Although they may resemble medieval torture devices, facial exercisers are available in the form of mask-like or wrapped devices that that are placed over the skin. The theory behind these devices is that they exercise the facial muscles, strengthening and toning them like you would your biceps or abdominal muscles. Other facial exercisers use electrical stimulation for the facial muscles that tone the skin without you moving a muscle. However, the results and scientific evidence rarely support the facial exerciser’s effectiveness claims.
Facial exercisers claim that regular facial exercises help to tone the facial muscles in the skin. One example was a facial exerciser reviewed on Oprah.com. The face trainer features a neoprene mask with two straps used to affix it to your face. You are then instructed to perform repeated facial movements to help the face and neck look younger by strengthening the muscles. The idea is that facial muscles attach to skin instead of bone, meaning toning the muscles could help pull facial skin more taut.
To understand why facial exercises may not work, consider why wrinkles occur in the first place. Common contributors to wrinkling include collagen and elastin fiber breakdown due to sun exposure, age-related fat loss, repeated facial movements that wear down elastin fibers and sagging of facial ligaments. The fact that repetitive facial movements -- such as a smile or furrowing your brow -- contribute to wrinkles instead of preventing them shows why facial exercisers are unlikely to work: because facial exercises typically make skin more, not less, wrinkled.
While you may be using a facial exerciser to improve the look of your skin, the opposite may happen. “Facial exercise actually will make you lose tone and will encourage lines and wrinkles,” said Dr. Neal Schultz, a dermatologist speaking on DermTV. “When you move the muscles, you’re moving the overlying skin. If you unnecessarily stretch your facial skin, you will cause premature failure of the elastic fibers, and it will sag and stretch out sooner.”
Other facial exerciser types are ones that use electrical stimulation to improve the appearance of facial muscles. These electrical exercisers do not move the skin, but instead target the muscle underneath. However, these exercisers can be concerning because they can result in capillary damage. Also, if you already have muscle damage and sagging, the muscles may not be toned in the right areas enough to be effective. Also, facial ligaments are chiefly responsible for losing tone -- these are difficult to tighten with electrical stimulation or otherwise.
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Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.