Facials have certainly evolved in recent years. The typical step-by-step treatment that includes a cleanse, exfoliation, and extraction has expanded to facial yoga, face slapping, and other facial massage techniques that promise to sculpt and define the face. One of the more interesting facials involves something called buccal massage. Also known as intraoral massage, buccal massage is performed in the buccal cavity—the area inside of your cheeks—and from the inside of your mouth. It may sound strange (and certainly look strange, as you’ll soon see), but fans of the treatment (like Meghan Markle, Jennifer Lopez, and Gwyneth Paltrow) would say it’s more than worth it. Benefits include improved circulation, glowing, youthful-looking skin, and a more contoured appearance. It’s also great for releasing tension, which can be extremely helpful for those with TMJ or other temporomandibular joint disorders.
While I’ve never been diagnosed with TMJ or TMD, there are some signs, per my dentist, that I might be clenching my jaw while I sleep. That, and the fact that I’ve discovered that I really love facial massage, inspired me to pay a visit to Kosha Spa in Sherman Oaks, California, to get my massage on. The spa, which views massage as the cornerstone of its facials, even has a fan in Kristen Bell. “I just got back to earth. I left for a while because I tried a face massage where half of it is done from the inside of your mouth,” Bell said in an Instagram post from August 2022. She added that she “never felt more relaxed” in her life. I was more than ready to get my buccals massaged.
The Process + Results
Anastasia Talan, the owner of Kosha Spa, gave me a mini version of their signature Buccal Facial, which is usually 55 minutes and costs $189. After cleansing and other skincare treatments, she put on gloves and stuck her fingers in my mouth, then proceeded to massage my cheeks and the inside of my upper lip and gum line, as well as the outside of my face. While it might not be the most flattering I’ve looked in my life (a glimpse at my self-facing camera revealed my transformation into a literal Bugs Bunny cartoon), I felt incredible afterward.
The tension in my face and jaw was gone. I felt light, and the most relaxed I’d felt in weeks. When I got in my car, I looked in the rearview mirror and did see a slight sculpt in my cheeks, but nothing too drastic. During the next couple of days, I noticed a definite glow. (I also felt a slight soreness in my jaw from the massage, but nothing really uncomfortable.)
While I was pretty much sold on the powers of buccal massage after my treatment, I still wanted to get a doctor’s opinion. Catherine Chang, a board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon and founder of Privé Beverly Hills, said that while she doesn’t think it can do everything it claims (such as generate elastin production), she doesn’t think it’s harmful, and believes there are real benefits. “I do think those motions help to move around lymphatic fluid and help it drain some swelling that's accumulated throughout the day or the week,” she says, adding, I think that can give you a temporary improvement in the appearance of the face, making it look less puffy.”
Chang also says that people tend to clench their jaws a lot, which can lead to enlargement of the masseter muscles, or the lower face muscles, causing the face to look wider or more or more bulky. “Clenching is a big reason that some people do Botox injections in their masseters, for instance, or in their temples, to help decrease that tension, and massaging that area can relax the face and decrease tension in that area, which can then possibly lead to slight slimming of the face and lower region,” she explains. “Overall, it’s a positive treatment.” Chang also says that if you have facial fillers, wait at least two weeks before doing buccal massage.
If you’re curious about doing facial massage on yourself, there are many videos on the Kosha Spa Instagram with Talan demonstrating how to do various techniques using your own hands or tools, such as gua sha stones. Keep reading for some of our favorite facial massage tools.
Facial Massage Tools We Love