Let’s face it. As the years go on, maintaining smooth, youthful skin can be a challenge. That's because as you age, fat deposited in the skin of the cheeks and temples tends to shrink, and your outer layer of skin gets thinner and starts to sag.
Smiling, frowning, or squinting takes its toll as well: The underlying muscles pull the skin over time, resulting in wrinkles that radiate from the corners of your eyes (crow’s feet), the corners of your mouth, and on your forehead.
Genetics, smoking, and sun damage are other major factors in sagging skin and wrinkling.
“If you live long enough, everybody is destined for wrinkles,” says Stephen T. Greenberg, M.D., a New York City plastic surgeon.
To reverse this process, beauty specialists have been touting facial fitness routines on the Internet that are supposed to tone sagging facial muscle, much like push-ups, pull-ups, and squats tone your arms and legs.
Some feature videos that claim to make your face, neck, and jawline fitter and reduce the appearance of fine lines. Others, such as FaceXercise, offers customers skin workouts in a spa-like environment to “maintain skin elasticity and firmness.”
But can a facial workout, such as tilting your head back and kissing the ceiling 50 times, really return your skin to its youthful glow?
“The short answer is no,” says David Lortscher, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in San Diego. “There aren’t many studies showing a strong correlation between facial exercises and the prevention of wrinkles.”
In fact, no studies to date have shown facial exercises to be effective. Some may even work against you. Practicing frowning or pursing your lips, for example, may cause wrinkles near your mouth to deepen, Lortscher says.
What helps with wrinkles
Actually, inactivity of facial muscles helps reduce wrinkling. When people suffer partial paralysis of the face, wrinkles tend to lessen on the paralyzed side.
That’s the rationale for Botox (botulism toxin) treatments, which temporarily paralyze the muscles that cause frowning and other wrinkling. But Botox for cosmetic use can cost $350 to $500 per area and is not covered by health insurance.
And it must be repeated every four months or so if you want to maintain the appearance, which can add up to thousands of dollars over a few years.
A cheaper and easier way to keep your face looking young and vibrant is to apply sunscreen every morning. “Wear sunblock with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 on your face every day, even if it’s overcast outside,” Greenberg says. The sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays damage collagen and weaken the skin’s elastic fibers.
Compared with darker skin, fair skin is more prone to sun damage. According to a study in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, sun exposure is responsible for 80 percent of the visible aging of a Caucasian woman’s face.