During lockdown, the combination of not being able to get to a physio or book massages, sitting at uncomfortable makeshift desks and potentially over-doing the home workouts meant that massage guns surged in popularity. Here was a way of soothing our aching muscles and relieving the ever-growing tension we were all experiencing. So perhaps it is unsurprising that the originators of the tech, Therabody - whose fans include Karlie Kloss and Cristiano Ronaldo - have just launched the Theraface Pro, £375 , the first percussive therapy (that’s the fancy way of saying massage gun) tool for the face. It does quite a bit more too. It sold out twice when it landed in the US in April and now it's available here online and at John Lewis . We wanted to see what the fuss was about.
Theraface Pro: what is it?
Why a massage gun for the face? It all started after users reported deploying the Theragun Mini on their faces (not advised, btw) to ease jaw tension, which had shot up significantly during the stress of the pandemic . Founder and chiropractor Dr Jason Wersland, who came up with the original Theragun to help him heal from a motorbike crash in 2007, set about creating a gadget to cater specifically for that need, and with a whole lot of extras too.
The handheld tool comes in black or white, with three differently-shaped percussive attachments to be used on the face with the aim of reducing facial muscle tension and increasing circulation to the skin. Then, there's an LED ring that emits red light to work on skin rejuvenation, blue light to help with light acne and infrared light that warms the skin to stimulate the healing process as well as work on wrinkles.
Next, there’s a cleansing brush attachment which you can use with your regular cleanser for a deeper, more effective clean as well as light exfoliation. It works in a different way from vibrating cleansing devices such as the Foreo, as it's percussive, using a stamping motion.
The other attachments don't move or shake but have their own unique properties. With the basic unit, comes a microcurrent attachment with two conductive heads (plus conductive gel) that uses low-level voltage to stimulate the muscles to make the skin look firmer.
If you want the full Swiss army knife of beauty devices, there's the option to add on Hot and Cold Rings, £79 to deliver collagen-stimulating and relaxing heat and depuffing cooling sensations respectively.
Now you're tooled up, you pick the head you want for whatever result or sensation you’re after and it snaps on easily with a magnet. The red light and infrared light can be used in conjunction with the percussive attachments (with the exception of the cleansing brush). So, with one buy you’re getting quite a few other beauty gadgets in one go, which helps when weighing up the cost.
However, the standout attachment and the part that makes this gadget totally unique and gives it the 'oooh' factor is the percussive therapy element.
What is percussive therapy?
Percussive therapy is when you use a massage gun to continually thump the skin. Sounds brutal, but as it thumps it stimulates the nervous system, generates heat and hits a cell nucleus called the chromatin. By stimulating chromatin your brain naturally provides pain relief to anywhere that’s hurting, making it a far more pain-free way to treat aching muscles compared with something like a foam roller. When tension is released it also increases blood flow which means more blood and nutrients are being carried around your body which makes you feel and look better.
Percussive therapy for face: good idea?
Research has shown that when it comes to improving muscle strength and muscle performance, percussive therapy on the body works. It’s why so many professional athletes are fans of massage guns. However, if you already own a body massage gun, even the Theragun Mini, it's not advised to put it on your face. The attachments are too big and could be far too aggressive. In terms of what percussive therapy does for the face, it’s exactly the same as elsewhere on the body - it releases tension and soothes aching muscles.
What does an independent skin expert think? "If you get migraines or a lot of tension in the face, massaging does help so this could help with that,” says aesthetic doctor, Dr Ahmed El Muntasar . “However, there’s no real science that shows it does anything to improve the quality of your skin on its own. The pulsating will increase the flow of blood to the skin, which is why your skin may look glowy after using it but that is about it. And theoretically, because you are massaging the area it might help with the absorption of your skincare products but nothing that massaging with your fingers wouldn’t do.”
However, by using the percussive massage heads with the red and infrared light attachments you can get then get the muscle-soothing benefit of the massage and the anti-ageing impact of the light therapy. And the gadget has undergone some rigourous clinical trials to prove it's efficacy. In fact it has been clinically proven that when you use the TheraFace Pro daily, following their recommended schedule of alternating between all the settings, for twelve weeks solid it will improve elasticity, firmness, and facial contour. And in the studies 97% of participants showed an improvement in lifting of their skin.
Victoria Woodhall, Get The Gloss Editorial Director put the Theraface Pro to the test:
“I am a habitual jaw grinder, and I often wake with cheeks like concrete and teeth that hurt. I wear a bite splint at night and have even had injectables to stop the nightly grind. Whenever I do have botulinum toxin injections to relax the jaw muscles, I notice that my face becomes slimmer. The masseter muscles are said to be the strongest in the body - mine, I believe, are Olympic standard - and teeth grinding bulks them up. It's also bad news also for my teeth, which have weakened and cracked under the strain and my sleep.
"The idea of using a massage gun rather than having repeated, and costly, injections (and crowns!) appealed. A face massage gun won't stop you from grinding, it works on damage limitation. Unpacking my Theraface Pro, I leaped on the pointy massage attachment, which got right into the knots in my jaw. However, I found myself using the flat head mostly, which is suitable for all areas. The spiky head delivers a more diffuse sensation suitable for around the eyes. It also feels really good on my temples and on the furrow lines between my eyebrows.
"There are three intensities of massage, I put it on the highest one which felt comfortable all over. In fact, on the lowest setting, it's practically impossible to manoeuvre around your forehead, as it just bounces off. It would be easy to think that it’s going to feel like a mallet hammering on your skin, but it’s not aggressive at all and also surprisingly quiet. It definitely passes the Netflix test as a beauty device you can use on the sofa without anyone having to switch on the subtitles over the din, plus there's no time limit to how short or long to use it for, so you can keep it going for an entire episode or just the few first minutes. The real 'ooh factor' came when I placed it just in front of the earlobe at the hinge of the jaw and - weirdly - when I pressed against my nostrils on the pressure points that normally feel the pointy bit of my gua sha.
"And while tools such as a gua sha or jade roller are brilliant, this involves almost zero effort - and let's face it compliance is a major factor in getting bang for your buck with beauty gadgets. You need something that's faff-free and not going to go the way of your spiralizer, gathering dust at the back of the cupboard. I think anyone who sits in front of a computer for hours or feels stiff and achy at the end of the day will benefit from how soothing and relaxed it makes your face feel. My teenage daughter, who is revising for her A-Levels found it soothing at the end of a long day bent over her books. I didn't find it had enough power to make a difference to my neck muscles though; for that I turned to my body massage gun.
"As for the other attachments. I don't like cleansing brushes - it's a texture thing - so while it doesn't suit me personally when I tried it, it did a pretty good job. You can wash all the attachments, but you can't immerse the base in water - so keep it out of the shower.
"However I did enjoy using the percussive head with the red light attachments and the fact that it was combining two treatments, although unlike an LED mask you are only covering a small area at a time. If you have the odd breakout, you could comfortably hold the blue LED over it to send it packing.
"Microcurrent is a proven face firming technology, and here there was no uncomfortable prickling. But if you already have a gadget like that at home, then it will be slightly redundant. I thought the cryo ring was brilliant, instantly cooling puffy eyes, great for hayfever season. It doesn't get as cold as cryotherapy rollers and ice globes that you store in the fridge and deliberately so, so to be gentler on the skin. It still felt plenty soothing enough. Anecdotally people have been using it as post-party recovery, so the brand tells me. The heat attachment felt nice and my face turned pink, but again I'm not sure it would tempt me back. I'd rather use my gua sha.
"Although the price is on a par with other beauty tools, it is still a lot of money to spend, especially if you already have a few gadgets at home as there may be quite a bit of crossover. If however, you are new to the beauty gadget game then this - in a way - becomes a savvy buy because it can do so many things.
"My main takeaway is that the percussive massage attachments made my jaw - and my whole face after a day of intense computer time - feel so much more relaxed. I could feel the tension in my face, including around my eyes, melt away and it left me calmly buzzing and yawning ready for bed.
"I haven’t experienced anything similar from any other tools or facials. In fact, the makers are creating protocols for facialists to use it in clients, so expect to see it in the hands of the professionals soon too. If your budget stretches to it I don’t think you’d be disappointed with the Theraface Pro in your self-care kit."
Buy Theraface Pro £375