I got a massage last week and it got me thinking about massage and acne. I did a little research. Here are my thoughts:
Benefits of massage:
Reduced stress: I was a puddle of relaxation after my massage–completely content. We all know that mental stress and acne can be related. Massage has been shown to calm the adrenal gland (which is activated during times of stress), a sure fire way to bring that stress under control. This is especially effective for women who make so much of their testosterone in the adrenal gland. Keeping testosterone in check helps control acne as well.
Increased lymphatic system functioning: Every one of our cells is bathed in a clear-ish fluid called lymph, which is filtered in the lymph nodes. This system helps with our immune system and our body’s constant fight against bacteria. Massage can help keep the lymphatic system moving and the lymph nodes filtering properly.
Increased circulation, deeper breathing (better oxygen consumption), better digestion, better sleep: These are among the other benefits of massage. Physical stress is also associated with acne, so anything that can reduce physical stress on the body should help keep us more clear.
Risks of massage:
Skin irritation: Inflammatory acne, the kind most of us get that creates red lesions that usually come to a head, responds poorly to irritation. This is why it is so important to keep the acne-prone areas of your skin relatively untouched when treating inflammatory acne. Massage obviously includes lots of touch. Depending on how sensitive your skin is to irritation, massage can potentially disrupt the delicate balance in the pores, which can cause temporary pore damage and ensuing inflammation (a zit). This is why I avoid facial massage when getting massaged. Since body acne is becoming less of an issue at this point in my life, my back tends to be able to handle massage fairly well without breaking out too much. Another potential irritant during massage is the pillow on which you rest your face. I much prefer getting a massage on a professional massage table. These tables have specially designed facial cushions which help reduce irritation you might get from having your face smooshed into a regular pillow for an hour or so during your massage.
Massage oil: Many oils are comedogenic (clog pores). I always take along some jojoba oil when I get a massage. If you make an appointment for a massage, you may want to either ask if the masseuse/massueur has some jojoba oil around, and if not, take some with you. Jojoba oil makes for a perfect massage oil.
Bottom line: Massage has many benefits and helps get the body into a natural balance. It can reduce stress which can help reduce acne symptoms. However, this must be balanced against the potential irritation the actual massage can engender. I would personally avoid massage if I had active body acne. For those of us with only light body acne, I think massage can still be a great part of life. To ensure that I don’t break out after a massage, I’ll take a shower and treat my upper back with benzoyl peroxide and AHA. I may treat the area for a few days afterward as well.