On Beauty

The Instantly Gratifying Facial

From left: <strong>La Mer</strong> massage tool; <strong>Ling</strong> jade roller; <strong>Clinique</strong> sonic system; a model gets a face massage backstage at the J.W. Anderson spring/summer 2016 show.
Credit...Molly S.J. Lowe. Products: Brian Nichols/The New York Times

Defining the contours of the face was once as easy as applying a bit of blush. Then bronzer became a (really big) thing. Then the duck face came along — as a not so discreet attempt to create the illusion of concave cheeks in selfies. Ultimately, a cheekbone-defining makeup technique called contouring took YouTube tutorials by storm, followed not too distantly by the Kardashian-approved highlighting method called strobing (on Instagram). Aestheticians and skin care companies get it: We will go to great lengths to mask a puffy face. So recently, they’ve taken to toning and depuffing skin — for real.

Last November, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group began offering a facial that was the opposite of most — instead of excavating pores and sloughing off dead skin, the relaxing routine felt more like a massage. For your face. A technician would use a jade stone, similar to the one Ling New York offers in its New York spa (and employs in its own Relax and Indulge Facial), to exercise the skin — toning it the way a good Pilates class does, say, the abs and glutes. “You might get antsy and feel strange during the process,” she might warn. (She would be right.) Since then, a few companies have set forth at-home products for similar effect.

At the turn of 2015, La Mer introduced its sleek, silver massage tool, whose every curve was designed to smooth one of the brand’s lifting, regenerating and contouring serums into the face’s contours. A long edge glides along the jawline, while a smaller divot fits around the chin, mouth and eyes. A rounded tip even hits acupressure points. Earlier this month, Clinique stocked its counters with something similar yet totally different, swapping the brush head on its electronic Sonic System (bye bye, exfoliation) for a metallic, massaging applicator. It stretches and tightens skin soaked with Clinique’s new contouring cream mask.

Beginning next week, Guerlain Spa at New York’s Waldorf Astoria will get in on the trend with its new Beauty Lift Facial ($250). For 50 minutes, deft fingers will calm tense corners of the face and tighten up sagging lines. And in addition to plumping cheeks and lifting brow bones, the movements will detoxify tissue and improve blood circulation — things you may not think of when your skin is looking sullen and dull, but from which you’ll see benefits almost instantly. The treatment comes from the brand’s spa in Paris, where alternative beauty is commonplace. The aim is to leave you looking black-tie or red-carpet ready — essentially, better than when you arrived (not splotchy from blackhead removal or stung from a chemical peel). And the process is truly calming and pleasurable — as they say, beauty comes from within, and it’s what’s on the inside that counts.