Do Facial Exercises Actually Prevent Wrinkles & Sagging?

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Your face gives the world its first impression of you, so it's no wonder that facial wrinkles, sagging skin and other signs of aging may send you seeking magic potions, lotions, injections or surgery to halt the march of time. Another alternative to those remedies is exercising facial muscles to tighten and firm them just as body exercise works on other body parts. Not everyone agrees, however, on whether such exercises actually work or whether they could even do harm.

You Can't Fight Gravity

Aging and the pull of gravity inevitably lead to wrinkles and sagging skin. Intrinsic, or internal, aging is the natural genetic process that begins in the mid-20s with the slowdown in production of collagen and elastin, reducing the skin’s ability to snap back after movement. Extrinsic, or external, factors include smoking, too much sun exposure, repetitive facial expressions like smiling and frowning, poor nutrition, weight gain or loss, and even favorite sleeping positions that combine with aging to engrave faces with wrinkles and sags.

Or Can You?

Supporters of facial exercises claim that the muscles in your face need exercise just like all the other muscles in your body. Dr. Joseph Mercola, an osteopathic physician, suggests that regularly exercising facial muscles will help keep them firm and will increase circulation and blood flow throughout the face. Some yoga practitioners are expanding their exercise routines to include facial movements. The Internet offers numerous instructional videos, while books and kits proliferate promoting exercise instructions and equipment for facial toning. One product seller claims that users can look up to 10 years younger after doing the exercises for a few months. Another vendor claims that her exercises can improve the neckline, lip line and eye puffiness.

You Might Make It Worse

Dr. Francis Papay, Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Institute Chair of the Cleveland Clinic, is one of the nay-sayers who point out that no studies have been conducted that prove there are any benefits to facial exercises as far as improving appearance and fighting signs of aging. The use of facial muscles to smile and frown leads to the formation of wrinkles, so deliberately exercising those muscles could make the problem worse, the critics say.

Try at Your Own Risk

If you are undecided about whether to try a facial exercise program, check with your doctor or dermatologist for an opinion or recommendations. If you decide to start a facial exercise program, take a “before” photo of yourself. Always perform the movements in front of a mirror to be sure you are doing them correctly. If the movement seems to be deepening a fold or wrinkle, eliminate it. After a month or two, take an “after” photo to see if there is any change or improvement.