If you've ever considered exercising to look younger, facial exercises were probably the last workout you had in mind. But according to recent research, facial exercises may actually help middle-aged women appear more youthful.
The January 2018 study, published in JAMA Dermatology, found that a 30-minute daily or alternate-day facial exercise program helped improve facial appearance of women ages 40 to 65 years old, resulting in a younger appearance with fuller cheeks. After just 20 weeks of completing a facial exercise program by Gary Sikorski of Happy Face Yoga, middle-aged women looked an average of three years younger.
"Now there is some evidence that facial exercises may improve facial appearance and reduce some visible signs of aging," said lead author Murad Alam, MD, in a press release. "The exercises enlarge and strengthen the facial muscles, so the face becomes firmer and more toned and shaped like a younger face."
Do facial exercises work for all people?
This was the first scientific study to test whether facial exercises help improve appearance, so there were some limitations. It only studied women who were ages 40 to 65 years old. Plus, there were only 27 participants recruited, and only 16 did all the exercises for the entire length of the whole study.
However, the results are promising as a possible alternative way for middle-aged women to look younger without undergoing riskier treatments.
"Assuming the findings are confirmed in a larger study, individuals now have a low-cost, non-toxic way for looking younger or to augment other cosmetic or anti-aging treatments they may be seeking," said Dr. Alam.
How to Do Facial Exercises for Cheeks
If you're interested in trying out facial exercises for yourself, you'll be happy to know that there are several options available. In this particular study, there were a whopping 32 different facial exercises that participants learned and performed throughout the 20 weeks, until dermatologist raters evaluated their post-study appearance after they were done.
One facial exercise for cheeks was the "cheek lifter," which involves opening your mouth and forming an 'O'; positioning your upper lip over your teeth; smiling to lift your cheek muscles up; putting fingers lightly on the top part of your cheek; releasing your cheek muscles to lower them; and then lifting them back up. You can then repeat by lowering and lifting the cheeks.
Another exercise for the face was the "happy cheeks sculpting," which requires smiling without showing your teeth; pursing your lips together; smiling while forcing your cheek muscles up; placing your fingers on the corners of your mouth, sliding them up to the very top of your cheeks; and holding for 20 seconds.
Now, how many of you just tested out those funny facial expressions for yourself? It may feel silly — but we admit that we suddenly have the urge to sign up for some facial exercise classes of our own!