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Face Workouts That Work

These exercises can give you a natural lift, a new study shows

Gary Sikorski Happy Face Yoga

Gary Sikorski

Gary Sikorski created the Happy Face Yoga program, which was featured in a recent study on facial-muscle exercises.

A new scientific study shows middle-age women who do facial-muscle exercises for 20 weeks can look about three years younger.  Seriously.

In the study — published in the Journal of the American Medical Association's JAMA Dermatology — women age 45 to 60 were asked to perform 32 different exercises for 30 minutes a day for the first eight weeks, then every other day for 12 weeks. Dermatologists were asked to estimate the ages of the women by scrutinizing their undated photos taken before, during and after the study.

They estimated the women's average age started at 50.8 years, dropped to 49.6 years after eight weeks, and ended at 48.1 years. Lead study author Murad Alam, M.D., professor of dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, says that the exercises work by building muscle that fills out the face, counteracting the wrinkles and sagging skin that come with age. The effect is similar to the firmer arms you can achieve with bicep curls, for example. 

Unlike cosmetic surgery, Botox injections and other medical interventions, Alam says, the exercise program “is nontoxic, not invasive, doesn’t cost much, and you can do it on your own schedule.” 

Plus, no sweating

The study is welcome news for the many folks who’ve long been pitching facial-fitness programs — such as Facercise and Yoga Face — with no reliable evidence that they actually work.  

The women in the study learned the facial exercises from Gary Sikorski, 60, who is certified in yoga facial toning and created the Happy Face Yoga program. He says the positive results were no surprise to him: “I’ve taught these to thousands of people and never had anyone where they didn’t work. They only don’t work if you don’t do the exercises.” Thanks to the workouts, he adds, “I could probably pass for my late 40s.”

Sikorski recommends doing a selection of exercises every day for about eight weeks, then a few days a week to maintain the results. A few that were used in the study (descriptions courtesy Happy Face Yoga):


Tone sagging cheeks and drooping jowls

Smile! Open your mouth wide.

Fold your lower lip and the corners of your lips into your mouth and hold them tightly. Extend your lower jaw forward and, using your lower jaw only, scoop up slowly as you close your mouth. Visualize you are using your jaw to scoop up something very heavy. Pull your chin up about an inch each time you scoop, tilting your head slowly backward.

Open and close your lower jaw for 10 repetitions. On the final repetition, your chin should be pointed toward the ceiling. Keep the chin extended and hold this position tightly for 20 seconds, while visualizing the sides of your face lifting.

Repeat this sequence three times.    

“Temple developer”

Reduce appearance of crow’s feet

Smile! Place your fingers together at your temples. Press lightly on the temples while you close your jaw, clenching your teeth together and moving your chin up.

As you clench your teeth together, putting tension in the muscle as if you were trying to make your ears move backward, concentrate and visualize the temple region. Hold your teeth tightly clenched for 10 seconds. Next, clench down on your back teeth for a count of 10, feeling your temporalis flexing with each clench. Relax.

Repeat this exercise three times.