One dark day in Melbourne last month, as rain fell in curtains at the window, I lay on a bed while a woman I barely knew inserted her gloved hands inside my mouth. Her fingers reached into the deepest recesses as she slowly started to massage.
If this sounds like the stuff of nightmares, it wasn’t – because the gloved woman was integrated facialist April Brodie, who was about to perform the hero treatment of her renowned Buccal Fusion facial. I took a deep breath and relaxed, keen to see exactly what she’d achieve for my tired, 40-something buccal areas.
Like most of us, I used to refer to these buccal areas by their more usual name – cheeks – and the buccal cavity as simply “my mouth”. Like elbows and the tips of the ears, these pads of cheek fat were until recently one of the few body parts that had somehow managed to fly under the radar of cosmetic treatment.
That is, until the internet ‘discovered’ last year that Megan Markle enjoyed buccal massage from renowned UK facialist Nichola Joss (I can’t actually find any quotes from Markle saying she liked it, but no matter). This coincided with the internet also noticing that some celebrities were looking noticeably thinner in the face, in a way that wasn’t easily attributed to diet or exercise.
Chrissy Teigen was one of the few celebrities to admit that she’d had buccal fat removal, which gave her a more ‘sculpted’ appearance, with hollowed cheeks and more pronounced cheekbones. (Speculation was rife about other famous faces that might have succumbed to the scalpel, but none confessed.) Meanwhile, plastic surgeons in the US and UK reported a huge increase in the number of patients seeking buccal fat removal, while Google searches for the procedure had jumped by the end of last year.
Even the New York Times weighed in with a piece titled “Why is everyone suddenly obsessed with buccal fat?”
Given no one has ever described my face as cherubic, buccal surgery is one of the cosmetic procedures I emphatically do not need. But buccal facial massage, with its promise of higher cheekbones and instant lift? That I could try.
“The benefits of buccal massage include stimulation of lymphatic and blood flow, but also enhanced collagen and elastin production, as well as a dramatic tightening and lifting of muscles as well,” says Brodie, who trained with a Russian practitioner. “For many years it was a closely guarded technique and complex to learn – it still is.
“It involves massaging nearly all 42 muscles of the face. By working on the muscle fibres, we can create a lifting effect, manually sculpting and working the muscles and fascia that have become lax and sagged over time, or tight and stiffened by clenching. Using fingers inside and outside the mouth means we can access muscles more precisely.”
Many of her clients report feeling their jaw is more relaxed and ‘open’, and that their face seems lifted, she adds.
It involves massaging nearly all 42 muscles of the face
An integrated facialist, Brodie is one of the few buccal massage practitioners in Australia. The particular treatment I experienced was gifted by Brodie’s team for me to try (at $495, it’s an investment). She devised the facial during lockdown and comprises much of what she’s learned in her 40-year career.
Following a deep cleanse, Brodie used gua sha and cupping to stimulate lymphatic drainage, working in arcs across my face, neck and decolletage. The gentle pressure of a roller and suction device felt like it was releasing tension in my face. When she began the buccal massage, the feeling wasn’t as intrusive as expected – probably because I was already blissed out from the gua sha – and the sense of relief in the sides of my jaw, which often ache after clenching at night, was profound.
At the end of the 90-minute treatment, which finished with a few warming minutes under LED, my face felt like all the accumulated years of stress and worry had melted away (if only!). And in the following days, my jawline and cheeks did feel lifted – a result that lasted for a couple of weeks. It was subtle, but noticeable to me.
One of PRIMER’s beauty editors also tried Brodie’s Buccal Fusion facial and declared it one of the best facials she’d ever had. I agree. This is one celebrity facial treatment that’s worth the hype. Meghan Markle may have been onto something.