I’m standing in front of a mirror with my fingers on my cheekbones, pressing down as I smile, release, and repeat — just doing my nightly “cheek lifter” push-ups.
Curious? I was — so I gave face yoga a try.
What Is Face Yoga?
Face yoga is a series of facial exercises intended to tone the muscles in the face. Those who practice face yoga say the exercises can reduce the signs of aging. “This is really a natural alternative to plastic surgery,” says Gary Sikorski, owner and creator of Happy Face Yoga.
I’ll admit it, I was skeptical. (And I definitely felt a bit ridiculous doing the facial exercises at first — trust me, you will get strange looks from anyone you live with!)
But there may actually be some validity to the idea of doing face yoga on a regular basis. Murad Alam, MD, vice chair of the department of dermatology at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, conducted a study to assess the effects of a 20-week facial exercise program on middle-aged women.
“I was initially skeptical, but our experimental data showed that — at least for some women — facial exercises done regularly for weeks resulted in fuller cheeks and a younger appearance,” Alam says. “More research is still needed, I believe. But the data suggests that facial exercises are more than wishful thinking.”
Does Face Yoga Really Work?
The benefits of face yoga are threefold, Sikorski says.
Facial exercises increase blood circulation in the face, creating a healthier, more vibrant complexion. (Most people notice an improvement in their complexion first, Sikorski says, as blood circulation increases.) Face yoga also strengthens the muscles in the face, which can weaken as we age. And, in theory at least, face yoga may reduce the appearance of fine lines on the face.
That last claim has been the subject of debate. For starters, wrinkles are caused by the decreased production of collagen and elastin as we age. Collagen and elastin are proteins in the skin’s connective tissue that help fight gravity and give skin its youthful tautness — and face yoga won’t replenish either of them.
But it’s possible strengthening the muscles beneath the skin’s dermal layers could help reduce the appearance of wrinkles, Alam says — “like re-inflating a deflated beach ball.”
Still, skeptics question whether you can really build your facial muscles enough to make a visible difference. And some dermatologists have expressed concern that contorting your face into “yoga poses” may actually cause more wrinkles — though Alam says you probably don’t need to worry about that.
“Each of the exercises is performed for just a minute or so a day,” Alam says. “We develop frown lines and smile lines from scowling or grinning for hours a day. I believe the exercises are too brief to cause wrinkles. Indeed, in our study, we did not observe any new wrinkles caused by the exercises.”
4 Face Yoga Exercises to Try
I’ve only been practicing face yoga for a few weeks, so I can’t say for sure whether I’ll see dramatic results from doing facial exercises. But here’s what I’ve found so far: While facial exercises felt silly at first, they quickly became just another part of my nighttime routine.
And I did appreciate the deliberate downtime face yoga provided — it was nice to swap 20 minutes of mindless online scrolling for a scented candle and a face workout. Face yoga also put me in touch with my skin — literally. I could tell right away when I needed a charcoal mask or an exfoliating scrub.
Ready to try it out? Sikorski recommends these facial exercises to start with — aiming for about 15 minutes of facial exercises per day.
This exercise is designed to strengthen the cheeks and define the upper lip.
- Open your mouth and form a long “O.” Fold your upper lip over your front teeth.
- Smile to lift the cheek muscles up.
- Lay your index fingers lightly on the top parts of your cheeks, right on top of the muscles and directly under your eyes. Relax the cheek muscles, allowing them to return to their original, relaxed position.
- Smile again with the corners of your mouth to lift the cheek muscles back up. Visualize pushing the muscles up toward your eyes as you smile. This is one cheek lifter “push-up.” Do 10.
- On the last rep, hold your cheek muscles up as high as you can. Imagine your cheeks are moving up from your face toward the ceiling. Hold this position for 20 seconds. Release and relax.
Repeat this sequence three times.
This exercise trains the muscle that extends from the eyebrows to the upper forehead, which can smooth the lines on the forehead and lift the eyebrows.
- Place your index and middle fingers across your forehead at the hairline. Press the entire length of those fingers down firmly onto your scalp, then slowly slide your fingers down your forehead toward your eyebrows, flexing your eyebrows tightly upward.
- Lift your eyebrows up against the pressure of your fingers. You should feel a tight band of pressure across your brows.
- Hold tight for 10 seconds and then release. Repeat three times, but on the third time, hold for 20 seconds.
Repeat the entire sequence one more time.
Jaw & Neck Firmer
This exercise can help tone the cheeks, strengthen the jaw, and diminish wrinkles on the sides of the chin.
- Open your mouth and make an “ahh” sound. Fold your lower lip and the corners of your lips into your mouth and hold them tightly.
- Extend your lower jaw forward.
- Using your lower jaw only, scoop up very slowly as you close your mouth. Visualize you are using your jaw to scoop up something very heavy. Pull your chin up about an inch each time you scoop, tilting your head backward.
- Open and close your lower jaw for 10 repetitions. On the final repetition, your chin should be pointed toward the ceiling. Keep the chin extended and hold this position tightly for 20 seconds, while visualizing the sides of your face lifting.
Repeat the sequence three times.
Lower Eyelid Firmer
This exercise helps strengthen the upper and lower eyelids, increasing blood circulation to the eye area and decreasing bags under the eyes.
- Place your middle fingers near the inner sides of your eyes, resting just along the sides of the very upper part of your nose. Place your index fingers at the outside of the eyes near the temples.
- Squint your lower eyelids. (Imagine you are looking up toward the sun on a hot day.) You should feel the eye muscles under your fingers pulse or tighten. Squint and release ten times, keeping your upper eyelids as wide open as possible.
- Hold the final squint for 20 seconds.
Repeat the sequence one more time.