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How Facials + Spa Therapies Stimulate the Vagus Nerve And Reduce Stress


The vagus nerve has stirred up a buzz in the wellness world over the past couple of years. This is mainly due to the mental and emotional health benefits that occur when the nerve is stimulated and creates a calming response- helping regulate stress.


What exactly is the vagus nerve?


If you haven’t heard of it, the vagus nerve is the main nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system.


The “tone” of the vagus nerve is responsible for many aspects of our heath, including inflammation, digestion, and mood. This makes sense, considering the nerve begins in the brain and extends throughout most of the body down to your gut- reaching every organ in the chest and abdomen.

Therefore, the vagus nerve is responsible for the communication between the brain, gut, cardiovascular, and immune systems. This is why the nerve was named “vagus”, which means “wandering” in Latin.


You are probably aware of how our bodies respond to stress with a “fight or flight” response, whether its every day low level stress like a traffic jam or the more major life challenges like the loss of a loved one.

When the vagus nerve is stimulated, it moves your body from the “fight or flight” state, into the “rest and digest” state. This regulation of the body’s stress response is essential to your overall mental and emotional health. In fact, studies have shown that regularly stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system and the vagus nerve may help treat and prevent stress-related disorders such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety.


How to Stimulate the Vagus Nerve + Reduce Stress with Facials + Spa Therapies


Engaging in self-care such as facials and spa therapies are not just for pampering, they have been clinically proven to benefit mental health by stimulating the vagus nerve and reducing stress.


The parasympathic nervous system is stimulated through a variety of spa therapies:




Facial massage is one of the most effective, yet sometimes under-rated forms of stress relieving self-care that stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. Facial massage loosens and relaxes tense, clenched facial muscles with intentional nurturing touch.


It also increases blood circulation which can reduce inflammation, a common contributor in aging, and produces a healthy, relaxed rosy glow.

Our skin and minds have an interconnected relationship, and the condition of your skin can essentially serve as a mirror to your overall health.


Body Massage


Massages in general (including facial massage) stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and are powerful activators of our psychophysiological (aka the mind/body connection) responses to stress.

There are also specific areas that will come into direct contact with vagus nerve. There are vagal sensory neurons located in parts of the head and neck which are stimulated through massage. A scalp massage is an effective treatment in parasympathetic nervous system/ vagus nerve stimulation and stress regulation.

When massage is applied to the feet, the vagus nerve is also stimulated, releasing the feel good hormone oxytocin that promotes relaxation and healthy digestion.

At citron, we include a full facial massage, scalp massage, and foot and hand massage with every facial and body treatment we offer.



Slow, Deep Breathing

Spa therapies such as facials and body treatments induce a deep relaxation response which slows our breathing. Taking deep slow breaths through our abdomen stimulates the vagus nerve and the entire parasympathetic nervous system. This can also be accomplished through breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation.


Hot and Cold Therapies

We include both hot and hold therapies in our facial and body treatments through steamed towel compressed, hot stones, and cryo-therapy globes. These type of hot and cold therapies also help stimulate the vagus nerve.

By redirecting the blood that is typically flowing evenly throughout the body to your organs to flow heavier to the essential organs, including your brain and your heart, your heart rates slows, calming the body.

Some other ways to reap the benefits of cold therapy at home are:


  • Ice water face plunge

  • Ice cube facial massage

  • Cold shower

  • Ocean swim plunge


There are certain essential oils such as lavender and sage that are clinically proven to reduce stress and stimulate the relaxation response.


Activating the parasympathetic nervous system increases your vagal tone and having higher vagal tone means that your body is able to handle stress with a more relaxed state. Therefore, we look at every detail of your spa experience and find ways to take your mind and body into a deep state of relaxation such as including personalized aromatherapy with each facial and body treatment.










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