Do Face Exercises Actually Work?

Do Face Exercises actually work? Face Yoga Benefits - Nutrova

Make a fish face and suck your cheeks in, to get rid of the double chin; smile and force your eyes open to exercise your muscles – sounds familiar? With social media swamped with ideas to address the adult urge to age charmingly, statements like these have gained traction. Popularly named face yoga, face toning exercises have been in vogue globally owing to celebrities, influencers, and some skin experts endorsing them as part of their skincare regime. Add to it the pandemic, where people were keen to pick up fun trends while working from home, and this routine has been further amplified.

One of the reasons for all the buzz around the benefits of facial exercises is because it claims to reduce face fat (including a double chin), lift and tone the skin while exhibiting anti-ageing effects. But does science support these claims? Let’s try and find out! 

How do face exercises (or face yoga) really work?
Do Face Exercises actually work? Face Yoga Benefits - Nutrova

Like every other muscle in our body, our face muscles also get stronger and slightly bigger when exercised. These bigger, stronger muscles provide firmness and volume, helping the face look fuller. Again, like all other forms of exercise, it has been observed that consistency is important for these results [1].

There also seems to be a link between facial exercises and an anti-ageing effect on facial skin. Sagging skin and other age-related changes are partially caused by the effect of gravity. The former President of the American Academy of Dermatology, Dr Suzanne Olbricht, states that face yoga’s ability to reduce lines and sagging skin could be because toned muscles after exercise keep fat cells under our skin (which make our skin look plump) in place, preventing them from sliding down and sagging.

Also read why we get wrinkles and how we can protect our skin from ageing.

Moreover, the muscular activity obtained from exercising the face could potentially promote the production of two types of proteins in our facial skin - collagen and elastin – which give our skin structure and flexibility respectively. However, research still needs to demonstrate this in well-controlled studies [2].

Do Face Exercises actually work? Face Yoga Benefits - Nutrova

An interesting study of women who performed facial exercise consistently for 20 weeks (30 minutes a day for the first eight weeks and every alternate day for the next 12 weeks), found that their skin visibly looked two years younger when reviewed by a dermatologist [3]. These exercises can be done by everyone and could potentially counterbalance the ageing effect and also enhance muscle function. Additionally, a face workout can create significant volume changes around the upper lip, jawline, and cheeks, making our face appear younger [4].

But there is a potential downside. Experts are of the same opinion that many signs of facial ageing like crow’s-feet, laugh lines, folds, and forehead wrinkles — result from repetitive facial muscle activity like frowning or smiling over time. So while facial exercises definitely do show promising results, excessive manipulation or massage of the skin results in overuse and fatigue of muscles which can also be caused by these facial exercises when they aren’t performed the right way [5]. As with all other forms of exercise, moderation and doing them correctly seems to be the middle ground.

Should you be doing face exercises for healthier skin?

Do Face Exercises actually work? Face Yoga Benefits - Nutrova

While more research needs to be done, face exercises (or face yoga) definitely show a positive impact. These exercises seem to enlarge and strengthen the facial muscles, causing the face to become firmer, more toned, and slow down the effects of gravity and time. Besides, they’re practically free and require a few minutes a day, so there isn’t much harm in trying them out.

Many facial yoga experts and influencers swear by the benefits of practising face exercises, but let's first understand what they entail. So let’s take a step back to understand - what are facial exercises?

The human face possesses over two dozen individual muscles on each side - upwards of 30, depending on how they are counted [6]. Facial exercises or yoga for the face are simple exercises meant to work on strengthening our facial muscles by using quick massaging techniques. These work particularly on stimulation of the skin, muscles and lymphatic system. Simple facial exercises involve massaging with small, repeated motions on the face. These may also include making exaggerated expressions that help in activating and toning facial muscles. 

Examples of Facial Exercises

Types of Facial Exercises 

Here are a few facial exercises that one can practice to keep your facial skin looking healthy and fresh.

A) Brow Raiser: 

  1. Make a closed peace sign with your index and middle fingers
  2. Gently press the skin down with your fingertips across your brows
  3. Raise and drop your brows while using the weight of your fingernails to provide resistance
  4. Count to ten
  5. Finish six sets of this exercise everyday

B) Cheekbone Lift:

  1. Place your index and middle fingers on each cheekbone
  2. Lift the skin gently until it is tight
  3. You should feel resistance in the cheek muscles when you open your lips to create an extended "O"
  4. Hold the position for 5 seconds
  5. Finish 10 to 15 sets everyday

C) Puffer Fish Press

  1. Puff up your cheeks and close your lips
  2. Repeat for 30 seconds, shifting the air from one cheek to the other

Other Ways to Maintain Firm Skin

Here are some ways you can improve or maintain skin elasticity for a healthier looking skin.

  • Add antioxidants to your diet. Eat foods rich in vitamin C and E and lycopene 
  • Limiting sun exposure can help as overexposure to UV rays can cause premature ageing of skin and loss of skin elasticity. Having said that, the sun is also our primary source of vitamin D, so ensure you are spending 15-20 minutes in the sun twice a week
  • Use serums fortified with hyaluronic acid as it helps hydrate the skin and helps regain its natural elasticity [7]
  • Consider taking collagen supplements, which have shown to improve skin hydration, elasticity and decrease wrinkle width and other age-related skin signs

We hope this blog could expand on the importance of face yoga and help you reach a consensus on the debate.

Also read 8 Evidence-based benefits of practising yoga.

Dr Meghna Motwani, Ph.D.

Dr Motwani is Nutrova’s Head Research Scientist with a PhD in Stem Cell and Biomaterial Research. She led India’s one-of-its-kind clinical study, where the effects of oral consumption of collagen were evaluated on several skin health parameters. She is the brain and backbone of research at Nutrova with her work published in the prestigious Nature Materials and Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology.

More by Dr Meghna Motwani

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