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Facials induce brain relaxation and spark positive emotions: Study

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Skin care facials offer both physiological and psychological benefits - two cardinal components of hedonic wellbeing [Getty Images]
Skin care facials offer both physiological and psychological benefits - two cardinal components of hedonic wellbeing [Getty Images]

Related tags wellbeing Emotion wellness relaxation Facial skin care Facial care products face care holistic beauty mental health Skin health

A one-hour skin care facial can induce celebral, cardiac, respiratory and muscular relaxation and drive positive emotions, thus improving overall wellbeing, say researchers.

Writing in the International Journal of Cosmetics Science​, researchers from France investigated the physiological benefits associated with skin care facials, aiming to demonstrate the specific nature of wellbeing induced by such routines.

‘Physiological and psychological benefits’

Findings showed that physiological relaxation was observed with higher effects after a one-hour facial versus a period of resting. There were also clear physical effects following the treatment, with cerebral, cardiac, respiratory and muscular relaxation induced 42%, 13%, 12% and 17% more, respectively, than by resting. In addition, the researchers said non-verbal and verbal assessments showed “positive emotions were more markedly associated” following the facial.

“Our results have shown that facial skin care has both physiological and psychological benefits which are two cardinal components of hedonic wellbeing,” the researchers wrote.

“Although transient, facial skin care modulates parasympathetic activity, which leads to physiological relaxation. This neuromodulation is potentially enhanced by positive emotions induced by facial skin care,” they said.

The researchers said the study offered an important comparison between a resting period versus a one-hour facial skin care routine which therefore enabled insights into the specific profile of wellbeing induced by the latter.

“…All these observations contribute to the very scarce data available on the specific profile of wellbeing associated with facial skin care,” they said.

Study details – monitoring response to facials

The study was conducted with 63 healthy women aged 25-47 years, with 32 participants receiving a one-hour skin care facial and 31 participants subjected to a resting condition for one hour. The facial was performed by a trained aesthetician using massage gestures and products free from synthetic fragrance to avoid any olfactory interference.

The hypothesis of the study had been that a facial would induce a relaxation effect rather than a stimulation effect, offering “its own physiological signature, driven by both specific neuromodulation and emotional perception”, the researchers wrote.

The study monitored activity of diverse peripheral organs during the facial, checking heart rate and cardiac response, respiratory changes, muscular tension, and brain wave patterns. A system of feeling characterisation EmoChar was also used to decipher perceived discrete positive emotions.

Findings showed that celebral or brain relaxation was most notably improved following the one-hour facial – 42% more so than the group at rest. This was followed by muscular relaxation, cardiac relaxation, and respiratory relaxation.

The EmoChar analysis showed ‘relax’ and ‘pleasure’ to be the emotions most associated with higher scores amongst participants who received the facial. In contrast, lower scores were associated with ‘awakening’ in both groups. Overall, however, there were greater levels of positive emotions reported in the treatment group.

Measuring wellbeing – a ‘complex’ state with ‘multiple dimensions’

“According to WHO [the World Health Organisation], wellbeing is complex because it covers multiple dimensions,” the researchers wrote.

Wellbeing, they said, had two components. “First is the hedonic aspect, where wellbeing is considered to be the emotional tone of the subject as he experiences it immediately, without self-reflection or self-conception. Second is the eudemonic aspect, which results from a self-reflective and representational process, as it involves the judgement made by the subject about his self-achievement.”

In the case of a skin care facial, the researchers said it was the first aspect of wellbeing mostly experienced because it affected the feeling of a person subject to a punctual pleasant emotion. However, emotional wellbeing was not a one-dimensional state, rather manifested in three forms of expression: verbal, non-verbal and physiological, they said. And whilst the first two elements were already widely evaluated in the cosmetics field, the latter was less so. This study, the researchers said, was therefore original because it deciphered the “fingerprint of a facial skin care experience on these three dimensions of emotional wellbeing”.

Furthermore, since the physiological wellbeing induced by facial skin care was closely linked to a soothing effect, they said it had been especially interesting to compare its profile with that of a biological reference; a resting state.

“…This study is the first to highlight the specific signature of wellbeing induced by facial skin care by establishing an extensive physiological profile, completed with its emotional characterisation,” the researchers said. “We hope this work will pave the way to deciphering the physiological and emotional mechanisms, and the non-pathological markers, involved in wellbeing associated with the cosmetic procedure.”


Source: International Journal of Cosmetics Science
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1111/ics.12855
Title: “Physiological benefits associated with facial skin care: Well-being from emotional perception to neuromodulation”
Authors: S. Bouhout, A. Aubert, F. Vial and B. Choquenet

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