We know that getting the blood flowing through regular exercise is good for our bodies. But have you ever heard of doing a workout for your face? It’s an idea that’s gaining traction among people looking to ward off (or reverse) those stubborn crow’s feet.
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Some people call it face exercise. Some call it face yoga. And some are calling it into question.
We talked with dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal, MD, and massage therapist Vickie Bodner, LMT, to better understand what moving your face can do for you.
Do facial exercises work?
Recently, researchers took a look at whether people could use targeted exercises to tone their facial muscles and look younger. The results are in, but they’re not so definitive.
The study tasked a small group of women aged 40 and older to devote time every day to a series of facial workouts. The exercises were intended to reduce wrinkles, help fill in hollow cheeks and minimize other signs of aging. These exercises focused on strengthening and building up underlying muscle in the cheeks, jawline, neck, eyelids and eyebrows.
According to the study, participants appeared about three years younger at the program’s end.
Awesome! Sign me up for some face yoga, right? Well … it may not be so simple.
“This study was the first to look at facial exercises and the appearance of aging,” says Dr. Khetarpal. “In considering the results, keep in mind that it’s a small group of highly motivated participants who were willing to do 30 minutes facial exercises daily.”
Wait, 30 minutes devoted to moving your face? Every day? That’s a tall order.
“Unless someone is highly motivated, it’s hard to sustain these facial exercises over a long period of time and achieve these results,” Dr. Khetarpal notes.
She adds that more and bigger studies are needed before dermatologists can recommend facial exercises as a viable anti-aging remedy. Future studies need to include a much larger pool of participants and a control group, as well as longer-term studies to address whether the benefits remained after participants give up the routine.
Benefits of face massage
For those who don’t have the time to dedicate to a daily face exercise routine (especially when it’s not a proven win), even a quick face massage can have some solid benefits. While giving yourself a gentle face massage here and there may not magically erase your laugh lines, it can give your skin a healthy boost, Bodner says.
“Anytime you bring blood flow into an area, it gets your capillaries (blood vessels) moving, which can promote a relaxation of the muscles and get fluids moving,” she explains. “Sometimes, people get puffy under the eyes or in the sinus area. Practicing self-massage on the face may help you release unwanted fluids.”
Massaging your face can also:
- Relax your facial muscles.
- Release tension.
- Stimulate blood flow that makes your face “glow.”
Plus, let’s be real, a massage just feels sooo nice sometimes, and releasing tension looks great on just about everyone.
How to massage your face
Before performing your own face massage, wash your hands and face. You can use lotion or oil if you choose, but it’s not necessary if you don’t have any handy.
Start by stimulating your lymphatic system
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths — in through your nose, out through your mouth — to relax your face and your body.
- Place your hands at the base of your neck.
- Using light pressure, sweep your hands between your neck and your collarbone, slowly swooping them down toward your midline.
- Repeat three times.
“This will help stimulate your lymphatic system to possibly allow for the drainage of toxins,” Bodner says. “The lymphatic system is close to the skin. You don’t need to press hard. Light pressure will be enough to get things moving.”
One note of caution: Face massage isn’t recommended if you have redness, open sores or bruising on your face. Talk with a healthcare provider if you’re unsure if facial massage is right for you.
Follow this step-by-step face massage
Face massage can be done anywhere at any time. Dedicate as much time as you’d like, either performing the following steps as a series or on their own if you’re crunched for time. For optimal relaxation and rejuvenation, complete each exercise up to three times before moving on to the next.
- Bring your fingertips to your chin and gently sweep your hands up, going just above your jawline toward your earlobes.
- Use your thumb and index finger to gently pinch along your jawline, from your chin to the bottom of your earlobes.
- With your mouth closed and your jaw relaxed, massage your TMJ (the joint where your jaw meets your cheekbones) in a circular motion. Try it clockwise a few times and then counter-clockwise.
- Press your fingers to either side of your nose, at the base of your nostrils. Circle under your cheekbones, up to your temples, across or just above your eyebrows and down either side of your nose. This will make a full circle around your eyes. Try it the other way, too, starting at the base of your nostrils and moving up the sides of your nose.
- Gently and slowly massage small circles around your temples. Try it clockwise a few times and then counter-clockwise.
- Gently pinch both eyebrows between your thumb and forefinger starting from your nose and working out to your temples.
- Use your fingertips to sweep out over your forehead from your nose to your temples. Begin at your eyebrows and move up about a half inch each time until you reach your hairline.
- Use your thumb and index finger to slowly and gently pull your ears away from your head. Start at your earlobes and work your way up, massaging to the top of your ears. Then reverse, if it feels good.
Other anti-aging tips
Face massage can give you a quick boost, but if you’re looking for long-term wrinkle prevention, Dr. Khetarpal says there are several evidence-based options. Talk with your healthcare provider about: