In the era of the 10-Year Challenge, it often feels like we’re eyeballing every inch of ourselves to figure out what changes we can make to be glowier, stronger, and fitter than last year. It’s easier than most of us would like to admit to get caught up in a nonstop cycle of workouts, diets, and beauty treatments — all practically yelling at us that we need to stop doing that and start doing this.
One of the latest wellness trends to pop up in our social feeds and inboxes is facial fitness. Yep, working out your face is totally a thing. And before you roll your eyes or clutch your wallet, it could be worth considering — especially since it’s something you can do at home, even while you’re on the couch watching Netflix.
We dug deeper to get the scoop from believers and experts.
People have been trying to roll, brush, and whatever-this-thing-does their way to better skin for a while now. And it makes sense: Just like the rest of your body, your face has muscles (43 of them, to be exact). So if you could strength-train your facial muscles as often as you tone those glutes, shouldn’t you be able to see the results?
Inge Theron, the founder of Face Gym, decided to start the company after a facelift procedure left her housebound for quite some time. She decided to research in the hope of finding a noninvasive face-lifting solution. Some studies have shown real results from training the muscles of the face (specifically around the mouth).
“I realized that to achieve a natural facelift I needed to look beyond the skin and work on the muscles and facial framing first — just like I did at Barry’s Bootcamp and countless yoga sessions,” says Theron. “We don’t think twice about toning our muscles at the gym. Why think differently about the face?”
During your session at one of Theron’s “face gyms,” professionals spend time working out parts of your face for specific results, like tightening, toning, sculpting, or de-puffing. Sessions can range from $70 to over $200.
Theron isn’t the only one jumping on the facial fitness trend. According to Koko Hayashi, an anti-aging expert who founded Face Yoga with Koko, we actively use only 20 percent of our facial muscles for regular facial movements such as chewing, swallowing, smiling, and frowning. “Training and stretching your facial muscles is very important for skin elasticity,” Hayashi says.
Janet Prystowsky, MD, says that in terms of improving appearance or preventing wrinkles, there isn’t any real science to support facial fitness.
“Our current understanding is that dermal (deeper skin level) and subcutaneous (fat) connective tissue weakens over time, resulting in fine lines, furrows, and deeper folds. None of these degenerative changes are due to muscle,” says Prystowsky.
Joshua Zeichner, MD, agrees that while facial exercises could benefit the overall muscle tone in your face, they’re not a cure-all. “Exercises can’t take the place of traditional anti-aging treatments like injectable fillers and neurotoxins, so they won’t address the issues of skin tone, texture, and wrinkles,” he says.
Prystowsky does say that facial exercises may have tension relief benefits for the head and neck. However, if you have tension issues, check with your doctor to make sure facial exercises will not aggravate an underlying problem, such as neck arthritis or cervical disc problems.
Hayashi claims that face yoga is a natural alternative to Botox.
If you’re up for it, you can get started at home without spending a dime (or making questionable faces in public). Hayashi shared three at-home workouts you can do for your face, depending on which areas you want to focus on.
Anti-“Gobble” Neck Stretch (great for preventing/reducing double chin)
“Unless you have neck pain, slowly look up and stretch your neck as much as possible. Imagine that your chin is being pulled from the ceiling,” says Hayashi. “Then stick out your pointy tongue as high as possible. Keep the position for 10 seconds.”
“Just vibrate your lips and try to expand the vibration to the cheeks. Lip muscles are like core muscles in the face,” says Hayashi. “A lot of facial muscles are connected from here, so by relaxing the lip muscles, other facial muscles are relaxed, too. Try to vibrate even the cheeks when you vibrate your lips. The wider vibration on the skin, the better.”
Corners of the Mouth Lift-Up
“Let’s work on the corners of the mouth this time. First, smile with your upper teeth showing. Do not show your lower teeth. Then open your mouth a little bit and stick out your tongue. Slowly move your tongue to the right and to the left and repeat that three to five times. When you move the tongue, keep showing the upper teeth all the time,” says Hayashi.