For the past few years, beauty enthusiasts among us have been just as excited by cutting edge innovations in skincare (hello microcurrent, radiofrequency, LED, lasers) as the incorporation of the ancient tools, specifically that of facial tools used in line with time-honoured traditions.
The most popular in this category has been jade rollers: traditional Chinese roller devices made of jade—or other gemstones like rose quartz and amethyst. Just like their more precision face-massaging sister, the gua sha stone, these facial rollers have seen an ongoing surge in popularity of late, even becoming one of Tiktok's top ten beauty trends last year.
But it's not just the accessible price tag that has millennials and Gen Z enamoured with the facial rollers. Here, see everything you need to know, from the ancient wisdom behind the modern popularity, to the best new facial rollers to try today.
Why the resurgence?
The jade roller's rise in popularity could be explained in multiple ways. With over 232k hashtag uses on Instagram alone, there's no denying they look good on social media, signifying a well curated bedside table as well as a saintly self-care schedule.
Then, there’s the real-life benefits of the devices, that have been used in the beauty routines of the Chinese elite since the early 17th century. Aesthetically-speaking, facial rollers are touted as a way to sculpt the features, by encouraging drainage and the toning of slackening muscles, feeding our collective compulsion to appear contoured. 'It's worth a try' many conclude, given the appeal of carving out cheekbones without make-up and, or, dermal fillers.
Holistically, they can provide a moment of self-care in one's routine. A ritualistic activity, using a facial roller can be a relaxing way to massage in a moisturiser, or relieve tension in a stressed face. Indeed, the wider wellness revolution marrying skincare with self-care has certainly played a part in the resurgence of beauty tools. Alongside buying into crystal-infused beauty, it makes sense that we're gravitating towards tools that'll grant us time out for a mindful morning facial, using something made from materials revered for their restorative properties.
Or, zeitgeist aside, it could just be that in fraught times we’re drawn to simplicity. The mechanism is basic (think paint roller) and the premise (of massage) is traditional, but often there's power in the uncomplicated.
The real benefits of jade rollers
You might have seen brands and influencers touting a whole manner of potential benefits of jade roller use, from plumping lines and boosting collagen to even clearing breakouts. And while a lot of these opinions or personal experiences should be taken with a pinch of salt (it's unlikely a jade roller will cure your acne or rival the effects of a collagen-stimulating procedure), there are a few expert-backed beneficial reasons to use one—on top of the obvious soothing appeal.
Revered facialist Abigail James explains the main benefits of self-massage using a jade roller are firstly that of “drainage”, by way of encouraging the lymphatic system’s natural detoxification process, and secondly “brightening”—by boosting the circulation and blood flow beneath the skin, granting a visible glow. With the lymph system gently kicked into gear from the rolling motion, excess fluid can be drained away, leaving you with reduced puffiness revealing more defined contours.
Acupuncturist Ross J Barr is another advocate for the de-puffing properties of jade. He has said that “jade is really good for cooling and calming the skin”, and recommends the Yu Ling Jade Facial Roller “as a way of treating yourself to a daily facial”.
As James points out: “A jade roller gives a cool surface that’s super smooth and allows you to access the muscles and tissues with pressure”. With this in mind it can provide a more effective manual massage than your hands alone, while remaining gentle and safe.
How to use a jade roller
According to James, it’s best to use your roller on clean skin, before the use of your skincare products. “Cleanse your face, use your roller, then apply your eye products, serums and moisturisers,” she instructs. “In the evening, you might like to add a little face oil to the rolling action, in which case I would cleanse, apply a small amount of oil to the surface of the skin, use the roller and rinse off excess oils left on the tool.”
While simple, they can be used in different ways. “It’s best to use the roller back and forth, up and down and out to the side,” James says. To get the most out of it for an uplifting massage she advises, “working around your facial contours,” adding “I would usually recommend more pressure with the upwards motion,”—lifting the muscles with this action. “Don’t forget the neck also,” she adds.
To encourage lymph drainage, follow Barr’s specific instructions. “Imagine the bridge of your nose is the central point and roll away from that in all directions. Imagine you are very gently rolling all the toxin build-up outward and downwards, finally rolling outward along your jaw and down the channel that runs down your neck by your ear.”
The best jade rollers to try
Those in-the-know advocate using pure Xiuyan jade, said to boast a host of restorative benefits. However, you may be more drawn to rose quartz, known as a beautifying and healing stone, or amethyst—thought to attract positive energy. While some rollers come in at under a tenner, quality can differ and the cheap ones may feel clunky to use and squeak as you roll, which isn't so relaxing.
The Herbivore Jade Facial Roller is double-ended, featuring a smaller stone on one end for use around the eye area. Positioned for relieving tension, while giving the skin and tissue a ‘lift’, it’s had rave reviews on Cult Beauty (where you’ll also find detailed instructions on how to use it). We also recommend the equivalent Herbivore Botanicals Rose Quartz Roller, which has been continually restocked after its initial sell-out success.
If the rolling action feels a little too gentle for you, one alternative to the traditional device is a gua sha like the Angela Caglia Rose Quartz Lifting Tool—a manual massager made of Xiuyan jade or rose quartz and said to help relax the facial muscles and reduce skin inflammation. It’s recommended to be used as part of your daily ritual, with a firm press-and-sweep motion against lubricated skin.
If you fancy trying facial rolling or the use of sculpting stones in a treatment before home use, many professional facials incorporate the use of these traditional tools. James uses “a jade stone, sculpting gua sha or rose quartz in my Hero, Hero Lift and Naked Facial treatments," she explains.
This piece originally appeared in Harper's Bazaar UK