When age and gravity cause your butt to droop or the backs of your arms to morph into floppy wings, you know what to do—get to the gym and up your squats or add an extra set of triceps moves.
But what about when your cheeks start to sag into jowls and your mouth seems stuck in a frown? Is it possible to exercise a few years off your face?
Well, yes, it may be! Bottom Line Personal spoke to Gary Sikorski, founder of Happy Face Yoga, to find out how some simple exercises can help you look much younger.
Face-firming exercise is nothing new. The idea dates back at least as far as the 1960s when fitness guru Jack LaLanne led people through a series of “facenastics.” And there have been dozens of face workouts since.
But none of them have been scrutinized by science until researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine decided to take a closer look at my program, Happy Face Yoga. Participants between 40 and 65 years old did two 90-minute training sessions in which I taught them 32 different moves targeting the face and the neck. (Don’t worry—you don’t need to learn 32 moves to make yourself look younger.) They then did the exercises at home for 20 weeks. For the first eight weeks, they spent a half hour each day flexing their facial muscles. For the next 12 weeks, they cut back to doing 30 minutes of exercises every other day.
Two dermatologists evaluated photographs of each participant taken at the beginning of the study…after eight weeks of facial exercise…and then after 20 weeks. Results: The photographs showed a roughly three-year decrease in age appearance over the 20-week period. Not bad for just moving your face around at home, right? And it’s possible that continuing to do the exercises could erase even more years off your look.
Before You Start
While changes to the structure of our skin play a large role in how we look as we age, changes to the muscles that underlie all that skin can have their effect, too.
I created 32 facial exercises so people have options, like when you go to a gym and there are so many types of equipment. But even if you do only a few of these exercises each day for 15 minutes, you can help yourself look younger.
Below I’ll share three of the most effective facial exercises, but first, here are tips to help you get the most out of the overall program…
Because you’ll be touching your face, wash your hands before you do the exercises.
Wash your face, too. You don’t want your skin to be slippery with makeup or lotion.
Try to avoid touching the skin directly under your eyes, which is very delicate.
Use visualization when you are doing the exercises—imagine your muscles are moving and strengthening. This visualization tells your brain to send more signals to the muscles to get them working!
While you do the exercises, maintain good posture. Sit up straight. Good posture acts as an anchor and will allow you to focus on the facial muscles you are exercising.
Drink lots of water—at least six glasses a day. Water is the ultimate moisturizer. It helps carry nutrients and oxygen to your skin and muscles and helps flush out toxins.
Three face-firming exercises…
The Cheek Lifter
The idea here is to strengthen the muscles in the cheeks—elevating droopy cheeks to more youthful heights.
1. Form a long/tall “O” shape with your mouth and fold your upper lip over your front teeth.
2. Smile to lift your cheek muscles. Place your index fingers lightly and directly on the top part of each cheek, directly under your eyes.
3. Relax your cheek muscles, allowing them to return to their original position (keep your mouth in an “O”), and then smile again to lift your cheek muscles. Visualize pushing the muscles up toward your eyes as you smile. You have just completed one “push-up.” Repeat nine more times.
4. On the final push-up, hold your cheek muscles up as high as you can. Move your index fingers an inch away from your face, and raise them to scalp level while looking at them to help you visualize your cheek muscles lifting. Continue looking up at your fingers, and hold for 20 seconds. Release and relax.
Do the entire sequence of 10 cheek lifters three times per session.
The Happy Face Lifter
This exercise strengthens the entire face and increases blood flow to the muscles of the face, neck and scalp. It’s most effective when done standing up.
1. Form a long/tall “O” with your mouth, press your lips against your teeth, then slowly fold them over your teeth. Smile to lift your cheek muscles.
2. Close your eyes, and roll your eyeballs toward your scalp. Adjust your mouth to make the “O” as small as possible. Smile again to further tighten those cheek muscles, keeping the “O” small. Slowly tilt your head slightly back.
3. Tighten your abdominal muscles and buttocks, lift your chest, and contract all your facial muscles. Keeping your eyes closed, slowly raise your hands up and over your head as you visualize lifting every single facial muscle off your body.
4. Hold the lift tightly for 30 seconds while taking long, deep breaths. On an exhale, allow your hands and head to drop toward the floor. Slowly inhale and relax.
Do this exercise one time every morning and every evening.
This jaw-and-neck exercise firms sagging cheeks and droopy jowls and can diminish wrinkles on the sides of the chin.
1. Open your mouth, and make an “Ahh” sound. Fold your lower lip over your lower teeth and hold tightly. Extend your lower jaw forward.
2. Using your lower jaw only, scoop up very slowly, as if you’re using your jaw to scoop up something very heavy, then repeatedly open it and scoop again. Each time you scoop, tilt your head back so that your chin rises about an inch, incrementally tilting your head farther and farther.
3. Do 10 scoops. By the final one, your face should be about parallel with the ceiling. Keep your chin extended and hold tightly for 20 seconds while visualizing the sides of your face lifting.
Repeat twice for a total of three sets.