A brief exploration of how I incorporate myofascial release into radical, proageing facials

First of all why incorporate intentional fascia work in radical, pronging facials? What are the benefits?

Where to start in answering that question! So intrinsic is fascial work in proageing facials. In a nutshell releasing solid myofascial adhesions and thickenings, fluid back logs, blockages and back ups, especially in certain ‘junctions’ of the head, neck and upper thorax is key to re-establishing the flow that gives the body the space to heal itself. In facials the benefits of this created space is seen immediately as luminous inner and outer radiance.

“No flow no glow…” as Angela Peck says.

As we shall see what is understood to be ‘fascia’ is also expanding…We are living through exciting times as western anatomy expands its thinking and understanding of the body!

As with the rest of the body the face has two currently* recognised layers of fascia {internal connective tissue}; superficial and deep. There is some controversy over exactly how much deep fascia there is on the face and where precisely it is found - although on speaking with a maxillofacial surgeon she was under no doubt that deep fascia is found in only two place on the face; over the parotid gland and over the buccinator muscle {buccopharngeal fascia}. Dentists would recognise there to be 16 fascial spaces of the head and neck which can be divided into four subtypes:

Fascial spaces of the face: Canine, buccal, parotid, infratemporal, masticatory, messeteric, pterygomandibular and temporal.

Suprahyoid fascial spaces: Sublingual, submental, submandibular, lateral pharyngeal, peritonsillar.

Infrahyoid fascial spaces: Pretracheal

Fascial spaces of the neck: Retropharyngeal, carotid sheath [see diagram below]

The deep facial fascia represents a continuation of the deep cervical fascia and invests the muscles of mastication. Deep to it lie the branches of the facial nerve.


It is the superficial fascia that holds the muscles of facial expression muscles, and as the name suggests, it articulates with the underside, surface skin. It lies just under the skin and invests the superficially situated mimetic muscles {platysma, orbicularis oculi, zygomatics major and minor}.


The superficial fascia has two layers. The outer fatty Areolar Cleavage Plane and thin, elastic inner layer the Superficial Musculoaponeurotic System or SMAS. The SMAS is a fascial continuation of the platysma muscle that arises superiorly from the fascia over the zygomatic arch to the galea aponeurotica and is continuous with the temporoparietal fascia. Deep to the SMAS lies the facial nerve (VII). The uppermost surfaces of the SMAS connects to the dermis via the vertical septa.

Do not be fooled that the superficial fascia is any less important than deep fascia. In fact as the inimitable Tom Myers says “…A lot of the most interesting discoveries at the moment are happening in the superficial fascia.” [Tom Myers, Anatomy Trains]. Which is super exciting for us facialists!

Because as facialists it is the superficial fascia & extracellular fluids of the face and neck that we spend considerable time and intention on - although certainly not all our time, but we should be having a good understanding of the structural movement beneath our hands.

I like to think of this superficial fascial as a space of simultaneous withhold and release like a gently flowing river with continuously fluctuating banks which despite its resilience & forging power is prone to tender blockages, adhesions & stagnations which in turn lead to sensitivity, pain, dis-ease, visible inflammations, imbalances and downslides of the skin.

As a whole body facialist it is both the superficial and deep fascia of the face, cranium, neck, chest and shoulder girdles that holds much of my focus of learning - and touch - on a daily basis. However, it is also the myofascial lines that run anteriorly, posteriorly, laterally and spiral around the body that are equally as important when it comes to working with the face {especially the TMJ, alignment of sphenoid etc.}. Essentially, these are lines of connective of tissue which wrap the body, help it to move as a unit and keep all in calibrated positioning.


Oh how these wider connections are underrated and completely overlooked in the skin care world! I myself am entirely self researched on this in relation to wholistic facial care as it has never been taught to me in any facial course. As a result of my thirst for deeper knowledge last year I made a conscious decision to take an advanced clinical bodywork qualification {with Jing Massage} specifically to keep pushing forward on the path of learning about the whole body and its infinite connections. My journey with Jing has already led to more in depth explorations of fascia and I know this is just the beginning - the seeds of fascia obsessions are planted. I am aware I am only scraping the top soils, but it is already so much more understanding than I had before. My radical facial work has an expanding framework which grows as I do.

As a result it just baffles me even more that as facialists we are expected to work with the skin on the face as an isolated structure to the rest of the body! Some still don’t even massage over the hairline into the cranium or past the clavicle. In ALL my recent trainings in the UK and US I have met with some resistance from my students to working into the cranium, yet if we are not palpating, exploring, listening to, massaging and manipulating tissue in the entire face, cranium, neck and chest areas how can we expect to deliver the exceptional, vibrant outcomes world class facials demand?

The secret is always massage, massage, massage. With a skilled touch, open heart and head always learning.


How do I work with fascia in radical, proageing facials? Right now, I find these techniques to be the most helpful in releasing myofascial adhesions in the face.


Always using the mantra ‘broad-specific-broad’ with fascia work I like to begin with the broad palmar surfaces of the forearms, hands, thumbs and loose fists moving to finger tips all with a gentle sustained pressure. A significant section of the facial may then be devoted to skin rolling and frictions of diverse pressures and patterns {in line with fibers, then perpendicular and against}. Pace is s l o w. Still work valued. All beautifully melting fascial adhesions and ‘crunchies’.

It’s important to have resistance and this means no product, only the natural oils of the face. I prefer to not even clean the skin first as even this creates too much slip and glide (and there will be plenty of time for that later on). Of course my own hands are clean. I know this in itself can feel very weird and be rather controversial for those aestheticians still indoctrinated in (what I consider to be) the limited and traditional ideas of what a facial ‘should’ be but in order to work through different layers of tissue being able to get a good resistance and P U L L is key.


Put very simply Gua Sha is the stroking of the surface of the skin to promote healing and realignment in the tissues below and its all about connective tissue - both solid and fluid. Compression and directional pulling of the superficial fascia will awaken deeper layers of fascia and the tissue that connects to…Again in that beautiful chain of connection. Gua Sha can be used to release physical tightness and emotional reserves in the superficial (and all connected) fascia.



Is there anything better to decompress the tissues I ask myself every time I use cupping? Cupping is simply vacuum decompression in which a vacuum is created in a cup {I like to use only glass cups}. This gently separates bound strands of fascia. Cupping supports the release of excess heat making it a great inflammatory moderator. It is a powerful eliminator of tissue congestion. Fluids are moved. Tissue tensions released.



Set a clear intention from an open heart and hara. Clear away judgements and just listen to your own body, in a subtle communication with your client. Listen more to what your own body is telling you than imposing thoughts from your mind into actions in your hands. Be guided by your heart. Follow your hara (intuition).

Send your intention clearly down into the tissue you are working on - use your anatomical imagination to go sink all the way in, softly without any force.


Be lead by the body, do not lead the body. Explore freely and do not be confined by hard lines or preconceived conclusions that you think you have reached.

“There is one first rule… if at first you don’t succeed, get the hell out. Because if at first you don’t succeed, it’s somewhere else. There’s no use in just taking a hammer and tongs and trying to pull it apart. That’s no the answer. The whole trick of Rolfing is going around and around and around, and not barging through…It doesn’t have to be forced. It’s that forcing that you have to avoid at all costs.” Ida Rolf


Educate the importance of hydration, because fascial freedom depends on hydration.


Watch sugar intake ~ Advance Glycation Endproducts negatively affect fascial health.

{It is essential to include hydration and sugar here but their discussions are for another journal post.}


Interestingly blood, lymph & fascia are now not just thought to be intricately interlinked & interdependent but research released last year shows them to be one of the same [Bordoni 2018].

Fascia is already understood to be both elastic and rigid; resisting forces constantly pulling it apart whilst absorbing impact and compression {tensegrity}. Now it is believed fascia can be understood to be a “continuum”. Which is why we need surface resistance of the sink and stretch to release fascial restrictions. However, now Bordoni is opening up the definitions of fascia even more;

“…The fascia include everything that presumes the presence of collagen/connective tissue or form which it it is derived. All the tissue considered as “specialised connective tissue” of mesodermal derivation are inserted into the fascial system. These include blood, bone, cartilage, adipose tissue, hematopoietic tissue, and lymphatic tissue. The fascial system has no discontinuity in its path, with layers of different characteristics and properties overlapping.” [Bordoni 2018]

Let’s just take a moment for that to sink in… “The fascial system has no discontinuity in its path…”

Bordoni believes fascia to be both blood and lymph and I love his analogy of water shaping solid forms.

“As water shapes rocks, bodily fluids modify shapes and functions of bodily structures. Bodily fluids are silent witness of the mechanotransductive** information, allowing adaption and life, transporting biochemical and hormonal signals.

While the solid fascia tissue divides, supports and connects the different parts of the body system, the liquid fascial tissue feeds and transports messages for the solid fascia.” [Bordoni 2018]

The name Bordoni gives to this model is RAIN - Rapid Adaptability of Internal Network.

{The entire analogy to water, how fluids mould tissue, communicate and flow is a powerful energy in itself. When working with fascia and exploring and remembering these fascial depths I really recommend going with the water imagery allowing it to be absorbed into our anatomical imagination.}

This is pretty intense and groundbreaking research so as a facialist what are the biggest take homes for me?

1. That the delineation between deep & superficial fascia is only something that we see in cadavers [Bordoni; Barnes]; that actually it is not something that happens in live bodies. It is, as we already know but don’t always truly comprehend, all connected. All connective tissue is fascia (John Barnes). Bordani includes fluid tissues which are the fluid medium of fascia being considered a proprioceptive*** organ.

2. Fascia is a pro-receptive organ; a second nervous system. One which is in a constant state of flux to produce just the right amount of rigidity, protection, suppleness and elastic pliability.

3. Flow is key. “If the solid fascia (vessels) is functional, the liquid fascia will be as well; if the liquid fascia does not encounter any obstacle on its path, the sold fascia (vessels and body structures) will be able to carry out its functions.” [Bordoni 2018]

4. Cells and tissue need to be kept bathed in fluid. “Not enough fluid, and fascia is affected.” [Schierling 2018]. Remember when lymph is flowing cells are being bathed in fresh fluid. Various massage techniques have profoundly positive effects on the flow of fluids and thus keeping all cells and tissues bathed and healthy.

How do you work with fascia in your facials? I’d love to know and for us to share our techniques in the comments below.

For in sharing and supporting each other we create the flow of learning in our wholistic industry, just like the flow of fluids in tissue keeps it healthy.

With love,

Fiona xx


the future of facials

lies in understanding and treating fascia

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Journal of Evidence Based Integretive Medicine (A New Concept of Biotensegrity Incorporating Liquid Tissues: Blood and Lymph)

Dr Russel Schierling; Blood, Lymph and Other Bodily Fluids as Fascia? Fascia, tensegrity and fluid dynamics. A new model for the way fascia functions.

*What is know about fascia is changing and expanding rapidly as more and more research investigates this intrinsic system of our body.

** Mechanotransduction - is the process of turning mechanical stimulus into electrical impulses that our nervous system and brain recognise best. Dr Russell Schierling

*** Proprioceptive - relating to stimuli that are produced and perceived within an organism, especially those connected with the position, movement, motion and equilibrium of the body.

**** Anatomical images all Pinterest

Please note Fiona understands this to be but a brief scratch to the surface of a what is a fascinating, vast and ever changing landscape of fascia.

Fiona HarloweComment