It used to be that you had to wait until the Daily Mail got a hot tip from an anonymous source that "several A-list celebrities" had gotten facials made from nightingale droppings before the average citizen could cash in on the latest novelty skin-care trends. Now, all you have to do is open Instagram to be inundated with whatever it is people are loving at any particular juncture. And right now, that would be the jade roller, the low-tech face-massaging tool that's said to have been an essential component of the Chinese beauty ritual for centuries.
Like a pretty little paint roller with a rounded chunk of the pale-green stone at each end, the idea is that the handheld device supposedly has benefits both practical (boosting blood circulation, encouraging lymphatic drainage, promoting cell turnover, increasing product absorption) and metaphysical (ditching bad energy, warding off evil spirits, balancing chi). Somewhere in there also lies a deeper sociological meaning to its sudden surge in popularity, something about it representing a perfect synthesis between our hi-tech beauty-device fatigue, fetishization of the Asian beauty-routine mystique, and the extreme value we place on creature comforts in times of anxiety and tumult.
But we already know that it looks good on Instagram, and that it gives you something to do with your hands that isn't tearing your hair out while you watch the news. The question is, does it work, or is it basically just a prettier, more polished take on the fidget spinner?
"The massaging aspect of using a jade roller may accelerate lymphatic drainage, resulting in less swelling, especially around the eyes," says dermatologist Ted Lain, MD. "In addition, rolling after the application of a serum or cream could increase absorption." But, while the positive effects aren't all imagined, Dr. Lain does say that many of the other claims made by jade-roller devotees, like a decrease in redness and overall clearer, brighter skin, are mostly exaggerated. "Dermatologists have many other tools at their disposal to achieve these goals," he says, "including many that are inexpensive and easy to use."
But I don't need a dermatologist — or anyone else, for that matter — to tell me what I've found out firsthand, which is that the simple act of jade-rolling is one of the best non-drug alternatives I've ever tried (and, at first, strongly doubted) for easing my chronic anxiety. Sitting down in front of the TV with my roller (I like the one from Herbivore Botanicals) and a glass of red wine leaves me with very little room for my racing worst-case-scenario thought patterns, and even fewer hands with which to pick at my face or bite my cuticles. A few drops of Dr. Barbara Sturm Calming Serum, a little face massage, and my mind goes to another, more meditative place. Next thing you know, I'll be building my own intentional community. (Or maybe not — those never do seem to work out.)