Can Face & Neck Stretching Prevent Sagging?

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Of slackening jowls and sagging skin, the famous French actress Jeanne Moreau said, "Aging gracefully is supposed to mean trying not to hide time passing and just looking a wreck." No one would argue that the intrinsic aging process can yield an uncomely countenance – time, gravity and exposure to the elements lead to sagging skin. A common conception is that facial stretching exercises prevent and decrease sagging skin. However, some medical experts say this only makes signs of aging worse.

What Causes Sagging

As you age, you'll notice unwelcome changes in your face and body. The signs of the intrinsic, or natural, aging process are fine wrinkles and lines and thin, dry skin. Your bones pull away from your skin, leading to sagging. A decrease in underlying fat also makes the skin on your hands and neck less taut and creates hollow eye sockets and cheeks. Factor in additional extrinsic aging factors – sun exposure, sleeping in the same position each night, smoking cigarettes and the pull of gravity over many years – and sagging skin, especially on the neck and jowls, is inevitable.

Facial Exercises

The topic of facial exercise to prevent and reduce facial sagging is no stranger to mainstream media. The face exercise expert Carole Maggio, author of the best-selling beauty book "Facercise," published in 1995, was featured in prominent print publications, such as The New York Times, "Vogue" and "Elle." It was also the subject of various television shows, including "Dateline" and "Geraldo." Maggio's book, revised in 2002, contains basic facial exercises and progressive exercises that you can perform at home without the need for mats and other exercise equipment. In November 2007, "Time" magazine ran an article about the benefits of "facial yoga," which was picking up momentum in health clubs and yoga studios.

Purported Benefits

According to Maggio, her Facercise program can give you results in as soon as a few days. Toned jowls, a reduced double chin and tighter skin on the neck and face are some of the benefits she claims you can get from facial exercises. She also claims that facial exercise can give you a shorter, narrower nose, a raised brow and eyelids, and a fuller, sexier pout. According to "Time," some practitioners of facial yoga noticed a smoother countenance that took years off their age after doing the exercises for only a short period of time. Facial yoga is beneficial for people with partial facial paralysis and other cosmetic problems, such as a lopsided smile, Houston-based yoga instructor Rose Hong Tran told "Time."

Expert Insight

If you're worried about signs of aging that appear on your face, grimacing, smiling and furrowing your brow are a part of your problem, says the American Academy of Dermatology. Repeated expressions – which involve using your facial muscles – are precisely what causes those permanent grooves in your face. Facial exercises aren't likely to reduce signs of aging, says AAD member Dr. Rodney Basler in an article on St. John Providence Health System's website. "The only thing that's going to push those wrinkles out is if you increase the volume of your face, like blowing air into a balloon," he says. The effect of gravity on your body is one of the main causes of sagging, says Dr. Fred Fedok of Pennsylvania State University. Over time, gravity causes the connective tissue and fat in your skin to separate. Unfortunately, there's no type of stretching exercise to tone sagging skin.

Aging Skin Care

To reduce signs of aging, relax your facial muscles rather than contort them or put them through a series of stretching exercises. And remember that the main cause of aging skin is sun damage. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen whenever you're outdoors, and avoid tanning. If sagging skin on your face and neck bother you, see a dermatologist. If you don't want to resort to cosmetic surgery, less-invasive medical treatments -- such as use of injectable fillers, botulinum toxin injections, dermabrasion, chemical peels and laser skin rejuvenation -- can make the surface of your skin look refreshed.