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Facial Restrictions in Massage Therapy

author image Katherine Mariaca
Katherine Mariaca is a professional freelance journalist who specializes in alternative and complementary medicine, and skin and body care treatments. A longtime spa director and VP of skin care companies, Mariaca developed products and services for the spa industry. She earned a B.S. from Tufts and an M.F.A. from Lesley.
Facial Restrictions in Massage Therapy
Facial massage, though highly beneficial, has some restrictions.

For thousands of years, people the world over have recognized the health benefits of massage. Mayo Clinic reports that massage, a form of complementary and alternative medicine, is now offered alongside standard medical treatments, such as cancer treatment. Benefits of massage include stress relief, pain management and boosting immunity. Massaging the face not only brings those benefits to a localized area, but it offers rejuvenating and skin-nourishing benefits as well. As wonderful as massage is, there are a few restrictions to facial massage that you should consider.

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Infectious Disease Types

A range of infectious diseases can appear on the face, including herpes cold sores around the lips, ringworm and shingles (herpes zoster). Shingles is especially contagious if a person has not yet had chickenpox. However, spread of the virus to that person will cause chickenpox rather than shingles. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expressly cautions that the herpes zoster virus can transmit from person to person and, if spread from one location to the eye area, can result in viral conjunctivitis.

Sunburned Skin Warning

Excessive sun exposure can result in sunburn, causing swelling, redness, irritation and pain. Jeffery Sobell, director of photomedicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, explains that sunburn is actually a toxic reaction to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Massaging damaged skin can further hurt skin and increases the likelihood that it will tear or bruise.

Eczema Contraindication

The University of Maryland Medical Center lists eczema as a contraindication for massage. Eczema, a family of skin conditions characterized by irritated, swollen and itchy skin, can cause skin to crack and weep. According to EczemaNet, overheating can exacerbate the condition and that scratching an outbreak may open damaged skin, making it more susceptible to infection. Massage not only increases local skin temperature but can further irritate an eczema outbreak. While massage can reduce stress, which helps those with eczema and generally lessens the incidence of flares, care should be taken to avoid active outbreaks on the face.

Massage Time Frame

Massage therapy stretches and loosens muscles, stimulates blood flow, aids in metabolic waste removal, releases endorphins (the body’s natural painkiller), and increases oxygen levels in the blood, according to the University of Minnesota’s Boynton Health Services. While all of these are beneficial to the body, as well as the mind, Massage Therapy 101 recommends that facial massage should not last more than 20 minutes at a stretch in order to decrease the possibility of lengthening facial muscles.


Licensed massage therapists and aestheticians receive training in the contraindications to massage. Consultation is the first step to any professional massage or facial. During that time, clients should discuss any health concerns they may have and should point out any infections. This protects both the client and the therapist. Oftentimes, massage can be performed around an irritated or infected area.

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