Puffs of steam, fluffy white towels and soothing strokes: It’s the stuff you’ve come to expect from a facial. White gloves and invasive handling inside your mouth are what you expect from a dental cleaning. Alas, this is part of the buccal (pronounced buckle) experience, which, to be clear, is a facial—albeit, a very different kind than the ones we’re used to.
I first heard of buccal around Meghan Markle’s wedding last spring. Word got out that she swears by these "inner facials" and credits them for sculpting her cheekbones and jawline. Cool, MM, but also, isn’t a facial just a facial at the end of the day?
I didn’t give it much more thought until I started doing Gua Sha recently and noticed that it made my face appear slimmer, slightly lifted even. I’m in my 30s now, y’all. I am fully invested in lifting all of the things, all of the time.
So when someone mentioned that buccal was like Gua Sha on steroids, it finally clicked, and I immediately made an appointment with Danna Omari, one of few aestheticians in New York who specializes in this French technique.
Danna started off the treatment with a generous application of some heavenly emulsion called Best Skin Ever (a multipurpose cleanser-moisturizer made of seabuckthorn, tamanu, jojoba and vetiver essential oils). After a thorough cleanse, she broke out her Gua Sha tool and began a lymphatic massage. Ah, that’s the good stuff, I thought, as I fought to stay awake.
Next thing I know, the pleasantries were over, and I heard a loud snap as she put on her rubber gloves. "Are you ready for the buccal?" she asked. I nodded, hesitantly, as she lowered her fingers into my mouth and began a vigorous massage.
It was a strange sensation. It didn’t hurt, but it was certainly intense at times—especially around the jawline (where we hold a lot of tension). She kneaded my cheeks like a soft, springy dough, before moving to my lips.
"This is like a workout for your facial muscles," she explained. (Again, I nodded, mouth full of fingers and all.) "We’re getting deep into the tissue to relieve tension and increase blood flow to the surface of your skin so everything looks smoother and sculpted.” In other words, it’s the most non-invasive face-lift you can get without plastic surgery (despite the fact that she was literally inside my mouth—which, by the way, sounds suggestive no matter how you phrase it).
And just like that, it was over. Immediately, I felt as though a space had opened. My jaw slackened; my jawline sharpened. My cheekbones popped and I had a rosy glow about me. (90 minutes of intense kneading will do that for you, I suppose.) The next morning, my jaw still felt nice and relaxed and my usually pronounced nasolabial folds that sandwich either side of my mouth like a set of parenthesis were much softer, less glaring.
I can see why Meghan Markle believes in buccal. But, I am not a royal, and can’t keep up with regular $300 treatments. I would, however, consider revisiting this strangely wonderful facial before my own wedding someday.