The origin of the idea of massage is lost in antiquity, but three thousand years before the Christian era found the Chinese practising it, and in 460 B.c. Hippocrates wrote : "Rubbing can make flesh, and cause parts to waste."
If this be true - and practice has found it so - one may, by using the wrong movements, aggravate the very evil one sets out to mitigate. There must be some system observed in the movements, and so it has been recognised that there needs to be, in efficient massage, specific movements to obtain specific effects.
Modern massage has been put upon a scientific basis, and an efficient masseuse finds a knowledge of anatomy very necessary. These remarks apply, of course, more particularly to general massage used for curative purposes, and where the movements are intended to influence muscles and nerves; and it may be mentioned in an article on beauty culture that there is no beautifier more efficient than a course of massage for the highly strung woman whose nerves require either nourishment or a sedative.
On the one hand, massage can stimulate the nerves, or on the other soothe them till irritability or neuralgia disappears. Massage can also control the flow of blood as well as stimulate the circulation.
Further, by means of pressure upon tissues it is made a means of eliminating waste and poisonous substances from the system; by manipulation of the muscles the lungs are indirectly influenced; by local treatment the digestive system can be improved, and muscle - and even bone - influenced.
But none of these purposes can be effected by amateurs, and the matter is only brought under consideration in this section in a particular search after home methods of cultivating beauty, and in order to discover how much a woman may adopt from professional methods, so as to succeed in self-massage.
There are four movements.
1. A stroking movement termed effleurage. Sometimes this is given with the tips of the fingers or thumb, and sometimes with the whole hand. Pressure is made in one direction only. The value of this movement in face massage is apparent when it is seen that effleurage is the movement depended upon to (a) Soothe the skin and underlying tissues.
(b) Improve the function of the skin.
(c) Improve circulation locally. Effleurage (or stroking) is used to precede, and also to follow 2. Petrissage (or kneading), which has far-reaching effects. In this movement the muscles are grasped in one or both hands, are subjected to pressure, are raised from their attachments, and are rolled upon the bones. The movement is useful in the treatment of obesity, "picking up" being the special movement used on a double chin and a too fleshy neck.
3. Massage a friction is a movement of small, overlapping circles by the palm of the hand and the cushion of the thumbs. The effect is to cause the tissues beneath the skin to work upon one another. A fair amount of pressure must be used. As this movement stimulates the action of the skin and nerves, and breaks down adhesions, its importance in face massage is obvious.
4. Tapotement, or percussion, is applied in several ways, of which "the flail" is the most useful for self-massage. In the flail, the tips of the fingers are held slightly apart, and a series of slight and sharp movements is made over the muscles. Tapotement can be applied to the face with the tips of the fingers brought together so as to form a cone. Slapping, clapping, hacking, and beating are further movements of percussion adapted to different parts of the body. Percussive movements are all stimulating.
Vibration is a vibration of the tissues to the end that they may be stimulated. To effect vibration, place the finger-pads, or the whole hand, over any given part, and create a sensation of trembling by allowing the hand to hang loosely from the wrist, and then throwing it into vibration. The sensation being carried through to the nerves, stimulates them.
Something of the nature of the skin must be realised if the movements of massage are to be applied intelligently and to good purpose.
The scarf-skin, or outer layer, has no blood-vessels, and few nerves. The openings of the sweat-ducts, otherwise pores, are in the scarf-skin. This is constantly being worn away and as constantly replaced.
In the true skin beneath the scarf-skin are two secreting organs, the sweat-glands and the fat-glands. A sweat-gland is like a coiled tube with a duct, which is twisted corkscrew fashion as. it passes through the epidermis. Perspiration is continually being passed off through the sweat-glands unless they become clogged. Massage, by stimulating the action of the sweat-glands, therefore removes and prevents "blackheads."
The fat-glands secrete oil and the ducts open into the hair follicles and over the surface of the skin, thus feeding it and keeping-it soft and glossy looking. If these glands are not kept in good working order, there are two punishments - the hair thins and looks dull; the kidneys, by having extra work thrown upon them, become overworked, and finally "go on strike." Both punishments are fatal to beauty.
In general massage, it is the exception to the rule of a good masseuse to requisition a cream or oil to facilitate movements. But in facial massage one of the chief objects is to feed the skin which the fat-glands have, for some cause or another, refused to serve any longer. It is for this reason that the ideal cream for facial massage is thus often described by the manufacturers of a face-cream : A skin-food readily absorbed by the skin, and with a composition similar to the natural oil of the skin. It will not encourage the growth of superfluous hair; will not become rancid; does not leave an oily look upon the skin. Both the animal and vegetable kingdoms have been searched in order that the demand shall be supplied, and many patent creams claim to be the successful result of this search.
Experience has proved, however, that neither the price nor the novel source of a cream bears any relation to its efficiency, and certainly the women known to the writer who have kept a youthful skin for longer than they would care to say are women who have long passed the stage of experimenting with new creams. They have simple and well-tried favourites which are used systematically.
Also it is becoming more common for women to use various methods of Mechanical Massage
Their advantages in facial massage (where there is not much need for the tediousness of the work to be considered seriously) are doubtful; whereas the use of the fingers has obvious advantages quite apart from the consideration of expense.
There is no doubt that the fingers can bestow upon a tired or old skin a certain amount of animal magnetism most valuable in massage. More, the pressure and movements can be regulated with all the delicacy possible. Obviously, a machine cannot adapt itself to the various movements brought into play by skilled and knowing fingers.
Broadly, there are two motives, one to prevent skin-ills, and the other to cure them. Preventive treatment requires an application of gentle effleurage, vibration, and tapotement. The movements are light and superficial. They need only to be used at intervals, where the complexion is young and fresh, probably once a fortnight, or when some fatigue causes extra attention to seem necessary.
Curative treatment must have more than superficial influence. It must be directed to the nerves and muscles, which in turn influence the skin, and it will be seen that superficial treatment can, in influencing the skin only, end in making it looser, and therefore more wrinkled than before. This fact accounts for much of the discredit which has fallen upon massage, superficial treatment making the complexion appear better for the time, but in the end worse, as the effects of the tonic to the skin wear away.
Curative treatment must also, to be successful, be followed often and regularly, about twice a week, with full massage at first, if the complexion has been neglected, and at regular intervals afterwards at discretion. No rules can be given, as cases differ, but spasmodic treatment is useless.
The woman taking immense pains with her complexion for a week, and then neglecting the matter for a month or two, fails to see that the object of massage is not to impart good health to the part massaged, but to coax it into the good habits usual to health. There is a reason for every movement, and intelligent, persistent movements will cause flesh to appear in sags and hollows, or disappear from cheeks and chin by coaxing nerves, tissues, and muscles to do their work properly.
To be continued.