What is jade rolling?

Jade rolling consists of slowly rolling a small tool made from the green gemstone upward over one’s face and neck.

Natural skin care gurus swear by the Chinese facial massage practice, and if you’ve been following the beauty blogosphere for the past few years, you might have heard about jade rolling by now.

Converts swear it helps with everything from diminishing fine lines and boosting circulation, to depuffing and lymphatic drainage. Some even say it helps sinuses. But do jade rollers really deserve the hype, or are they just another beauty gadget that’ll end up shoved in the back of your bathroom drawer in a few years?

The complete history of jade rolling is unclear, though many online news articles cite the claim that ancient Chinese princesses were fans of the tool — Empress Cixi is said to have used a jade roller on her skin. We couldn’t definitively confirm that rumor, but dermatologist David Lorscher, MD, did consult a colleague from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, who said she’d found ancient textual references to jade being used to even out a spotty complexion.

“Chinese holistic medicine has used this practice for years,” concurs Aimeé Bowen, a licensed esthetician and HSN skin care spokesperson in Daytona Beach, Florida. Jade has, indeed, been a staple throughout Asia for centuries due to its decorative, spiritual, and energetic qualities. “Jade is used for its calming properties, and [is believed to help heal] ailments from heart to kidney issues. It’s said to be helpful on the nervous system as well,” Bowen notes.

Though she hasn’t tried jade rolling herself, she’s on board with the idea: “I am a firm believer in facial massage and stimulation for good circulation. [This promotes] a healthy glow and is a natural, chemical-free way to promote healthy skin,” explains Bowen.

Jade rolling is also a common component in cosmetic acupuncture techniques in clinics.

Esthetician Gina Pulisciano, also the founder of Alchemy Holistics, agrees with Bowen. “Jade rolling is not a permanent fix by any means,” she admits. But using a roller tool is part of her personal daily skin care repertoire.

“Facial massage has numerous positive benefits,” she explains. “And believe it or not, so do crystals. I’ve used jade rollers in the past, but most recently I have switched over to a rose quartz roller.” The rose quartz, she claims, helps reduce redness and inflammation in addition to the benefits of regular jade rolling.

Most proponents suggest using a jade roller for about five minutes, twice per day, after washing your face and applying your creams or serums. It’s believed that rolling over the products can help them penetrate more deeply. Pulisciano, who only uses her roller from her neck up, says the most important thing to remember is always rolling in an upward motion.

“It’s important to massage in upward strokes to promote lifting. I also pay special attention to massaging the eye area and around the fine lines in the forehead, between the eyebrows, and the laugh lines around the mouth,” she says.

But does jade rolling work?

There’s no conclusive scientific proof backing up jade rollers’ claims about improving skin. Dr. Lortscher isn’t sold on the claims either and has never recommended them to his dermatology patients. “I can’t imagine it offers any proven benefits physically,” he says. He does acknowledge that it “may carry some soothing mental benefits, like a hot stone massage.”

For people who aren’t quite sold on jade rolling, there are other things you can do to help depuff your face at home.

“Using cucumber slices on the eyes really does work for puffiness, [as] do chilled black tea bags,” says Pulisciano. She also suggests avoiding salt, and eating lots of anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric, berries, broccoli, and beets. As far as combatting signs of aging? “The best way to fight aging is [by drinking] water, and lots of it,” she says.

If you are curious to try this at home, the internet is awash in jade rollers for sale, and plenty are very affordable. But be careful about what you’re buying. Some cheaper models aren’t made of pure jade — they might be dyed marble. According to an auctioneering site, one way to detect a fake is to assess how warm the stone feels (real jade should feel cool to the touch).

Another thing to keep in mind is bacteria. When GOOP’s jade egg came into the scene last year, some doctors expressed concern about jade being used anywhere delicate. Why? Because, jade is a porous material that can dry out easily. Hence, it has the potential to harbor bacteria. But, this shouldn’t be a problem if you’re gently wiping down your jade roller with warm soapy water after each use — and not sharing it with anyone else.

Laura Barcella is an author and freelance writer currently based in Brooklyn. She’s written for the New York Times, RollingStone.com, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, The Week, VanityFair.com, and many more.