A lot of times, after several weeks or months of making fun of a trendy new product, I will buy that product. Jade rollers are only the most recent example. I first saw one being used by a pop singer on Instagram, and I laughed for two reasons: one being that the singer was 19 years old with perfect skin, and the other being disbelief that anyone would believe smooshing your face with a rock like you’re rolling out a pie crust would do anything. My very own jade roller came in the mail two weeks later.
I have used my jade roller every day since it arrived, for probably 30 seconds up to a minute at a time. At that point I start to get bored, and my hands start to hurt, and I remember to wonder what it is that I’m doing. What I have gathered from beautiful women on Instagram is that jade rolling my face will make me look younger, fresher, and maybe even more sculpted, as if the skin on my face were putty I could punish into shape.
To find out whether any of this is doing anything, I spoke to Mary Stevenson, a dermatologist and assistant professor at NYU Langone. I’m thrilled to announce that the answer is: kind of!
The main thing jade rollers do for us is reduce puffiness by increasing lymphatic drainage (gross), Stevenson tells me. “Our lymphatic system helps to rid our bodies of toxins, water, and extra waste products, and basically lymph is a colorless fluid that often contains things like white blood cells,” she says. “And massage, especially with a cool, relaxing device, can encourage lymph drainage. So this can help with under-eye puffiness or general puffiness.” This, presumably, is what the tiny end of my jade roller is for: massaging under-eye bags back into one’s head (my description, not Stevenson’s).
That’s great and all, and I don’t mean to brag, but puffy under eyes are not an issue for me (yet). What I do suffer from is pores the size of the sun, and I’d seen claims the jade roller could shrink them. Is that part true? Mm. No.
“Your pore size is really what you’re born with,” says Stevenson. “You can minimize the appearance of your pores by doing things that improve the quality and texture of your skin. People who have clogged pores and more oily skin can feel like they have things in their pores, can feel like their pores look bigger, so you want to use products that are what we call non-comedogenic, which just means it’s not going to clog your pores.” Weird. So many things freely claim to shrink one’s pores and I have tried them all, and apparently it has been a waste of money?
My jade roller cost me $14.97, which really isn’t so bad compared to a lot of the above-referenced creams and oils and torture tools. And Stevenson says there is something special about jade, beyond the fact that Chinese massage has incorporated it since the 17th century. “I think the reason they’re often made out of these stones is because they’re cool and cold, and that can also stimulate drainage,” says Stevenson. “It’s similar to how people used to put on cool compresses, or cooled cucumber slices.” While the reduced puffiness effect is real, Stevenson says it’s also very temporary, and may last only a few hours — it’s not as though a daily rolling will prevent future puffiness from occurring.
And while some jade roller devotees advise using it to apply moisturizer or serum (to… push deeper it into your face, I guess?), Stevenson says that won’t really make a difference. “That amount of attention to applying something theoretically could increase penetration, rather than just quickly putting it on, but it’s not changing the barrier of your skin, so it’s not really changing penetration,” she says. Best jade roller practice is to use a clean roller on clean skin, says Stevenson, and to roll in an upward and outward direction. And, if nothing else, it won’t make anything worse.
“There’s certainly no downside to doing something that makes you feel good,” says Stevenson. “There is some suggestion that stress is related to a lot of skin conditions, and I think anything you’re doing that makes you feel a little bit more relaxed can always be a benefit.”
For me, the relaxation never lasts. My hand gets tired, and I get impatient, and I start scrolling through trash on my phone, and the jade becomes warmed by my stupid skin.
But for those first few seconds, when the jade is cool, and the cynicism has yet to kick in, I am happy.