Sitting across from my 43-year-old friend over cocktails, I noted a change. A subtle change, yet I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. It was her face. Definitely her face. It looked fresh, like she had several weeks of a deep sleep (and I happen to know she is an insomniac). Two drinks in, I had to know: a new procedure? Nope! She’s embraced facial exercise — putting her appearance (and confidence) into her own hands. Literally.
Achieving a lifetime of beauty — inside and out — requires lifestyle changes, luck in the gene pool and commitment. At some point — big picture — will it still make sense to invest our money on injections, fillers and surgeries (no judgment here) or will we become more empowered to take control of improving and maintaining our aging face? We introduce you to three facial techniques that are self-healing, affordable and naturally beneficial for all of us — from ages 20 to 100.
It’s time for your facial muscles to “get physical”
Feel the burn — in your cheeks (not those cheeks, girl). Precise exercises developed for your face isolate and activate sagging muscles in your forehead, along your jaw line, and in your neck and cheeks (yes, those cheeks). You’ll quickly get over the bizarre expressions you’ll make to do the drills when the aha moment strikes: use it or lose it. Yes, it applies to facial muscles too.
But it takes some work. And consistency.
In fact, just like at the regular gym, you can hire a personal face trainer. At FaceGym, a spa/gym hybrid that’s set to open a studio in New York City’s Saks Fifth Avenue, a trainer (basically a masseuse for your face) uses high energy kneading movements to tone the “forgotten 40” facial muscles. Your “workout” can happen within a group setting or private session, running you from $70 to $275 a pop.
But if you’ve got the gumption, you can get your own face in shape naturally — and for free. Australian Peta Prior, a.k.a. your face exercise coach, developed Facerobics as a Botox alternative. Her free instructional videos on YouTube have 12.5 million views and inspire people across the globe to try exercises like the “Ultimate Cheek Lifter,” pictured above.
Dermatologist Margo Weishar says these techniques work by building muscles where we lost fat during aging, “bringing more support to parts of the face that used to have that.”
For lasting results, you have to put in the work. “This is ongoing. You can’t just do it for a week and think your face is going to lift and stay lifted,” explains Prior. (Aha! Just like working out!) Carole Maggio, an originator of the facial exercise movement, claims her workouts plump lips, narrow noses and even enlarge eye sockets by “working the muscle to maximum capacity.” And, if you start in your 30s or early 40s, you can “reverse the aging process.” Say no more. Athleisure wear on!
Frequency: 5 times a week
Duration: 20 minutes
Look for Changes: three months
If you’re thinking this sounds like something Gwyneth Paltrow would love — you’re right. Face yoga has been having a moment, largely due to the praising of its benefits on Paltrow’s lifestyle imprint, Goop. But unlike many hefty price tag items touted by the celebrity brand, you don’t have to spend a fortune for the privilege to practice at home. Fumiko Takatsu, 49, developed the Face Yoga Method so people could get their yoga benefits from the neck up. The program uses mindfulness to rethink habits that may be adding wrinkles. For example, “looking down to text creates a double chin,” says Takatsu. Her Aging Habit Quiz pairs specific yoga poses with facial areas of concern.
A typical posture would be the “Forehead Freeze,” placing your hands on your forehead and opening your eyes as wide as possible while relaxing the face. The idea is to “send a message to the forehead not to move when you open your eyes,” thus reducing wrinkles and combining the practice with visualizations and affirmations.
Dermatologist Anna Guanche also finds mindfulness helpful. “Anything that can help you to recognize ‘when I do that, I am creating this line,’ and break that habit is great.”
And yep, there's an app for that. Face yogi Danielle Collins created Face Yoga for Your Busy Life featuring one- to three-minute sequences to tighten the 57 muscles on the face and neck.
“When we visualize that we are able to control our own face and the way we carry our face and expressions, we feel powerful,” says Takatsu. Namaste, dear face.
Frequency: 7 times a week
Duration: 20 minutes
Look for Changes: 30 days
Get the ball rolling — on boosted circulation and rejuvenated bones
Bone loss occurs faster in the face than anywhere else in the body — and sooner for women than for men — grrr.
To engage the bone, Yamuna Zake developed a program using a customized ball to rejuvenate the face. The ball shouldn't roll or slide but should place direct pressure to the bone. “The bones start to age, get osteoporotic and the face starts to cave in. By realigning and stimulating the bones of the face, you can get the muscles to plump up,” says Zake. "A person in any age range could reap the benefits from the use of a face ball, as it increases circulation,” says Debra Jaliman, author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From a Top New York Dermatologist.
Sue Hitzmann, creator of MELT Your Face, uses a ball in a different way — to heighten cheekbones, decrease eye puffiness and plump lips by regenerating connective tissue. And Sandra Chiu, of Brooklyn wellness studio Treatment by Lanshin, offers a free tutorial for using a jade stone to boost facial circulation via the Chinese art of gua sha.
Zake recommends using the face ball three times a week. “Women want to do something themselves," says Zake. "This gives them an alternative to getting injections, fillers, surgeries. They’re able to self heal.” A face lift without incisions and staples and sutures? Yes, please
Frequency: 3 times a week
Duration: 10 to 20 minutes
Look for Changes: Immediately
Nicole Pajer is a freelance writer and reporter based in Los Angeles.