London: Facial exercises may significantly improve appearance and reduce some visible signs of ageing, a study suggests.
Researchers found that a 30-minute daily or alternate-day facial exercise programme sustained over 20 weeks improved the facial appearance of middle-aged women, resulting in a younger appearance with fuller upper and lower cheeks.
This is the first scientific study to test the premise of facial exercise improving appearance.
“Now there is some evidence that facial exercises may improve facial appearance and reduce some visible signs of ageing,” said Murad Alam from Northwestern University in the UK.
“The exercises enlarge and strengthen the facial muscles, so the face becomes firmer and more toned and shaped like a younger face,” said Alam, lead author of the study published in the journal JAMA Dermatology.
“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-ageing treatments they may be seeking,” he said.
As the face ages, skin loses elasticity and fat pads between the muscle and skin become thinner.
The fat pads, which fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, give the face much of its shape.
As skin becomes saggy, the thinning fat pads atrophy and slide, causing the face to “fall down.”
“But if muscle underneath becomes bigger, the skin has more stuffing underneath it and the firmer muscle appears to make the shape of the face more full,” said Emily Poon, an assistant research professor at Feinberg.
“Muscle growth is increasing the facial volume and counteracting the effects of age-related fat thinning and skin loosening,” Poon said.
Study participants, middle-aged women 40 to 65 years old, underwent two sets of face-to-face 90-minute training sessions from a facial exercise instructor.
At home, they continued to do these exercises for a total of 20 weeks. For the first eight weeks, they did the exercises daily for 30 minutes. From nine to 20 weeks, they did the same exercises every other day for 30 minutes a session.
Participants learned and performed 32 distinct facial exercises, each one for about a minute.
“One is The Cheek Lifter: Open mouth and form O, position upper lip over teeth, smile to lift cheek muscles up, put fingers lightly on top part of cheek, release check muscles to lower them, and lift back up. Repeat by lowering and lifting the cheeks,” researchers said.
“Another exercise is The Happy Cheeks Sculpting: Smile without showing teeth, purse lips together, smile forcing cheek muscles up, place fingers on corners of the mouth and slide them up to the top of the cheeks, hold for 20 seconds,” they said.
Two dermatologist raters looked separately at 19 features of the face and rated all of those at three different time points: at the beginning, at week eight and at week 20.
The raters found that upper cheek and lower cheek fullness, in particular, was significantly enhanced as a result of the exercises.
In addition, the raters estimated average patient age decreased over the course of the study. It started at 50.8 years, dropped to 49.6 years at eight weeks and then to 48.1 years at 20 weeks.