S’pore influencers are promoting a S$3,000 massage that gives you a small face—but does it work?

What? Why? How?

Natalie Teo |
March 13, 2023, 3:21 pm

We’re not starting a cult but some followers on Instagram would be nice. Thank you.

You’ve heard of fillers, botox and double eyelid surgery, but another procedure for those who want to improve their looks is apparently… a face massage that promises to give you a smaller face???

If you, like me, are chronically online, chances are you’ve happened upon an influencer post or two hawking the benefits of “small face therapy”.

We’re not going to single anyone out, so here are some promotional posts from the salon, KOGAO, itself:

Image via small_face_therapy_kogao/Instagram.

Image via small_face_therapy_kogao/Instagram.

How it works (?)

According to KOGAO, the therapy works by “removing distortion, filling the gaps between bones and bones, and returning the bones to the correct position.”

The salon is directly managed by Kogao-Seisakusho, a “famous small face correction salon” in Japan.

Here are some before and after pictures of their customers, as well as some information on the issues that were resolved with this therapy.

Image via Small Face Therapy – KOGAO.

It may be called small face therapy, but if you’re having “trouble” with the size of your eyes, a low or crooked nose, or the height of your eyebrows, this can apparently help too.

Image via Small Face Therapy – KOGAO.

But… why?

If you have many questions after reading all of that, such as:

“WTF is a small face?”
“Wouldn’t that look strange on my regular-sized body?” and
“Why would anyone want that?”

You’re not alone.

The internet has questions, but the internet also has answers:

New York-based plastic surgeon Dr Philip Miller says that people may go for facial slimming procedures to achieve a defined jawline, which “can be an attractive indication of youth, beauty, fitness, and vitality”.

A well-defined jawline is one of seven typical features in attractive faces, according to Dr Karan Chopra, though he also adds that “entire set of facial features should work together”.

You may also have heard of the “golden ratio“, which measures symmetry in structure, being used as a marker for face attractiveness.

Actress Jodie Comer’s face was found to be 94.52% accurate to the golden ratio, making her “the most beautiful woman in the world“.

Asian beauty standards similarly call for a small, v-shaped face (among fair skin and big eyes), which goes back to the notion of looking youthful.

To fit into these standards, plastic surgery is especially common in South Korea, where it is estimated that between one-fifth to one-third of women in Seoul, the nation’s capital, have undergone cosmetic surgery.

Those who want to get that elusive v-line permanently can opt for procedures such as double jaw surgery, a procedure that involves breaking the jaw and realigning it, or a facial restructuring procedure that can remove “several millimetres” of bone from their chin and cheekbones.

Does it work?

In comparison to a high-risk surgery that takes (at least) months to recover from, getting results in a matter of two hours with no downtime sounds like a pretty good deal, if you ask me.

In fact, KOGAO claims to be able to reduce your entire skull size, without the invasive surgery and the pain.

They also claim to give a semi-permanent effect, unlike some of their competitors:

Image via Small Face Therapy – KOGAO.

A non-influencer review

Sounds a little too good to be true, so I asked a colleague who had tried it out a year ago for her review of the experience.

I was curious to find out what made her sign up for the treatment in the first place.

She confessed that she wanted to achieve a “certain ✨aesthetic✨” popularised by social media, which includes having a small face:

“The hopes of getting a smaller face in a non-invasive way was tempting enough for me to splash the amount of money which would probably be able to buy me month of a caifan.”

(PSA: Unless you’re spending S$100 on caifan (mixed vegetable rice) every day, this will cost you way more than a month’s worth of the dish. Even if you order fish.)

Based on what she was told by the consultants at KOGAO, here’s her explanation of how the procedure actually works:

But did it work? I asked, still pretty sceptical.

It did, she says, adding that she saw an overall reduction of 8cm, mostly in terms of the length of her face.

However, she was advised to go back for subsequent sessions to address her “facial asymmetry”, and was recommended three sessions in total “for longer lasting results”.

She was also told to maintain “good lifestyle habits” such as “try not to sleep on your side”, “have good posture” and “try to keep your jaw shut while at rest but not clenching” (sounds like it’ll take up too much of our cognitive abilities to be honest). 

Due to the high cost of the therapy however, she hasn’t been back since.

Still, while KOGAO advertises the procedure are painless, my colleague described the experience as “a world of pain”.

She likened the process to “intense tui na” (a form of hands-on body treatment in Traditional Chinese Medicine), as the therapist “exert[ed] quite a bit of force”, even using his entire body weight at times.

Is this backed by science?

You can actually reduce the size of some body parts to some extent through massage, according to Women’s Health.

Lymphatic drainage is a specialised form of massage therapy, and it reportedly “help[s] reduce water retention and bloat, according to anecdotal evidence and reviews, which may have a temporary visual slimming effect”.

It may also address a puffy face, dull complexion and skin irritation, among other issues.

Dermatologist Dr Emily Wise says that any results from a massage are “just temporary”, and there is no data that suggests it can provide a “long-lasting contour” or other benefits like getting rid of wrinkles.

Fellow dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Department of Dermatology Dr Joshua Zeichner adds that massage is also unlikely to help with strengthening muscles, or lifting the face.

And according to one Dr Amy Chai, it’s unlikely that anything short of surgery can actually alter your facial structure.

Still, if you have a spare S$3,000 to drop for a potentially smaller face, you can try it out anyway.

Top image via small_face_therapy_kogao/Instagram.

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