When everyone from the Duchess of Sussex to JLo to Kate Moss to Bling Empire’s arms heiress, Anna, swears by a little-known — and kind of weird — beauty treatment that’s supposed to sculpt your face, you pay attention. Or at least I do. (Have you seen these women’s cheekbones?)
Anna invited the whole cast to an afternoon spa day where latex-gloved therapists dove into people’s mouths and basically did a deep-tissue massage of their jaws, cheeks, lips, and gums. Even the most skeptical came away feeling uber-relaxed.
“We keep a lot of stress in the jaw. The tongue and jaw are very strong muscles and buccal massage, which is an in-mouth massage, gives major stress release in the head, face and body,” says Anastasia Talan, founder of Kosha Spa in Los Angeles, which offers buccal facials. “For some people, there’s even an emotional release. Afterwards, they say it almost felt like a meditation because they came away feeling so much lighter.”
Meet the Experts
Anastasia Talan is the founder of Kosha Spa in Los Angeles.
According to Talan and buccal massage fans like Meghan Markle, addressing the facial muscles from inside the mouth also helps with wrinkles and sagging, especially when it comes to the jowls, cheekbones, and nasolabial folds.
“When the face is sagging, it means the muscles aren’t working properly,” explains Talan. “Some facial muscles are overworking and some aren’t working enough, so stretching and massage can stimulate blood flow in the muscles, which can lift and sculpt the face.” She says the cheek muscles are usually underworked while the jaw and chin are overworked. “That’s what those dimples in the chin are — overworked muscles.”
There’s also fascia involved. In the same way fascia knots up and causes pain in the body, fascia also affects the face. “When the fascia is sticky without enough circulation, the muscles get tense and hard,” Talan says. “Especially in the jaw and forehead, if the fascia is sticky and too firm, it gets heavy and will sag. You want flexible fascia for a soft, relaxed face that’s not stressed and tense.”
Something I notice immediately about Talan, who does buccal massage on herself, is that her makeup-free face glows and her skin looks incredibly soft and supple. Despite the long hours and stresses of being a hands-on entrepreneur, there’s nothing tense or hard in her expression and her jawline is tight.
My Buccal Massage Experience
Talan starts her signature, 55-minute Buccal Facial like a regular facial with cleansing (no extractions), enzyme masks and then a face, neck, and shoulder massage before the inner mouth massage. “Buccal is the last step because it’s pretty intense. If you go inside right away, it’s going to be very tense and uncomfortable,” she says. “We need to prepare the face and body beforehand, releasing the neck and shoulders and doing some lymphatic drainage.”
Lying down in a darkened room with binaural beats in the background, I was already feeling my face and body melt underneath Talan’s firm, but gentle fingers. By the time she puts on her gloves for the buccal portion of my facial, I’m ready.
Talan tells me to relax my jaw and tongue while she stretches my face, her thumbs inside my mouth and the rest of her fingers outside on my cheeks. She starts with the upper part of my face, massaging my upper jaw and gum line, while also working on my face outside. Then she moves to my lower jaw, kneading the muscle and the gums, and really getting into the inner lip area with her thumbs.
It doesn’t feel painful and Talan says it shouldn’t. “The right technique shouldn’t hurt,” she says. “In any massage, you don’t want the body to experience a lot of pain, which is a stressful experience. This should be pleasurable.”
While it’s definitely strange to have someone’s fingers inside my mouth, it also feels really good to have this ignored-my-whole-life area of the body attended to. It really is like a deep tissue massage for the mouth and the relief is pretty instant. Talan mentions how she can feel knots around my lower right jaw, which makes sense because I tend to chew on that side.
After 15 minutes, the buccal massage is over. “That’s enough time inside the mouth,” says Talan. “You can’t release everything all at once.”
The tension has completely left my face and my skin feels plump and bouncy.
Immediately after, I felt chilled out and my face felt — and looked — soft and lifted. My skin felt tighter and thicker, like it had gotten a collagen boost, and the stress was magically erased from my face. I was also totally glowing.
For ideal results, Talan recommends eight to 12 treatments, once a week, and then making it part of your wellness routine, just like a facial or a body massage, once a month.
If the cost (starting at $179 at Kosha) is a bit out of reach for a regular monthly treatment, Talan (who’s also a beauty influencer) has plenty of mesmerizing how-to Reels on her Instagram, so you can do facial and buccal massage on yourself.
“At home, you can do a bath or shower to help you relax, then do a little massage on your face with a natural oil,” she advises. “For your own mouth, you don’t need gloves as long as your hands are clean and your nails are short. Twice a month treatments at home are good, unless you have a lot of tension. Then you can do it more frequently, even nearly every day, to begin.”
My plump, lifted look from Talan’s expertise lasted about 36 hours, but I’m a buccal massage convert so it’s going into the self-care rotation. (And that may be the only part of the Venn diagram where the Duchess of Sussex and I overlap!)
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