Aromatherapy involves the skillful application of essential oils to support a desired outcome.
In an aromatherapy facial massage, the desired outcome may focus initially on skin conditions, but a superficial effect is never the whole story when working on the face with essential oils.
While the blend you make may take care of the skin, it may also help regulate endocrine or nervous system functions, reduce irritations in the mind and stimulate the body’s own innate healing tendencies.
Essential oils are natural compounds produced by steam distillation of plant materials; no chemical preservatives, synthetic fragrances, harmful or toxic substances are added.
Essential oils are micronized particles of the plant’s properties.
As a micronized particle, the therapeutic compound is so tiny that 10,000 units would cover the head of a pin. At this level, they are able to penetrate cell membranes and are received by the bloodstream within five minutes of inhalation.
All essential oils have one element that cannot be manufactured in any laboratory, which is vital life force.
If you have already experienced the power of essential oils, then you know about the immediate, yet subtle, effects they can have on the body, mind and skin’s disposition.
1. Aromatherapy facial massage
One of the primary guidelines in any therapy, be it massage, facial massage or aromatherapy, is what we call “observations prior to application,” and what massage practitioners have been trained to establish as subjective and objective assessments, leading to the formation of a beneficial treatment plan.
How do you decide what is the best technique, approach and adjunctive substance for your client?
Given the parameters of this being a facial massage with aromatherapy creams and oils, there are two primary points to consider: the type and depth of strokes and principles of skin care.
2. Type and depth of strokes
First, when you offer facial massage, you will incorporate a new set of skills into a session, and you have choices to make regarding techniques.
Do you want to work lightly, as in lymph drainage or energy healing, or would a more persuasive stroke be best? The answer is, the facial massage you provide will be based upon your own training, scope of practice and personal strengths.
We work with what we know. For example, if you have been trained in Emil Vodder, Ph.D.’s manual lymph drainage techniques, you will tend to massage the face, throat, neck, décolletage and shoulders with consideration of lymph-receptor sites and direction of flow.
I happen to have an affinity for ayurvedic massage, so my facial massage incorporates marma points, which are similar to acupressure points
3. Principles of skin care
While facial massage without analysis or addressing of skin’s needs is within massage scope of practice, offering skin care is not within the scope of massage therapy—so if you want to add this type of service to sessions, you must obtain an esthetics credential.
With facial massage, you balance the two main principles of skin care: cleansing, or detoxifying; and nourishing, or regenerating. You will also introduce active phytochemistry via aromatherapy and essential oils in a base oil or lotion.
So, you have decisions to make: Does your client primarily need nourishment or does your client primarily need cleansing?
When it comes to incorporating aromatherapy and skin care into massage therapy, always begin with an objective assessment:
- Look at your client’s face.
What stands out, in terms of overall appearance? Is her coloration more red, yellow, grey or white? Each color reveals underlying systemic strengths and challenges.
For example, red or pink, including general ruddiness, suggests she may have photosensitivity and a stress-reactive type of skin, while white or greyish hues indicate a cooler temperament with weaker circulation and tendency toward congestion.
Does your client have deep or fine lines, maturing skin, rosacea, sun damage or acne? All of these clues will help determine the type of facial massage to offer.
4. Listen to your client’s words.
Is he in the middle of a stressful life transition, or does he have a super hectic lifestyle?
These factors give information about the client’s quality of self-care and, perhaps, heightened skin care needs.
Has your client recently been ill, undergone surgery or traveled internationally?
While these factors may reveal general depletion and immune-system fatigue, they are also markers of heightened needs for detoxification and cleansing.
Being able to determine the exact types of essential oils to blend to address your client’s specific condition will depend on your training and hands-on experience in aromatherapy facial massage.
5. Blend oils
A base oil is the carrier for the aromatherapy essential oil. There are many base oils available. It is helpful to have a basic knowledge of the attributes of several oils.
Facial massage oils made with vegetable, flower petal or seed oils that are combined with potent essential oils may be used with both cleansing and nourishment in mind.
Always dilute your essential oils; never apply them directly to facial skin.
As a general guideline, mix 20 drops of essential oil to each 2 fluid ounces of base oil or cream. For purity, mix oils in a glass or ceramic jar, bottle or bowl rather than metal or plastic containers.
The length of time you choose to spend providing this uplifting treatment is up to you, but try to allow a minimum of 15 minutes.
Be thorough. Include the scalp, neck, shoulders and upper arms as part of the facial massage.
Do not rush. Remember, every touch and every stroke on the face is amplified by the brain and nervous system, so approach this work in a calm, quiet and meditative manner.
I always end an aromatherapy facial massage with a warm, steamed towel wrapped around the client’s face. Suggest your client rest on the table for a few minutes before getting up. You and your client are sure to emerge refreshed and renewed after this treatment.
Carollanne Crichton, L.M.T., is board certified as an ayurvedic health consultant, aromatherapist and continuing education provider. She is based in Guilford, Connecticut, where she maintains her healing arts practice as well as Solavedi Organics Formulary, a massage-and-aromatherapy products company. She is available for classes and consultations.