Still, twelve sessions may not be enough. For some clients, there’s just not much you can do. Howard says those with what she calls sharpei skin simply have too much redundant skin for the technique. “You can tone it, but it’s still going to be wrinkled,” she says.
Clients in their forties and fifties, however, can see the greatest improvements using Belavi, according to Howard. That’s the age when we get the “Howdy Doody lines” and the pouch under our jaw. It’s when sun damage has started to show and when the face flattens, losing the plump, perky cheekbones of our more youthful twenties to the effects of depleted tone and elasticity. Belavi can get in there and tighten muscles, lift cheeks, and plump up that area, Howard says.
The multi-faceted nature of the technique is what Howard believes makes Belavi so effective. “Not only is it relaxing, it’s pampering and healing,” she says. “There are so many aspects of Belavi. If clients come in and are having issues with TMJ (temporormandibular joint) or head tension, you can give them a Belavi and all that tension will melt away. They can come in for skin rejuvenation, and Belavi hydrates the skin and makes it beautiful. Some might want to tone their facial muscles. Belavi can do that as well. There are so many ways that a massage therapist can market Belavi massage. Not everyone wants it for anti-aging.”
The self-care program for clients of Belavi is one of the things that makes it different. “We teach our clients how to massage their face at home,” Howard says. Doing that between Belavi massage treatments keeps the facial muscles in shape. “It’s very empowering to give someone a tool that will help them,” she says, and most clients still come back for full Belavi sessions, even though they have their own set of self-care tools. “Belavi has a well-rounded program because clients are not totally dependent on us.” They can continue the nurturing care at home.
Howard practices what she preaches. “I massage my face every day and I get Belavi treatments pretty often,” she says, noting that in all her seminars she teaches and with each new employee she hires, her face becomes a training ground for the fingers of the newly-learned. It’s what has helped keep the vibrant Howard looking younger than her years, and it makes her the institute’s own best advertising.
When it comes to results, Howard reminds us not to over-sell. There are still no miracle cures for aging, and without repetition, the effects of Belavi will dissipate. “If you don’t keep it up, it won’t last,” she explains. “In order to tone and firm a muscle, you need to continue to do it.” Just like you can’t expect to go to the gym once a month and expect to be fit, Howard says you can’t do Belavi twice a year and maintain its toning effects. But following a regular treatment routine, which includes home care, can keep the face toned and more capable of fighting the inevitable.
By Karrie Osborn
Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, October/November 2006. Copyright 2006. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.
For More Information
Bellanina Institute (Belavi Facelift Massage)–www.bellanina.com
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