Save your face one exercise at a time

Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent each year on anti-aging and anti-wrinkling treatments in an effort to improve one’s appearance and mask potential signs of aging. Zion Market Research says the global anti-aging market was valued at $140.3 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach $216.52 billion in 2021. Although medical procedures and products sold at drug stores and by cosmetics retailers have their benefits, exercise also may provide some benefits, especially as it pertains to one’s face and appearance. Just as it is possible to tone the body, one also can tone the muscles in the face to improve his or her appearance.

Brands like Face Yoga and FaceXercise promote facial exercises that reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines without the need for more invasive procedures. Proponents of Face Yoga, which is a series of exercises performed most days of the week for about 20 minutes a day, say it will tone underlying muscles and help improve blood circulation. Fans attest that the movements also may encourage the production of collagen, which is the protein that keeps skin elastic and gives it its plump feeling.

The face contains 57 muscles that can be worked gently to see results. A new Northwestern Medicine study published in JAMA Dermatology is the first scientific study to test the premise of facial exercise and its effects on appearance. The study found that a daily or alternate-day 30-minute facial exercise program sustained over 20 weeks improved the facial appearance of middle-aged women, resulting in a younger appearance with fuller upper and lower cheeks. The idea is that building muscle volume can counter the effects of age-related fat thinning and skin loosening in the face.

Some people are skeptical of facial exercise, while others emphasize caution in regard to which exercises are chosen. Some dermatologists warn that pulling the face in the wrong directions through exercise actually may speed up the process of wrinkling and premature aging, making face exercises a trend to avoid. People who are currently on the fence may want to focus on movements that will strengthen facial muscles.

Doris Day, M.D., author of the book Skinfluence, says to try a facial movement where you look like you’re going to laugh or smile but don’t actually follow through. This raises eyebrows and targets those muscles and the ones by the ears that pull the skin back. Adopting a neutral face at rest is helpful as it helps prevent wrinkled brow and lines from frowning. The jury is still out as to the efficacy of facial exercise for wrinkle reduction. Combining facial stretching with a healthy diet and use of sunscreen and resolving to stay hydrated might help reduce the appearance of aging.