I like to think I have my makeup application nailed. I know to apply concealer after foundation and that eyeshadow comes before mascara, but some mornings, no matter how long I've spent, there are times when my makeup just doesn't sit right.
You've probably been there, too. But rather than blaming it on your tools (why does brand new mascara transfer so much product?) or the fact that you were half-asleep when you applied it at 7am on Monday morning, it might be worth taking your technique into consideration. In particular, the step before makeup. For most of us, prepping skin with moisturisers, serums and primers is pretty much second nature, but according to Max Factor makeup artist Caroline Barnes, a speedy facial massage is beneficial, too.
Not long ago, I went along to a makeup masterclass led by the renowned MUA, and after five minutes of prodding and pummelling my cheeks pre-makeup, I discovered the foundation, blusher and highlighter I applied afterwards had never looked better. And I wasn't alone – the beauty editors and influencers around me noticed it, too. Our cheeks were a little perkier, our skin had a pretty, natural flush to it, and our makeup lasted a hell of a lot longer than usual. So what's the deal with facial massage?
"Facial massage is so important in stimulating the skin," said Caroline, who learned her massage techniques from skin brand founder and facial expert Annee de Mamiel. "Your own hands are pretty magical. By stimulating the circulation in the skin, you create a natural erythema – you know after a walk in the cold or an exercise class, you get that glow, that flush. You’re also working with your lymph nodes, pulling all the stagnant energy and water away from your skin, and this reduces puffiness. The more you move and activate your skin, the more malleable and brighter it becomes."
Start with a facial oil – Caroline rates Willowberry's Nutrient Boost Treatment Oil, £22.50. "Firstly, rub the oil into your hands and really emulsify it," said Caroline. "To begin, place your middle and forefinger to the backs of your ears and use the pressure of your fingers to drain by pulling all the way down to the sides of your neck. Focusing on the lymph nodes really helps remove any puffiness from the skin and boosts circulation."
It pays to pay special attention to your jaw, too. "Take your hands into prayer position and place your thumbs underneath your jaw so that your chin is sitting in the cup of your thumb and index finger," advised Caroline. "Move your thumbs all the way across your jawline to the bottom of your ears. You might feel that it’s a bit crunchy, but that’s the tension in your muscles. A lot of us hold a lot of tension in our faces, especially our jaw, and this is a good release. Take hold of your jaw, really feel and push your skin to take the pressure out."
"Eyes are also important," Caroline mentioned. "It's all in the pressure – you want to use your ring finger. Paint circles around your eyes pushing as hard as you can around the orbital area. Always start in the tear duct and follow all the way around – do this 10 times. You’ll be surprised how hard you can push. It won't damage the skin. Instead, it encourages drainage and makes your skin feel alive."
If you're prone to acne, you might not want to slather your skin in any old oil, but Caroline recommends trying Votary's Blemish Rescue Oil, £35, as it contains salicylic acid to exfoliate and bring down inflammation, and according to brand founder, Arabella Preston, blemishes disappear much faster when you don't dry them out. Of course, if you want to avoid facial oils altogether, or simply don't have the time in the morning, you can employ your usual cleanser and practise the technique on wet skin while you wash your face. Using your trusty moisturiser or serum will also work a treat.
So what's the best way to apply your foundation after a facial massage? Interestingly, Caroline, who swears by Max Factor's Radiant Lift, £14.99, thanks to the addition of SPF 30 and hyaluronic acid to plump and hydrate, suggests using your hands again. "Your fingers are warmer than a brush which helps with connectivity and blending the product into the skin," she said. "Secondly, your fingers can manipulate the products into all the nooks and crannies of your face, which a brush can't do. It's also much quicker and it makes the finish much more natural. That said, if you have downy hairs, a brush might be better at perfecting and that's because it helps lift the product. After using your fingers, you can always go over with a soft brush for an even more flawless finish." And to complement your skin's natural flush after your facial massage, Caroline suggests that if you usually apply highlighter (she rates liquid versions like Max Factor's Miracle Glow, £10.99), tap it on before your foundation, as it'll make your skin look more like, well, skin.