A 6-Step Protocol for the Face

By Melissa Strautman

Key Point

• PowerFace is a protocol designed to add meaningful work to the face during massage sessions.

I developed PowerFace facial massage in 2017 after hearing the needs of a client who wanted more meaningful work on her face during our massage therapy sessions. This client already loved the facial microcupping I provided and my somewhat “mundane” manual face massage routine. Her interests inspired me, and I began asking myself important questions regarding the benefits a revitalized facial massage service might bring to my clients, as well as what tools or supplies would be required, and if I would ultimately enjoy delivering this service.

I asked some of my clients if I could take a few extra minutes at the end of their massage sessions to workshop some new facial massage moves at no cost. I needed this tactile exercise to organize my thoughts, test my excitement, and conduct friendly market research on the protocol I was developing. 

At one point during the journey of experimentation, I remembered my lypossage training, where the instructor made us relearn the anatomy and physiology of all tissue layers—from the epidermis to the bone, how chemicals and tissue compression alter normal muscle and skin tone, and how outside manipulations and interventions could restore natural tissue health. This knowledge also fed my new protocol.

The PowerFace Method

The information my clients gave me in their feedback greatly informed the development of my facial protocol, as did the knowledge gained from the many modalities and techniques that have become part of my repertoire and experience over the years. 

Because fascial creasing, pooling of old interstitial fluids, and reduced elasticity are physiological issues that lead to tired and dull facial tissues,1 I wanted my facial massage technique to:

• Loosen soft-tissue adhesions (creases) that inhibit drainage and form lines

• Stretch and tonify fascia and muscle to help lift the expression

• Stimulate fibroblast cells for increased collagen and elastin production, letting the skin and fascia smoothly spring back into place instead of staying creased (crow’s feet, laugh lines)

• Thin and remove sticky interstitial and lymphatic fluids

Built and Shared Through Tradition

In addition to encouraging the use of Japanese facial massage techniques (as noted in step 3), history also inspired my PowerFace protocol.

While there are many types of Japanese facial massages, the star of the show is the Kobido style, which was developed in 1472 after two masters of Japan’s only massage style at the time, anma, were locked in an epic massage competition that lasted for months, with no winner being declared.3 These centuries-old massage competitions helped keep the art form pure and inspire new apprentices. 

These two masters deadlocked over their perfect use of kyoku te (bending hand, a unique percussion technique) on the face. Kyoku te is one of the seven categories of the ancient anma modality. In gracious form, they acquiesced to each other’s superior abilities. Together they developed a new house called Kobido that taught 48 specific face techniques that differed from anma techniques. This type of collaboration is constantly happening with modern-day massage championships, camps, and coaching events, and there is an exciting resurgence in these massage competitions throughout the US and Europe.

It is the heritage of massage education to learn from others. That spirit of generational sharing is why I decided to take PowerFace to the 2023 American Massage Championship in Cherokee, North Carolina, and share it with others there. I wanted to inspire other massage therapists, as I have been inspired by my peers in my journey. 


1. Cleveland Clinic, “Wrinkles,” last reviewed July 27, 2022, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10984-wrinkles.

2. James B. Mennell, Physical Treatment by Movement, Manipulation and Massage, 3rd ed. (Philadelphia: P. Blakiston’s Son & Co. Inc., 1934).

3. Kobido College, “What Is Kobido?” accessed November 2023, www.kobidocollege.com/heritage.

6 Steps in 60 Minutes

I created the following 60-minute protocol to clear lymphatic pathways and address the deeper musculature before moving superficially. Superficial tissues are addressed last to leave the upper layers of tissue “open” (not compressed by deep work) so the lymphatic valves remain open, and the lymphatics can sweep up debris within the interstitial fluid for about 12 hours. 

Step 1: Assess the fullness of the axillary lymph nodes (10–15 minutes). Allow the client to feel the before and after. Use Himalayan salt stones to warm the area and medicupping to gently knead the nodes until the armpit is smooth. This is not done at every session but at least twice yearly (fall and spring) or at any first session. Because of the length of time needed for this step, you may want to schedule a longer appointment.

Step 2: Incorporate Himalayan salt stones (10 minutes). Heat the entire face, neck, upper chest, and arms with Himalayan salt stones. Leave the stones parked along the trapezius, under the neck, under the upper arm, and at the axillary crease as you go.

Step 3: Apply vigorous manual massage (15–20 minutes). Massage the client’s arms, chest, neck, face, and scalp (entire treatment area) using Dr. James B. Mennell’s “uncorking-the-bottle” theory. Work each section from superficial to deep by using these steps in order: effleurage, then circular digital pressure, then lifting/kneading, and then friction, always attempting to work the section from proximal (to the heart) to distal and flushing back proximal. If trained, incorporate any Japanese facial techniques that apply.

Step 4: Incorporate gua sha (10–15 minutes). Perform gua sha on the entire treatment area to move superficial interstitial fluids. 

Step 5: Medicupping (15 minutes). Apply medicupping to the chest, neck, and face to separate all tissue layers, bring fresh fluids and oxygen to the area, and stimulate fibroblasts. Medicupping also reconditions the fascia to its regular length and suppleness, allowing fewer lines and a free flow of fluids.

Step 6: Find your finale (5 minutes). I do a full-body, supine spinal roll-up by rocking the body to stimulate the spinal fluids and finish with warm massage oil and stimulating massage to the posterior neck and upper back.

While the entire protocol respects the deep-to-superficial method for lymphatic fluid return, you will notice that the massage strokes during the manual facial massage adhere to the superficial-to-deep method of “uncorking the bottle” (noted in step 3) that originated with Mennell in the early 1900s.2 Mennell’s methodology (superficial-to-deep, work distal to proximal and flush back proximally) applies only when doing muscular work, which is a big part of this facial massage protocol. To stay true to our overall goal of deep-to-superficial, we move from the deep facial muscle work to the superficial medicupping.

Melissa Strautman is the founder of MassageFix and the inventor of PowerFace. In the last two years, she won gold and silver medals at the American Massage Championship and a gold medal at the World Massage Championship in Copenhagen, Denmark. She was inducted into the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame and is a certified medicupping specialist.