Can Facial Exercises Really Make You Look Years Younger?

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Beautiful skin
Roman Samborskyi /

Want to look years younger? It might be as simple as putting your face through a daily “workout.”

Study participants who agreed to engage in 30 minutes of facial exercises every day over 20 weeks were deemed to look years younger at the end of the process than they did at the beginning, according to researchers at Northwestern University. Their findings were published last year in the medical journal JAMA Dermatology.

Dermatologists who looked at before and after photos of the study participants — women ages 40 to 65 — found an improvement in “cheek fullness,” estimating the women to be an average age of 48 years old.

That is a full three years younger than the women were judged to be before beginning the facial exercise regimen. The participants themselves also believed they looked younger at the end of the process.

A recent Harvard Health Blog post notes that the study is the first of its kind. Dr. Kristina Liu, a dermatologist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston who was not involved in the study, explains in the blog post:

“The concept of facial exercise is not a new one. A simple Internet search will produce a litany of blog posts and books on the subject, touting a variety of programs that promise to be the next fountain of youth. What the JAMA Dermatology researchers did in their study, which was the first of its kind, was to examine this question from a more rigorous scientific perspective.”

Exercises that reverse aging

A certified facial exercise instructor led the study participants through two 90-minute training sessions to help them learn 32 facial exercises.

So, what types of facial exercises do you need to perform to tap into this fountain of youth? Two examples, as explained in a Northwestern announcement about the study, include:

  • The Cheek Lifter: “Open mouth and form O, position upper lip over teeth, smile to lift cheek muscles up, put fingers lightly on top part of cheek, release cheek muscles to lower them, and lift back up. Repeat by lowering and lifting the cheeks.” A lengthier description is available in a handout issued by the university.
  • Happy Cheeks Sculpting: “Smile without showing teeth, purse lips together, smile forcing cheek muscles up, place fingers on corners of the mouth and slide them up to the top of the cheeks, hold for 20 seconds.” A lengthier description is available in a separate handout.

The women performed a routine of 30 minutes of daily facial exercises for eight weeks, followed by an every-other-day routine for an additional 12 weeks.

While this news is promising, researchers cautioned that the study had limitations. They noted in JAMA Dermatology:

“The sample was small, exclusively of middle-aged women, there were numerous dropouts, and there was no control group in the study.”

Alternatives to facial exercises

If 30 minutes of daily facial exercises sounds a bit taxing, make sunscreen your daily routine instead.

Dermatologist Liu writes in the Harvard Health Blog that “there is an enormous body of research that demonstrates the sun’s role in prematurely aging our skin.” She recommends daily use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher — especially for the face.

Not sure what exactly that means you should buy? We break it down in “19 Products You Should Always Buy Generic“:

“Look for an SPF (sun protection factor) rating of 30 or more and protection from both UVA and UVB rays, known as broad-spectrum protection. To be sure a product offers the latter, look for sunscreens with the phrase ‘broad spectrum SPF’ followed by an SPF number on the front of the product. Under federal law, manufacturers can use that phrase only on products that pass a broad-spectrum testing procedure.”

You’ll find a great selection of sunscreens at Amazon, Walmart and other retailers.

Would you be willing to perform daily facial exercises to keep aging at bay? Sound off in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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