We all know that working out is essential for maintaining a healthy body, but should you be exercising your face as well? Skincare trends come and go with the seasons and we’re all undeniably on the hunt for the one product or trick which will stop aging in its tracks. Increasing in popularity in recent months, facial exercises are the latest fad in the skincare world advertised as a means for tightening the skin for an ageless appearance.
However, this new skincare method has garnered reasonable suspicion as to whether or not it’s actually effective for reducing the appearance of wrinkles, or if it’s simply another money-making ploy from the skincare industry. We checked in with board certified dermatologist Dr. Geeta Patel and Board Certified Nurse Practitioner and Aesthetic Specialist Vanessa Coppola, FNP-BC to determine the legitimacy of the claims of facial exercises for anti-aging. This is what they had to say.
Facial exercises, much like regular exercise, are meant to stimulate blood flow in your face by engaging the muscles in that area and in theory, strengthening them. These specific movements are intended to ultimately relax the muscles of your face, claiming to eliminate wrinkles that may come from tension while simultaneously toning and contouring your skin.
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“By relaxing the muscles in the face, you give fewer opportunities for the skin on top to wrinkle. It also helps to lift the face by toning the muscles which means it can help with sagging jowls and tightening loose skin at the jawlines,” says Patel. The idea is that as you work to tone the muscles of your face, you will be able to contour an ageless appearance, much like you can build up the muscles of your body to preserve your health.
Derms that do support facial exercise as a means for anti-aging suggest completing the practice for around 20 minutes, 3-4 days a week. Just as with regular exercise it’s also advised to keep up your routine for several weeks before expecting to see any real results in your complexion as it takes time for these muscles to strengthen and tone. Certain stretches or exercises that are often included in this routine are contracting and stretching your face, as well as pulling down on skin which has begun to show wrinkles in order to smooth your complexion.
But now for the real question: can facial exercises actually provide any real benefit in fighting against aging, or is it merely another ploy pedaled by boutique skincare brands that tout collagen production and increased blood flow as results of this new age practice?
Ultimately dermatologists can agree that while facial exercises don’t cause any real damage to your skin, they also offer very minimal benefit to your complexion and are generally a waste of time and money as you work to preserve your skin. “Though facial exercises have been studied, there is not much research to back it up. The most promising and most-often-cited support comes from research published in JAMA Dermatology,” says Patel.
“In the study, a group of participants ages 40 to 65 performed facial exercises for 30 minutes a day for eight weeks. Then for 12 more weeks, they practiced the exercises three to four times per week. At the end of the 20 weeks, the study participants saw improved upper and lower cheek fullness,” she explains. “They also looked younger at the end of the study, with two dermatologists estimating the participants’ average age was 50.8 years old at the start of the study and 48.1 years 20 weeks later.”
That being said, the changes you could see after performing facial exercises will be small and unlikely to change the existing texture of your skin or even reduce deep-set wrinkles. According to Patel, “The JAMA Dermatology study authors noted that their participant sample was small and the results were modest.” However, facial exercises have been shown to moderately benefit any scarring on the skin, and practicing this skincare technique over time can help to reduce their appearance as well as help with skin rejuvenation.
One thing to note when considering doing facial exercises at home is that wrinkles are developed in the skin through a breakdown of collagen and overuse of expressions on the face. It is possible, although more research is needed, that practicing facial exercises may exacerbate the issue of wrinkles, causing more to appear as you continue to stretch and move the skin on your face as you age.
“Repetitive facial movements and exaggerations of normal facial expressions can cause stretching of the delicate facial tissues which might potentially contribute towards sagging,” warns Coppola. “We also know that dynamic facial movements can cause an increase in wrinkles in our face.”
As much as we would all love a long lasting cure to wrinkles as simple as stretching out our faces each day, facial exercises may not be that solution. Although massaging your face will naturally increase blood flow and have minimal benefits on your skin in the short term, in the long run it’s unlikely that you will experience profound changes in your complexion as a result of facial exercises.
While studies have shown that there may be small benefits in tightening your skin, more research is ultimately needed to determine if facial exercises are really worth your time or money. In the meantime, you will be better served sticking to tried and true skincare solutions such as the use of a retinol serum, keeping your skin protected with SPF, and drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated and fresh at any age.