Have you ever thought of doing a workout … with your face? Researchers recently explored this novel idea, which is sometimes called facial yoga. They wanted to uncover whether or not people could use targeted exercises to tone facial muscles with the goal of looking younger.
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Specifically, they used facial workouts 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 key areas such as cheeks, jawline, neck, eyelids, and eyebrows.
How did the study work?
The sample size was small. The researchers recruited 27 women between ages 40 and 65 and assigned a daily 30-minute session of various exercises for the face. They included tightening, stretching and lifting cheek muscles and muscles around the mouth and eyes.
Only 16 women completed the full 20-week program. According to the study, published in JAMA Dermatology, these women did appear about three years younger at the program’s end.
“This study is the first one to look at facial exercises and the appearance of aging,” says dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal, MD. “In considering the results, keep in mind that it’s a highly motivated group of middle-aged women willing to do 30-minute facial exercises daily.”
In other words, spending 30 minutes several days each week to exercise your face is a tall order.
“Unless someone is highly motivated, it’s hard to sustain these facial exercises over a long period of time,” Dr. Khetarpal says.
When do exercises help — and when might they hurt?
For certain motivated patients, Dr. Khetarpal says facial exercises could be beneficial. In particular, she might recommend an exercise that helps create a better cheekbone shape.
But getting good results requires consistency and time.
“You have to do facial exercises consistently six to seven days a week for 20-30 minutes per day. It takes at least three to four weeks before you start to notice results,” she says.
And you should consult your dermatologist before tackling a facial exercise regimen. These exercises won’t work for everyone.
They’re not a good idea if you’ve previously had cosmetic injectables, such as dermal fillers, for instance. “Facial exercises may cause the dermal fillers not to last as long,” Dr. Khetarpal says.
And for others, facial exercises could make signs of aging more noticeable.
“We know that repeated muscle contraction of the upper face (forehead, frown lines, crow’s feet) can cause those lines to become more etched and deeper over time,” she says. “So we’re cautious about the proper technique in performing these facial exercises.”
Other ways to address aging
While we’re always looking for ways to reduce wrinkles and other signs of aging, most people want the immediate results that fillers provide, Dr. Khetarpal says.
“Many people don’t want to wait a month or longer to see results,” she says.
She says that more 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, she adds.
“Also, it would be interesting to see how long the results of these facial exercises lasted once the patients stopped performing them,” she says.