Facial exercises don't give the same results as plastic surgery, although informational websites argue compellingly to the contrary. Facial exercises are unarguably a no-cost alternative to expensive cosmetic procedures, and they take only a few minutes of dedicated time. However, medical experts at the American Academy of Dermatology say the blink-squint-grimace repetitions you practice in front of the mirror each day only make matters worse.
Causes of Aging
Wrinkles, drooping skin and gradual loss of facial fat are inescapable signs of intrinsic aging, says the AAD. Extrinsic factors such as sun exposure and smoking hasten along the lines and creases that appear on your face. The rule of gravity exempts no one; over time, gravity's continuous pull on the body causes noticeable droop in the nose, lips, ears, eyes and jowls. But another cause of wrinkles and grooves are the facial expressions you make day after day. Over the years, these are etched into your face permanently.
The Argument for Facial Exercises
Facial exercises as an alternative to plastic surgery are an easy sell. Paula Begoun, author of "The Original Beauty Bible" and numerous books on skincare and cosmetic procedures, explains that promoters of facial exercises use the argument that facial exercises are effective because facial muscles are directly attached to the skin rather than the bone. Theoretically, working the face muscles should lead to tighter, smoother skin. However, the movement of the skin is in itself the cause of sagging, Begoun explains. If you're a believer in facial exercises, look closely in the mirror when performing them. If you see laugh lines and crow's-feet crinkle and groove with every muscular contraction, you're merely working on making these a more noticeable feature of your countenance.
The AAD advises anyone who's been performing facial exercises to prevent aging to stop before they compound their problems. Dermatologist and former AAD president Wilma Bergfeld doesn't recommend them, although she concedes that they could be beneficial in "controlled situations." She goes on to state, "However, you would never want to do anything that moves the facial skin, especially as it ages, or over-manipulate the skin because it would create more wrinkling, increasing the loss of elasticity in the skin." Similarly, facial relaxation exercises like those taught in certain yoga classes won't reduce wrinkles and other signs of aging already present.
Facial workouts don't have a physical downside, says New York City-based oral and maxillo-facial surgeon Richard Elias in a March 2007 "New York Times" article. But drooping jowls, a sagging neck and lines around your lips are unlikely to benefit from facial exercises. "Only a face-lift can do that," Elias says. "When you do a face-lift, you’re removing fat and loose skin, and pulling some skin back." Skin tightening procedures that use laser devices are a less invasive method of enhancing your cosmetic appearance. The AAD cautions that laser devices don't give the same pronounced results as plastic surgery (such as a face-lift), but treatments do yield mild to moderate results.
Ask Your Doctor
Face-lifts, the most common plastic surgery used to address overall signs of aging, have long-lasting results–up to 10 years, says Mayo Clinic experts. Compared to facial exercises, plastic surgery is a more daunting endeavor. Elective procedures are not covered by insurance and are generally paid out of pocket. Your face may show signs of bruising and swelling for numerous weeks after the procedure. There are other medical treatments that can reduce signs of aging, such as Botox injections and injectible fillers that may be less costly. Ask a dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon what treatment is recommended for you.
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Lisa Sefcik has been writing professionally since 1987. Her subject matter includes pet care, travel, consumer reviews, classical music and entertainment. She's worked as a policy analyst, news reporter and freelance writer/columnist for Cox Publications and numerous national print publications. Sefcik holds a paralegal certification as well as degrees in journalism and piano performance from the University of Texas at Austin.