In recent years there’s been an interesting shift away from wearing “too busy” as a badge of honor, and toward the grounding practices we now refer to as self-care. This down-shift has given us permission to explore what makes us feel good, and what makes us feel good is, more often than not, linked to what also makes us feel beautiful.
Like many multi-hyphenate wellness practitioners, Candice Forness has roots in the beauty world, as a makeup artist and men’s grooming expert. She makes people look gorgeous for a living, which, as it turns out, is a job that requires more than perfecting the art of contouring and full brows. In search of a modality that complimented makeup artistry and would help her clients “radiate beauty,” she stumbled on Ayurvedic facial massage.
“It’s composed of elements of craniosacral therapy, polarity therapy, reiki, lymphatic drainage, acupressure, Swedish massage, and even yoga,” she explains. “I learned it here in New York from an Ayurvedic specialist who trained in India with the woman who built the system. Her father was a Bollywood makeup artist so she grew up on set, and they take their beauty very seriously.“
Forness works out of MINKA, a wellness space in Park Slope, which is where I meet her, in a small treatment room bathed in tangerine light from a Himalayan salt lamp. I lie on the table, covered in a fuzzy Navajo blanket, as she gently cradles the back of my head, supporting nine(ish) pounds of brain and skull. Beginning the treatment in this intimate way establishes a level of comfort and trust between us that sets a soothing tone for the next stage—unwinding and lifting the muscles systematically from the neck to the forehead.
I’m like putty in her hands. Forness presses and releases; soothes with long, firm strokes; twists and sculpts until my face feels remade. Halfway through, and half my face thoroughly massaged, she hovers the mirror over the table and let’s me study the difference between the two sides—one more relaxed and noticeably glowier than the other. Or, as she puts it: “One side’s on vacation in Bali and the other side is patiently waiting at the airport.”
I’ve been told more than once by estheticians that I carry a lot of tension in my jaw. It’s something I’m actively working on—releasing those muscles instead of habitually clenching them whenever I have an anxious thought (which is often). Forness tells me there’s more tightness in the right side, “the more masculine side, which is probably related to work stress and deadlines.” The left, more feminine side, associated with personal life and relationships, is happily much more pliable.
After a scalp massage that puts me to sleep, the treatment finishes with some reiki (a hands-on form of energy healing) focused on the heart—a muscle with an interesting connection to the jaw. It turns out they share a specific set of nerves, so when you are experiencing troubles of the heart—either literally, in the case of a cardiac event, or emotionally—it can manifest in jaw ache.
Ninety minutes later, I peel myself up off the bed and Forness hands me a mirror and I understand why one of her clients refers to the results of Ayurvedic facelift massage as “orgasm face.” Pink cheeks, soft eyes, tangled post-scalp massage hair—it is, as Forness says, “the epitome of beauty—that fresh flush. The pleasure of being alive.”
The following day one of my fellow editors mentions that my face is looking especially slim. The day after that I wake up, look in the bathroom mirror, and notice a huge reduction in under eye puffiness, which is an issue I’ve become really conscious of lately. I decide to cut my usually meticulous makeup routine down to a swoosh of blush and a bit of mascara, and head out the door feeling radiant. By lifting my face Candice Forness also managed to lift my mood and my self-esteem.