Asian Beauty Secret: My Jade Roller Ritual

Photo: Sarah Kunst

Chinese people like to do things the old fashioned way. In the lower left corner of the image above, is my grandfather’s abacus. He calculated everything with it. He was an avid investor and would read the stock pages in the newspaper with a magnifying glass every morning. He kept detailed ledgers, books and books, columns and columns of tiny numerals and calculations, using a fine point gold Cross pen, as if a gold pen could beget more gold and prosperity. That’s how Chinese people think. Practical to a fault, but superstitious just to cover all the bases.

The older I get, the more I return to my roots, an Asian paradigm of practicality and spirituality.

But Enough About Abacuses, Onto Jade Rollers

I was first introduced to the jade roller a decade ago when I visited the legendary facialist, Ling Chan, of Ling Skincare. From supermodels to Oscar award-winning actresses, Ling has made the biggest stars glow brighter. She and her team of facialists integrated jade rollers into their facials long before Marianna Hewitt made it an Instagram sensation.

Jade rollers claim numerous benefits.

  1. Boost circulation.
  2. Aid lymphathic drainage to depuff and contour.
  3. Facilitate penetration of serums, essences, oils or moisturizers into the skin through facial massage.

Jade, as a stone, also claims various mystical properties. In Chinese culture, it’s a precious stone that represents five virtues: 1. Benevolence, 2. Righteousness, 3. Wisdom, 4. Bravery, 5. Honesty. For crystal believers, it’s said to have purifying, healing qualities, to ward off negative energy, anxiety, fatigue.

The Secret of Ling

Ling started as my facialist, but she turned into a guide in ways I didn’t even realize then. Ling was such a star and busy expanding her business, she rarely saw clients. But over the years, we developed a real relationship. She was a comfort to me in the big city, a proxy Asian auntie who also happened to know everything about maintaining beautiful skin. She possessed real Asian beauty wisdom, far ahead and transcendent of trends. Through our talks, I learned she was Buddhist and had even traveled to meet the Dalai Lama. She studied meditation under Nicholas Vreeland, the grandson of the legendary Vogue editor, Diana Vreeland. As I lay on the facial table one day, I found myself sharing a crossroads. So much was happening at once. I’d found a lump in my breast which had turned out to be benign. I had hit a wall in my job. I had broken up with a boyfriend.

“Joyce, I can tell you are a seeker,” she said. She offered, if I was interested, to teach me how to meditate.

Ling’s NYC spa in Union Square has Asian design elements, with delicate carved antique doors that open into the treatment rooms. When I finished my facial, I left my treatment room and walked through another set of doors. To my surprise, they opened into a small meditation room with cushions on the floor and carved furniture. The light was dim. It felt like a secret room in a monastery, except we were in a spa. It was magic.

We sat down on the floor. She instructed me to half-close my eyes and focus my gaze on the tip of my nose. She told me that as my thoughts wandered off–she fluttered her fingers away from her face and buzzed like a bee–to bring my focus back to the tip of my nose. I sat counting backwards from 100, eyes crossed, trying to keep my thoughts focused on the tip of my nose instead of buzzing around like a bee.

It was the first time I’d meditated. I didn’t feel remarkably different only incredibly touched by Ling’s kindness opening a door into a world where she had found peace and comfort, her personal sanctuary. She disappeared into her office and returned with a book I’d never heard of at the time, but have since learned is a defining modern spiritual text, When Things Fall Apart, by the Pema Chodron, the celebrated Buddhist teacher.

“I don’t want to take your book!” I said. “Plus, it’s really not that bad! I’m fine!”

She shushed me and pressed the book into my hand. It was the first time I’d been introduced to Buddhism, its principles now increasingly present in my everyday practices. Relax as it is, one of the chapters of the book, talks about loosening our grip on what we seek to control in our lives. Every time I say it to myself, to this day, I breathe a sigh of relief.

My Ritual

  1. Apply serum.
  2. Contour jawline and cheekbones with upward strokes and then down the sides of neck.
  3. Roll forehead outwards and down.
  4. Depuff eyelids and undereyes with smaller roller.

I still use the same set of jade rollers Ling gave me a decade ago. It’s a ritual. Certainly, it’s one step in my multi-step skincare regimen. I use it to depuff and smooth serum on my face in the mornings or at night. I use it over my sheet masks to press all the nourishing liquid into my skin. I like the rhythmic pressure as I massage my face. I like to feel the coolness against my skin. It’s calming, like a meditation, both practical and spiritual. I relax as it is, despite the changes I see in the mirror to my face and skin over the years. Lines, character, expression. But the rosy glow it leaves, of an energy that comes from within, has only brightened with time.