Until, that is, I discovered the Empress Wand ($65), the newest facial tool from skin-care brand Wildling. A cousin of the ultra-buzzy gua sha, the wand was designed to release muscle tension in the face, neck, and jaw while reducing facial puffiness, stimulating blood and lymphatic flow, and sculpting the facial contours.
According to Wildling cofounder Gianna De La Torre, an acupuncturist and intuitive healer, jaw tension is extremely common in our digital age but no one's really talking about it... yet. "When the head is tilted forward, as it is when looking down on a phone or computer, the jaw bears the burden of the weight of the head," she explains. "When the head goes forward, the shoulders hunch, and this postural position is a recipe for tension." Left unchecked, this can lead to headaches and neck stiffness.
This is where the Empress Wand comes in. Its pointed end activates pressure points in neck, jaw, temples, and shoulders, while its two angled edges are used for more sweeping facial massage patterns. De La Torre says that you can enlist it to target sore spots after a gua sha routine, or use it solo when you've got a stiff neck or tender jaw. "If you use it regularly, you could experience a decrease in tension, diminished signs of fine lines and wrinkles in areas that you hold tension, and an overall more relaxed and softened face," she adds.
The first time I tested out the Empress Wand using the video tutorial above, I started by applying Wildling's facial mist and oil to my face and neck. Drawing the tool down and across the back of my neck felt like a fantastic deep-tissue massage, in a hurts-so-good kind of way. I could feel the bian stone wand working through the knots in my neck, and I noticed that I had more range of motion than usual (and less pain) when I did some neck rolls in a yoga class later that night.
Next, I used the wand to release my chest muscles by sweeping it beneath my collar bones and holding it down on an acupressure point next to my shoulder. This felt amazing and I could have done it all night. Unfortunately, I couldn't say the same when I finally brought the tool up to my face. Clearly, I need to work on my perpetually clenched jaw, because even lightly pressing the wand into my jaw pressure point was enough to send an intense ache up through the entire side of my head. I couldn't linger on this area for very long—same for my temples—but it wasn't so bad that I didn't want to do it all again the following night.
While I did not magically attain resting chill-girl face after one session, the Empress Wand ritual was a relaxing way to end a long day, and I'm excited to do it before my pre-bed showers a few nights a week. "Releasing tension in the face feels so good, it almost looks and feels as though a weight has been lifted," says De La Torre. Who knows—maybe someday my face and neck muscles will actually reflect my hometown's laid-back surfer vibes.
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