I want to start by saying I’m not “anti” aging. I want to live a long life, and that means if I’m lucky, I’m going to get old. The changes that go along with that are not signs of failure.
And yet, some of the more visible signs of aging — sagging skin, brittle hair, and a hopeless relationship with technology — aren’t qualities I’m exactly eager to embrace. So when “yoga for your face” popped up on my Facebook ad feed, despite the anti-aging marketing, I clicked.
Soon I found myself entranced, watching people contort their faces while raving about the benefits of toning. But it was the before-and-after pictures that got me: Their faces showed a near-miraculous transformation, without surgical (and presumably Photoshop) intervention. I initially cried foul.
Here’s what I learned when I dug a little deeper into face yoga.
What is face yoga?
Face yoga is kind of what it sounds like: Moving, stretching, and relaxing your facial muscles in an attempt to keep them more toned. It could be to keep your face looking more youthful (if that’s a goal) or that it just feels nice and is relaxing.
There’s no standard way to practice face yoga, but there are some more popular methods and moves hitting the spa scene.
We know yoga for the body comes with lots of benefits. But the impact of exercise on signs of facial aging hasn’t been extensively studied yet. However, a 2018 study of 20 women between ages 40 and 65 showed improvements in upper and lower cheek fullness after 20 weeks of facial exercise.
Participants were also subjectively more satisfied with their outcomes than before the study.
Researchers aren’t sure why this may be the case and how much it can actually help. There are theories that facial muscles could aid in keeping fat deposits in place longer, but nothing has been proven by science just yet. It also won’t likely affect any existing wrinkles or sagging skin.
The verdict? A big fat maybe. But if you’re on the bandwagon of keeping your face a little more taut for a little while longer, these facial exercises could be worth a try. A little self-care doesn’t hurt the psyche much, either. If you can relax your face out of stress-induced brow furrows more often, all the better.
Ultimately, though, if you’re aiming to look more youthful, a dermatologist or aesthetician can help you with better researched tools like a skin care routine, retinol, vitamin C, preventative Botox, and dermal fillers.
This routine takes about 25 minutes. Be sure to be very gentle with your skin (a little bit of facial oil can help keep tugging to a minimum).
Face yoga for the eyes
Press your index and middle finger to the outer eye corners and squint, but don’t wrinkle or crease. You’ll feel the slight pull. Squint about 50 times.
Cup your forefinger and thumb around your brow, cheek, and across the face, like binoculars. Lift your eyebrows 50 times, without wrinkling the forehead too much.
For eliminating those furrow “11s” between your eyes, press your forefinger to the top of the forehead, with your middle finger pushing your brow toward your eyes, down and out.
Your thumbs can rest on your cheeks. Lift and concentrate on the muscle for 50 reps. Then hold for 50 seconds.
Interlace your fingers over your forehead and apply gentle pressure while trying to lift your forehead up a little. Lift 50 times, then hold for 50 seconds.
Face yoga for cheeks
Open your mouth wide, cover your teeth with your lips (hence the name), then lift the cheeks, taking care not to wrinkle the eyes 50 times.
Neck and jawline
Kiss the Sky/TMJ Special
Press your fingertips gently on your collarbones. Tilt your face upward slightly, then push your chin forward at a 45-degree angle, lifting over one shoulder, then center, then the other shoulder, 10 times in each direction, repeating for a total of 5 times.
Then hold at each angle for 50 seconds. This was very hard for me, so I changed the name about halfway through.
Place one pointer finger on your trachea and the other over your lips. Inflate your cheeks, then pulse side-to-side, taking care not to wrinkle your face. This should make the neck muscles visible in the neck, like strings leading up to the jawline.
My sides were totally uneven, and I could see that in my face. Also, I had to really work to keep my face from wrinkling up, and could only do about 3 puffs per side before I had to stop and take a breath. Pulse 10 times each side and at the center.
Face yoga for the lips and nasolabial fold
Kiss Me, You Fool
Pucker your lips and tap your middle and index finger on your mouth 50 times (25 times with the left hand, then 25 times with the right).
I’m not convinced this doesn’t have more than a temporary effect, but you never know.
Press on the nasolabial folds (the lines on either side of your mouth) with your middle and index fingers, then smile without wrinkling your eyes. Smile 50 times, then hold for 50 seconds.
This differs from The Hummer because the focus is on the muscles beside the mouth as opposed to in the cheeks.
Hold your thumbs on the nasolabial lines while gently pressing your brow muscles (procerus) with your index fingers. Use only the muscles on the upper lip and around the nose to lift the upper lip 50 times, then hold for 50 seconds.
I had a hard time not involving my eyebrows, but would do it as much as I could without using my index fingers to press on the muscles.
Hot Towel and Oil
Gently press your face with warm tap water, and use a facial oil on your fingertips to massage the muscles. I pretty much just approximated massages I’d experiences with spa facials. Upward and outward is a good method.
Third Eye Massage
Finally, press your index finger between the brows, hold for 10 seconds. Circle in one direction for 20 seconds, then the other for 20 more. Bliss.
I tried this routine for 10 days. At the end, a crease in my left cheek seemed markedly fuller. I think my neck looks better, too, but it’s hard to tell. The jury is still out on whether I’ll continue.
Looking at the muscles of the face on a chart helped me isolate specific areas I was trying to work on, and was also useful for relaxation and massage.
Facial toning also can happen when you’re not doing the exercises, simply by being aware of the sensations made by wrinkling your mug and cutting that out.
There are loads of “anti-aging” techniques out there with limited known benefits. Face yoga falls into this category of the unknown. But if you find that routinely moving your facial muscles benefits you either physically or through relaxation, there’s nothing to stop you from giving it a go.
Lisa L. Kirchner is the author of the critically-acclaimed Hello American Lady Creature: What I Learned as a Woman in Qatar. She was once simultaneously the dating columnist for an alt weekly, bridal editor for a society rag, and the religion reporter for a gay and lesbian newspaper. More at LisaLKirchner.com, or find her on Twitter @lisakirchner.