Want a younger face? Exercise it!

    Want to reverse ageing? Train your face with these exercises to strip away years without breaking a sweat. Kelli Armstrong reports.

    We’ve long reaped the rewards of routine workouts that build and sculpt muscle from our calves to your clavicles. And now we’re learning that repetitive exercises performed by the muscles in our faces can have a sculpting effect too.

    The beauty practice of facial exercising is nothing new, having been heralded a youth elixir long before Botox injected itself into the beauty scene. But thanks to the world of social media, where looks matter most, it’s going mainstream.

    Experts say the first areas of the face to lose tone are around the eyes and along the jawline. As we age, collagen production slows down and fat tends to deposit in the wrong places, resulting in either a hollow or puffy appearance under the eyes and a saggy jaw.

    For those looking to turn back the clock, facial exercise is big news. Tiny contractions in the facial muscles combine to build heat and aid microcirculation, which in turn lifts the facial muscles. The stronger the muscles are underneath your skin, the more taut it appears on the outside.

    Non-invasive facelift

    US studios are leading the facial fitness movement with innovative programs touted as non-invasive alternatives to maintaining skin elasticity and firmness. LA and New York boast cutting-edge boutique fitness studios like Skin Fit Gym and Face-X-Ercise to get your face in shape. Private and group classes have you slip on white gloves and take instruction in front of individual mirrors.

    Then there are programs you can do at home, like Facial Magic by Cynthia Rowland.

    Rowland says everyone can benefit from facial exercises, and that implementing them while you’re young is a strategic anti-ageing plan.

    “Facial bones are set by age 25 and, believe it or not, wrinkles actually begin to form in the 20s, especially if a person has spent time in the sun or makes repetitive motions like squinting, concentrating or scowling,” Rowland explains.

    “Facial exercises can be a preventative measure to keep young people looking young. It’s also extremely effective at reversing the look of ageing in middle-aged and older individuals.

    “There are 43 muscles in the face and even more in the neck. They all need exercise, just like the rest of the body. It just makes sense.”

    When asked if the repeated stretching and face pulling can actually accentuate wrinkles, she says that unless you’re holding the positions for extended periods of time, then no, you’re not creating wrinkles, but rather ironing them out.

    A recent study by Northwestern University in the US confirms that facial exercises really can create a younger appearance. It’s the first scientific study to test the premise of facial exercise improving appearance. The results show that a 30 minute daily or alternate-day facial exercise program sustained over 20 weeks improves the facial appearance of middle-aged women.

    Not all exercise

    Although there’s evidence to support the efficacy of facial exercise, Dr Vincent Candrawinata of the University of Newcastle, says that “facial exercise only targets one aspect of ageing by enlarging and strengthening the facial muscles. The face becomes firmer, more toned and shaped like a younger face.”

    Dr Candrawinata adds that facial exercise comes with potential pitfalls. “Some of the movements will cause the already inelastic skin to fold over and over again, which may lead to the development of wrinkles and lines. Strengthening any muscle group must be performed routinely, otherwise these enlarged muscles could actually sag which, coupled with the loss of skin elasticity, could show even more signs of ageing.”

    As with any exercise, you need to commit, which isn’t hard, especially with Rowland’s Facial Magic program that requires just 22 minutes a day.

    “Facial exercises give the muscles an effective workout just as resistance machines at the gym give the body a workout,” says Rowland. “The exercises use your fingertips to create resistance. Not only are the muscles toned up, creating a more symmetrical look, but the plumped and lifted muscles fill out saggy skin.”

    She describes it as “the perfect, all-natural way to stop ageing in its tracks for younger generations and reverse the look of ageing in older ones.”

    There’s a reason facial fitness is headlining as the facelift of the future. More than just a passing trend, it’s the new fitness phenomenon to make time for in your routine.

     Jowls  4 repetitions each side

    1. Tilt your head back until you feel tension under your chin.
    2. With your head back, look over your shoulder, gently stretching the neck muscles.   
    3. Open your mouth slightly and jut out your bottom teeth and jaw. Hold this position for 10 seconds.
    4. Breathe deeply though your nose and exhale through your nose.

     Upper Eye  4 repetitions

    1. Relax your eyebrow area and place the three middle fingers of each hand directly under your eyebrows.
    2. Drop the palms of your hands flat against your face.
    3. With your fingertips, push your brows upwards and slightly outwards.
    4. Hold your eyebrows in this position with your eyes slightly open.
    5. Make a frown to push your eyebrows into your fingertips while holding them high, hold for 10 seconds.
    6. Remove your hands from your face. Breathe in deeply through your nose, and exhale through your nose.

     Vertical Forehead Lines  4 repetitions

    1. Position the three middle fingers of each hand on your forehead so that your ring fingers are on the inner point of your eyebrows, with the two other fingers stacked vertically on top.
    2. Gently pull your skin outward until it goes taut.
    3. Raise the area by gently pushing upwards and hold.
    4. Holding this position, bring your eyebrows together into a frown. Hold for 10 seconds, gently closing your eyes after the 7th second.
    5. Remove your hands from your face. Breathe in deeply through your nose, and exhale through your nose.