You don’t have to look very far to find products, websites and even yoga classes touting the benefits of facial exercises. According to proponents of these exercises, contorting your face in various ways, such as making a large “O” with your mouth, helps to strengthen the muscles of your face and can prevent wrinkles. These can even work to tighten your face to decrease the wrinkles and sagging that are already there. But is this really a good idea? Or can facial exercises actually make your wrinkles worse?
After an extensive Google search, I discovered there weren't any scientific studies to either prove or disprove whether facial exercises can help reduce wrinkles and sagging. I did find, however, a number of experts who discourage facial exercises. Carolyn Ash, author of Timeless Skin: Healthy Skin for a Lifetime, speaker and owner of Carolyn Ash Skin Care states, “Wrinkles are lines of expression. They are formed by the constant animation of your face. Most of these facial exercise regimens encourage you to make faces that are just increasing the depth and premature appearance of the lines on your face.” Dr. Neal Schultz, in a video on DermTV.com, agrees that facial exercises cause more damage and increase your wrinkles. Dr. Liow Tiong Sin points out that wrinkles and sagging are caused by a decrease in collagen, elastin and fat, not a decrease in muscle tone. The repeated exercises will only serve to deepen the lines and wrinkles.
Changes in your skin are a natural part of aging. As you mature, your skin becomes thinner and even drier than it was when you were younger. Lines may appear from the constant facial expressions you make and have made all your life. Your skin will also begin to lose collagen and elastin. While you can’t stop the aging process, there are lifestyle choices that “speed up” the process - all of which you have control over:
- If you smoke, try to quit as soon as possible.
- Protect your skin from the sun - use sunscreen every day, wear a wide brimmed hat when out in the sun, seek shade during the hot, daytime hours (between 10 am and 4 pm).
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Cut down on alcoholic beverages.
- Take care of your skin - wash your face twice a day, use moisturizer daily, avoid facial products that irritate your skin (if they sting or burn, stop using them).
In addition to lifestyle changes, pay attention to the repetitive facial expressions you make. The more you use your muscles, the deeper your lines will be in that area. For example, if you are constantly squinting from the sun, you will probably develop lines around your eyes. Instead, use sunglasses to prevent squinting.
In the past, a facelift - which involves pulling back the skin of your face - was one of the only ways to reduce the signs of aging. Facelifts are still used, but there are additional medical interventions that can reduce the look of wrinkles and lines on your face.
Botox - Injections of Botox paralyze your muscles, stopping you from making the repetitive motions that cause the wrinkles.
Laser treatments - Different laser treatments can help soften wrinkles and lines, tighten skin and lighten scars (like scars from acne).
Chemical Peels - Skin peels help to remove dead surface layers of the skin, which can help reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles.
If you have wrinkles and lines and are looking for ways to improve your appearance, it is probably better to skip the exercises and talk with your dermatologist about the different options available. While exercises are cheaper (even free if you follow the directions on many different websites), you could actually be doing more harm and end up with deeper lines than when you started.
_For more information: _
“New and Improved Laser and Light Treatments Take Aim at Cellulite, Fat, Tattoos, Wrinkles and Sagging Skin,” 2014, March 21, Staff Writer, American Academy of Dermatology
“What Causes Our Skin to Age,” Date Unknown, Staff Writer, American Academy of Dermatology