I Tried Face Gym, The Cult Favorite Skin Toning Studio. Here's My Review

May 24, 2023

As I write this, my wedding is exactly two months away! Once upon a time, I thought I’d gleefully plan and execute an intense bridal beauty regimen. When it actually came down to it, I found myself too busy and preoccupied with other things to do anything that special. I did buy this game-changing face cream and the Holy Grail of eye creams. But if anything, my skincare has become more haphazard, not less. It’s been tough to actually plan a bridal beauty campaign when there are so many other moving parts and vendors to email at any hour of the day! So when I discovered a Face Gym within minutes of my flat in London, I had to check it out in the name of bridal glow and “journalism.”

a woman client sitting on a chair and taking a selfie inside Face Gym

What is the Face Gym?

Founded by a former beauty columnist Inge Theron, Face Gym is a facial toning and sculpting studio with a fitness-adjacent marketing spin. Unlike in a gym where you tone your body, however, the trained aestheticians move the muscles in your face for you. Theron claims that she incorporated skin toning techniques from Mexico, France, and Japan into this signature routine. Devotees say that a Face Gym treatment sculpts and firms their faces for a rejuvenating effect.

My experience

As I entered the location in upscale Notting Hill, the waiting area was completely full of young(ish) women wearing tailored comfy outfit of trench coats and sneakers. Also dressed in the same, I felt ridiculous being Face Gym’s exact target demographic.  Soon, my aesthetician led me to my chair. This was tilted back so that I could see myself in the mirror on the ceiling as she worked on my face. Also, there was a wooden barre along the walls for no real reason other than to lean into the fitness aesthetic. It was used to hang coats and purses, but felt a little gimmicky—as did the red bouncy ball that the aesthetician used to rub all over my face.

But things got better when the aesthetician started with the real treatment. As with other facials, the 45-minute signature treatment begins with cleansing. Then she used a massage oil to knead and shape face muscles for at least 30 minutes. The pressure was a bit stronger than the traditional lymphatic drainage massage you receive at a classic European facial. But it was calming, relaxing, and pleasant.

Next, she wiped off the massage oil and used another serum to work the electric current device upward and outward from the center of my face. When I said I use NuFace Microcurrent Device every day, the aesthetician said their proprietary tool is “completely different” because NuFace works just at the skin layer, whereas this tool reaches deep into your muscles. Indeed, the electric current felt stronger and more penetrative. This wasn’t my favorite part of the treatment, but the aesthetician said that the effect is much more visible with this rather than only-hands treatment.

After the electric current, another cleansing, hydrating, and moisturizing step got me out of the chair. And the result?

a woman wearing face gym headband before the treatment beginsa woman after the face gym treatment

Before (l) and After (r)

The angle of my face is different in these two photos. My cheeks, especially my left cheek, looks more lifted and toned. Although I didn’t see much else that changed, my skin felt great, and I could really feel the healthy blood flow. Alas, at Ł90 for 45 minutes (plus more for tip—evidently there is no tip culture in the U.K., but I didn’t know that), I found it not effective enough. First, Face Gym signature treatment is primarily for lifting, toning, sculpting. It doesn’t deal with other issues like brightening, hydrating, smoothing, clarifying, etc. And the lifting effect dissipated in the next day or so—perhaps if I did it once a week, it would have a long-term impact, but that sounds absurdly expensive.

When I pay that much for a facial, I expect exfoliation, steaming, and a neck/shoulder/chest massage over a leisurely 60 minutes. Heck, my usual spa would offer me a cup of tea while I wait—Face Gym truly lacks in the small comforts department. I also prefer not being in the same room with other clients, and some of the machines can make a lot of noise. Overall, I found the marketing found a way to cut a lot of corners (such as private rooms, peaceful ambiance, longer treatment) while charging a lot of money. I also didn’t find their skincare products to be exceptional.

The verdict? I’m totally a believer of manual facial massage by a gifted aesthetician. Face Gym has a pretty good program, although I don’t think I could tell the Mexican / French / Japanese beauty traditions as advertised. I think I’ll keep working with my usual facialist at Aveda (magic fingers!) rather than shell out more money for an overly aggressive Face Gym.

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