Exercising Your Face Can Make You Look Younger, According To Science

We all know exercise can make look and feel more youthful by improving your flexibility and firming your muscles. So what about exercise… for your face?

A small study by a team of dermatologists in Northwestern University, published in the journal JAMA Dermatology, has shown that exercising your face by contorting it to work out your face and neck muscles can make you look younger.

But first, what makes us think a face looks “old”? As you go through life, a number of things happen to your face. Gravity pulls downwards and makes it sag. You lose the fat pads and connections under your skin, leading to wrinkles and less supple skin.

The theory behind facial exercises is that working out and strengthening face muscles can reduce these physical signs of ageing. Here’s what a typical face exercise looks like:

As the muscles get worked out, they grow larger and more taut (think of your boyfriend’s wonderful biceps), which then fills any hollowness, wrinkles, or sagginess and improves the contours of the face. Because of this, these exercise programs are often marketed as ”non-surgical face lifts” for their efficacy.

Dr. Murad Alam, Northwestern University’s vice chairman and professor of dermatology, decided to put these claims to the test. He recruited 27 women aged between 40 and 65 years to test the Happy Face Yoga program, a 30-minute program of 32 different exercises that work the face and neck. The women were taught how to do the full program and practiced them at home every day for 8 weeks, then every other day for 12 weeks.

At the end of 20 weeks, Dr. Alam’s team asked dermatologists to rate the photographs of the women before, during, and after the entire program. They also had to estimate their ages. The dermatologists saw the most improvements in the fullness of the women’s’ cheeks, but less so everywhere else. Interestingly though, they also estimated the women as being younger after the program than before.

A participant’s photo before the experiment, at week 8 of the experiment, and after the experiment. (Photo: Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine/ The New York Times)

“Now there is some evidence that facial exercises may improve facial appearance and reduce some visible signs of aging,” Dr. Alam said. “Facial exercises that may be beneficial include those that entail puckering and squeezing the cheeks. There are many muscles that collectively allow movement of the cheeks, and our study showed that building these up makes the upper and lower cheeks look fuller.”

While the women themselves were pleased with their own results, but it’s worth noting that a third of the participants quit before the whole 20 weeks came to end. Committing to an almost daily 30-minute exercise program – which is what you’ll have to do if you want to see results – isn’t easy– just ask anyone about their gym resolutions at the end of January. Being an initial study, it was also considerably small, but the team plans on carrying out more studies on facial exercise.

If you’d like to try a spot of facial exercise for yourself,  check out Northwestern’s sample list of facial exercises here or check out the video below!