It's one of those little-discussed Hollywood skin secrets—a source of skin-perfecting mojo that helps create a brighter tone, prevent blemishes and unleash a natural, A-list-worthy glow. The best part? It's something that we all have the potential to possess (with no spending required): healthy circulation and blood flow to the skin.
And while the concept of circulation and the blood system can feel esoteric (high school biology, anyone?), it's one worth getting to know.
To help make sense of what circulation, blood flow and oxygen can do for our complexions, we talked to Susan McCarthy, lead aesthetician at the renowned the Auberge Spa at Calistoga Ranch resort in Calistoga, California (fans include Mary J. Blige and Lady Gaga), and Harold Lancer, a dermatologist who has beautified the complexions of clients like Sofia Vergara, Allison Williams and Kim Kardashian.
The first thing to know is that "blood flow and circulation affect the skin on many different levels, including the way it looks, feels, behaves and ages," McCarthy recently told us.
If the skin's cellular system is sluggish with poor blood flow, then it won't provide enough nutrients, oxygen or lymphatic drainage to the skin. And like anything that's choking for air, the skin freaks out as a result.
The repercussions of underperforming circulation run the gamet. Some with poor blood circulation can develop grey or yellowish tints to the skin. For others, minimized blood flow allows toxins to build up and excrete through the skin, where it then can manifest as acne, dry spots and/or rashes.
Additionally, since healthy oxygen flow in the skin helps keep our bodies' native bacteria dormant (and therefore, skin looking clear), a breakdown in the system can awaken this bacteria, allow it to multiply and develop into acne.
"We see inflammation more and more at the spa," McCarthy said. "It's the number one concern of most of the men and women who come through."
While many suffer from overstressed skin, many don't pinpoint circulation as a culprit and may simply reach for a concealer, blemish treatment or hydrating cream instead to help "fix" skin tone, blemishes or dry patches.
But when the circulatory process is revved up instead, it can increase skin cell turnover, which can boost collagen production (something that helps keep skin looking fresh and young) and healthy oil production (which helps keep skin hydrated).
To get the blood in your complexion flowing again and wake up skin, McCarthy suggested a technique she uses at the spa: facial massage.
When in the shower, use a gentle exfoliator to slough off dead skin cells. Start cleansing the face by massaging skin at the top of the forehead, using small circles. Continue massaging to the temple area, then to the skin around the eyes and to points below the earlobes, using light pressure. Finally, continue massaging down to the décolleté and the points near the front of the armpits, a discarding station for the lymphatic system.
Follow by using the same technique when applying a moisturizer when out of the shower.
"You should see a difference in skin in just a few weeks," McCarthy said. "Skin will take on a reflective, dewy quality as it begins to act and behave in a healthier fashion. Greyness will lift and you will see an overall improvement of skin tonality."
Another option in the skin circulation-stimulating game to use a microcurrent device to induce glow. Dr. Lancer developed his Microcurrent Power Boost tool for patients to help address puffy eyes and sagging jowls while at home. "Increasing or improving circulation can lead to better overall skin tone, elasticity and better skin health," he said.