I realized I'd stopped using eye cream around the middle of March. Then cleanser. Then contact lenses. This is around the same time I first saw inklings of FaceGym's new Personal Training virtual workouts; a March 15 email from founder Inge Theron explained that FaceGym studios were temporarily closing due to COVID-19, and that the brand was fast-tracking a "virtual exercise platform." The world was changing, taking my skincare routine and the industry itself along with it.
As someone who'd tried out FaceGym once before, I jumped on the chance to email the brand about the upcoming digital expansion. You see, the buzzy skincare studio — which offers part-massage, part-facial "workouts" — is as physical as it gets. It's gained a cult-like following thanks to impressive before-and-after shots, courtesy of its highly skilled Trainers: "Look how toned, sculpted and de-puffed the LEFT side is after just 5 minutes of our brand new resistance training techniques! Facial fitness is the new contouring," reads one of FaceGym's Instagram posts (to the tune of 1,000 likes).
How, exactly, could that be done remotely, with a computer screen between the FaceGym trainer and my skin? To find out, I signed up to try out the new one-on-one Personal Training service, days before its April 6 launch. Available at $60 per 45-minute session, the "facial" takes place over Zoom, with Trainers available in GT, ET, and PT time zones.
Similar to an IRL FaceGym appointment, I first had to fill out a pre-workout questionnaire. "Every session is completely personalized based on the information the client gives us about their lifestyle and routine as well as the condition of their skin," explains Madalaina Conti, FaceGym US national training manager and the trainer who facilitated my virtual workout. "We always start with our core stretches and warm up, then tailor our sculpting movements per person!"
Before that, though, I had to set myself up with a few essentials. Inevitably, FaceGym's Personal Trainings vary from its in-studio workouts — you have to have your own skincare products on hand (Conti recommends an oil-based serum), a webcam for Zoom, and hands strong enough to complete the workout motions. Optional: Contact lenses, a room with a door to shut out partners/pets/family, and the ability to watch your face be stretched and contorted on webcam without cringing too much.
When it was time to meet up, I clicked over to Zoom, my laptop balanced on the edge of my bed while I sat on the floor (for the best lighting, obviously). After chatting with Conti over webcam for a minute, she started the session with stretches — both for my shoulder and neck area, as well as my hands. "During our session we demonstrate some hand and wrist stretches that you can practice anywhere that will help to build strength and endurance," she explains.
After that, the workout officially began. Any feelings of awkwardness about video chatting with a virtual stranger — no pun intended — or seeing my awkwardly pinned back bangs on Zoom was whisked away by how vigorously the workout moved along, touching upon every skincare concern I outlined in the questionnaire. I enjoyed the quick pace and how many different movements were incorporated; I learned later that Conti has been with FaceGym for one-and-a-half years, and her experience showed.
Trainers can slow it down, too. "For clients new to facial massage, we will hone in on the specific area that they primarily want to focus on and start with a few basic movements that we do more repetition with, which is just as effective," Conti says. "Then we can work in a wider range of movements when they feel more comfortable and have had some practice!"
When my session was up, I checked out my results away from the webcam — and while my skin wasn't quite as just-left-aerobics-class flushed as when I tried the studio in-person, I was very pleased with my Personal Training results. The puffiness I'd marked on my questionnaire had been massaged away, with my jawline and cheekbone contours noticeably more out and about. After I finally exited the room, my boyfriend paid me a compliment I never would've appreciated as much before 2020, as well: He said it looked like I'd been outside in the sun, breathing fresh air.
Though, to be honest? While the instant-glow results may fade, the fact that FaceGym inspired me to start wearing contacts again feels worth it all on its own. To book your own Personal Training, visit the skincare studio's website, facegym.com.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support.