Face workouts: do they work?
Updated: Oct 19
We work hard in the gym to firm and tone the muscles of our legs, arms, and butt. Why should our faces be any different? If we want to believe the internet, facial exercises, better known as face yoga, can stimulate and build muscles that can help sculpt the face and smooth out wrinkles. I imagine all of us would love this to be true, but is there any scientific evidence to back up this theory? I took a plunge into the world of face yoga to find out if it is true that we can take years off of our biological age by exercising our facial muscles.
WHAT IS FACE YOGA? Facial exercises, aka ‘face yoga’, are straight forward and repetitive movements to strengthen, tone, lift, and relax the facial muscles that support the skin. When we age, we lose volume in the face through a decreasing supply of fat cells, reduced production of collagen and elastin, diminishing bone structure as well as by the gradual displacement of fat pads between muscle and skin, which tend to slide downward over time. The muscles in the face are also shrinking, which results in unsupported skin that is prone to sagging and wrinkling. According to Dr. Murad Alam, professor of dermatology at the Feinberg School of Medicine of the Northwestern University of Chicago, we can exercise the muscle of the face. By doing face yoga, the fat pads will be more prone to stay in place, making the face appear fuller. It also increases the circulation of blood to the muscles and underlying tissue and thereby oxygenating the cells to detoxify and nourish the face at a deep level.
DOES IS WORK? There is evidence that face exercise could work as an anti-ageing method. A recent study  conducted on 16 women in the range of 40 to 65 years of age, done by Northwestern Medicine, showed that a 30-minute daily facial exercise routine maintained for at least 20 weeks could make middle-aged women look up to three years younger. They also found that upper cheek and lower cheek fullness, in particular, were significantly enhanced as a result of the exercises. Participants also reported being highly satisfied with the results and noticed an improvement on nearly all the facial areas that were rated. So far, this is the only credible academic study. Based on these results, we can conclude that there may be benefits to facial exercise if done regularly for a significant amount of time, which is said to be true also to get visible results from exercising any other part of our body.
Based on this study, 30 minutes a day or every other day should give you results. I can hear your mind go crazy; who has time to do 30 minutes of face exercise so often? I feel you. With our busy schedules, it is challenging to fit something with this level of dedication into your days, but maybe you can start with 5 minutes a day and slowly build it up to a point where it becomes a daily routine. This trick can work magic for every habit you might want to add to your daily chores, such as meditating, running or reading. You can even spread out the exercises over your day, so it won’t feel like you are ‘giving up’ 30 minutes of your day. The great thing is that you can do these exercises wherever you are: in your car, under the shower, or even while cooking.
WHICH EXERCISES WORK BEST? Gary Sikorski from Happy Face Yoga set up the workout program for the study conducted by Northwestern Medicine. The exercises he suggests are the following:
Happy cheeks sculpting (you will feel the burn with this one for sure!)
There are a lot of other face yoga experts, and most of them post excellent and often free tutorials on YouTube. Danielle Collins from Face Yoga Expert and Fumiko Takatsu from Face Yoga Method are some of the ‘face gurus’ out there. In the videos below, they show you quick and easy exercises that you can do at home.
IS IT WORTH YOUR TIME?
That is totally up to you. If you want to tone and firm your face in a natural and non-invasive way, then this is a good option. It is indeed time-consuming, but you will reap the benefits in the long run. You might end up doing it in the car while you drive to work, or while doing the laundry, and it becomes as habitual as brushing your teeth. For extra self-love and to reward yourself with some kindness for the hard work, you can finish each workout with a relaxing face massage.
am M, Walter AJ, Geisler A, et al. Association of Facial Exercise With the Appearance of Aging. JAMA Dermatol. 2018;154(3):365–367. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.5142