Treat Your­self

Can non-in­va­sive “fa­cial yoga” re­ally turn back the hands of time? Jes­sica Irvine tri­als a treat­ment Meghan Markle swears by.

Qantas - - CONTENTS - pho­to­graph by FLO­RIAN SOMMET

An anti-ageing therapy that’ll put your face through its paces

“Do you like cheek­bones?” Fumi Ya­mamoto, the owner of Zen Fa­cial, asks me. Not in some weird, served-with-a-nice-chi­anti way but…“Yes, I like cheek­bones.”

“And what do you want?”

I pause. “Ev­ery­thing.”

This isn’t a scene from Ex­treme Makeover but I’m se­cretly hop­ing the re­sult might come close. I’m at Zen Fa­cial (zen­fa­ in Syd­ney’s beach­side sub­urb of Bronte for a treat­ment that, as the es­tab­lish­ment’s name sug­gests, is some­thing of a spe­cialty here. Model Jes­sica Hart calls the treat­ments by Ya­mamoto “life-chang­ing”. Mi­randa Kerr, Jes­sica Gomes and Jesinta Franklin are sim­i­larly en­am­oured.

It ap­pears they like cheek­bones, too. But Ya­mamoto kicks off our ses­sion by work­ing on my feet. “It starts here,” she ex­plains, her fin­gers dart­ing be­tween my toes while she si­mul­ta­ne­ously in­structs me to open my mouth wide and curl my tongue back to­wards my throat. My jaw quickly starts aching from the stretch. Af­ter gen­tly prod­ding my stom­ach, she rolls me into a lower-back stretch then works her way up to my chest, ap­ply­ing creams and oils.

It all feels great – re­lax­ing, cen­tring – but I’m a lit­tle antsy for the face work to be­gin. Ac­cord­ing to Ya­mamoto, it al­ready has.

A former yoga teacher, she takes a holis­tic ap­proach to de­liv­er­ing treat­ments that aim to hy­drate, sculpt, plump and revitalise skin that’s head­ing south. Each fa­cial be­gins with an ex­am­i­na­tion of the stom­ach and feet to get a read­ing on what’s hap­pen­ing in­side the body. “Your face shows the long-term ef­fects of your life,” she says. “Your stom­ach is where you are at now.” Ya­mamoto draws on her knowl­edge of Eastern ther­a­pies, in­clud­ing acu­pres­sure, along with my­ofas­cial re­lease and cran­iosacral ther­a­pies and lym­phatic drainage. The lat­ter is what most of her celebrity clien­tele favour. Her web­site prom­ises “a nat­u­ral face lift for the body and soul”. No nee­dles nec­es­sary.

Not that we, as a na­tion, are back­ward about coax­ing our faces for­ward. Fig­ures re­leased by the Aus­tralasian Col­lege of Cos­metic Surgery in 2015 re­vealed that we’re spend­ing about $1 bil­lion each year on cos­metic pro­ce­dures, in­clud­ing more than $350 mil­lion on Bo­tox. Anti-wrin­kle in­jecta­bles and fillers rank in the top five.

But where does that leave the filler-pho­bic among us who still want to look fresh? Ear­lier this year came hope: news of non­in­va­sive prac­tices that might ac­tu­ally de­liver re­sults. A study con­ducted by North­west­ern Univer­sity in the United States sug­gested that prac­tis­ing cer­tain fa­cial ex­er­cises – or “fa­cial yoga” – over a pe­riod of 20 weeks ac­tu­ally left par­tic­i­pants look­ing younger. Three years younger, ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates by in­de­pen­dent der­ma­tol­o­gists.

But maybe I buried the lead: Meghan Markle, the new Duchess of Sus­sex, does it. The woman whose face eas­ily with­stood the beauty world’s ver­sion of an ex­treme sport – be­ing beamed out to mil­lions of peo­ple to be scru­ti­nised – re­vealed in a 2014 in­ter­view that she does a set of fa­cial move­ments, sim­i­lar to those prac­tised by Ya­mamoto, that were taught to her by Bri­tish fa­cial­ist Ni­chola Joss. “On the days I do it,” Meghan said, “my cheek­bones and jaw­line are way more sculpted.”


Around a third of the way into my ses­sion (it could be sooner or later – I’m on fa­cial time now), Ya­mamoto’s hands reach my face. I quickly re­alise this is less fa­cial yoga and more fa­cial phys­io­ther­apy. Her move­ments are swifter than I ex­pect, stronger, as her hands sweep along my jaw­line and knead their way through mus­cles to find cheek­bones that long ago con­sciously un­cou­pled from the fat that gave them life. My face feels as though it is be­ing re­struc­tured. Ya­mamoto pauses to ap­ply more creams and oils (she uses Jes­sica Gomes’s Equal Beauty prod­ucts as well as her own blends), a sheet mask and eye masks. She also waves a de­vice over my face that she says emits mi­cro cur­rents. It cer­tainly beeps a lot, like a high-pitched tut-tut for hav­ing left my skin to its own, rather de­pleted de­vices for so long.

Ya­mamoto pushes into my nose with firm move­ments then moves up to the top of my skull; I hear dull click­ing sounds as she frees up the tight mus­cles. She rolls her arm up and down my neck, too – it’s re­lax­ing, although at times it feels al­most chi­ro­prac­tic.

Two hours later, she’s done. “I gave you ‘the surgery’,” she says (an ini­tial con­sul­ta­tion with a treat­ment starts at $350; I had the restora­tive sculp­tural fa­cial, which is $440). We talk a lit­tle about my thoughts on the process but I’m antsy again. I’m keen to see my re­flec­tion. When I do, I’m struck by how stream­lined my face looks, even my nose. The line be­tween my eye­brows is softer. And my cheeks are sit­ting higher, their an­gles dusted off for an­other spin. I like them.

I share my ap­praisal with Ya­mamoto. “I lifted up, up, up from your feet,” she says with a laugh. “Now your face is back where it should be.”

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