You do crunches to tone your abs, and hammer curls to build your biceps, but do you do anything to sculpt the muscles in your face?
Resistance training shouldn’t stop at your neck, claims Gary Sikorski, creator of the Happy Face Yoga program. Working the 57 different muscles that support your face, neck, and scalp not only stimulates collagen, Sikorski says, it also rebuilds some of the fullness lost to aging.
A preliminary 2018 study by dermatologists at Northwestern University published in JAMA Dermatology showed that Sikorski’s program boosted the volume of the cheeks and reduced some of the visible signs of aging in the 16 middle-aged women who finished the program, resulting in dermatologists rating the participants age as three years younger at the end of the 20 weeks.
As we age, skin loses its elasticity and the fat pads between the muscle and skin thin and slide down, making the face droop.
“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,” says senior study author Emily Poon, an assistant research professor in dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
As with any exercise program, results didn’t happen overnight. The study’s participants did the exercises for 30 minutes each day for eight weeks, then every other day for the remaining 12 weeks. To maintain the results, Sikorski recommends doing the exercises two to three times a week.
Here are a few Face Yoga exercises to try at home (because these exercises are far too silly-looking to bring to the gym).
Smile and inhale deeply and exhale forcefully. As you exhale, open your mouth wide, stick out your tongue, roll your eyes up, and tighten the muscles from your buttocks to your neck. Repeat three times. Now, do the exercise again, this time pressing the length of your middle and index fingers across the top of your forehead and sliding the fingers down the forehead in a tight band as you flex your eyebrows up during the exhalation. Perform this variation three times.
The Cheek Lifter
Open your mouth and form a long “O” with your top lip folded over your front teeth. Place your fingers lightly on the top of your cheek. Smile and lift the corners of your mouth to push the cheek muscles up slightly towards your eyes. Relax and allow the muscle to move back to its original position. Do ten of these “push-ups.” On the final rep, hold your cheek muscles up as high as you can for 20 seconds. Repeat the entire sequence three times.
Scooping Jaw and Neck Firmer
Fold your lower lip and the corners of your lips into your mouth tightly. Extend your lower jaw forward. Using the lower jaw only, scoop up very slowly — about an inch each time – with your head tilted back slightly. Do 10 repetitions and then on the final repetition hold the position for 20 seconds. Repeat the sequence three times.
The Temple Flexor
Open your mouth wide, pressing both upper and lower lips onto your teeth. Open your eyes wide, look up, tilt your chin up, and concentrate on tightening the Occipitalis muscle at the back of your neck where the scalp ends. With lips still pressed against the teeth, move your mouth from a small “O” to a big “O” while flexing cheek, chin, and neck muscles. Place your fingers by the temples so you can feel the Temporalis muscle tighten every time you flex. Do this 10 times. Repeat for three sets.
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