Facial Exercises - Do They Really Work?

You've seen the products designed to be wrapped around your head or strapped to your face, facial exercisers designed to 'tighten and tone your facial muscles to prevent wrinkles and sagging.' Facial workouts featured in women's magazines claim to do the same.

Scary but necessary? Hilarious facial contraptions such as these claim to help you look younger for longer.

There's little proof that facial exercises can do anything to prevent wrinkles and facial deflation that occurs as a natural part of aging. While there are many different products that claim to tone, beautify, and slim your face, there just isn't any concrete evidence that they do anything except lighten your wallet.

Here are 4 reasons why facial exercises aren't a great idea:

1. Wrinkles are not caused by poor muscle tone: wrinkles are actually caused by repeated muscle action. A child's frown wrinkles are not as obvious as an adult's, firstly because the muscles are not yet as strong. Over the years, as we repeat the same facial expressions, the muscles will become stronger, thus increasing the wrinkling effect on the skin. 
The tell-tale lines on a smoker's lips
are caused by constant muscular motion
Think of smokers' lines, the fine lines and wrinkles that appear around the mouth as a result of years of pouting and sucking on a cigarette. Stroke victims who lose muscle control over one side of their faces, often have smoother and younger-looking skin on the immobile side of their faces. Too much movement, not insufficient exercise, contributes more towards wrinkling.  

2. Facial exercises cannot prevent or reverse structural changes in the skin. As the skin ages, it undergoes structural changes which cause it to lose its firmness and elasticity, and the facial skin starts to deflate and sag. David Bank, a New York Dermatologist, says "Volume loss is caused by a decrease in collagen, elastin and fat - none of which can be replaced by exercise." Too much facial compression or movement can actually contribute to loss of facial fat, which makes the face appear older. 

3. Years of pronounced facial movements can actually lead to static wrinkling. We call wrinkles that appear when you move a muscle dynamic wrinkles. They are most commonly seen in the forehead, eye and cheek areas, and occur when you smile, laugh, frown and cry. Over time, repeated action of a specific muscle causes creases in your skin above the muscle. This is not unlike the effect of constantly ffolding a piece of paper - the more you fold it, the deeper the crease will appear. These creases, or static wrinkles are so defined that they are visible even when your muscles are relaxed. 

While doing facial exercises in the short term may not cause static wrinkles, neither can they have any long-term effect if they are only done occasionally or for just a few weeks. Just as your muscles will lose tone if you do not keep exercising them, any facial exercises would have to be done in the long term to have a long-term effect, which is precisely why they are counter-productive. 

4. Building facial muscle tone can't make your face slimmer. Some of these facial exercisers claim to slim the face, and give it a V-shaped profile that women want. Exercises for the face is highly unlikely to remove any fat that gives a face roundness, but may encourage muscle tone where it is not wanted or needed. Just as spot exercising your stomach can't give you a slim belly, only overall weight loss can reduce fatty deposits in areas including the face. In fact, facial exercises may well produce the exact opposite effect. Just as many people who enjoy chewing gum develop pronounced masseter muscles, focused jawline exercises may also increase their size. 
A habit of chewing gave this young woman a square jawline, which was reduced by neurotoxin (Botox) injections

What can you do to help prevent aging? Read this previous post for nine tips on how to age well. You can also consider anti-aging treatments such as laser facials, discussed here. You can also see a brief overview of non-surgical options for looking younger in this article

Facial exercises cannot help you to prevent your habitual facial expressions, and they certainly can't help you relax the muscles that cause the wrinkling. Neurotoxin injections (brand names Botox and Dysport), on the other hand, are specifically designed for this very purpose, precisely how they work so well to make you look younger. Check this blog's archives for my previous articles that examine ways to improve your skin's collagen, or reverse the volume loss through the use of dermal fillers and thread lifts. 

--- Cosmetic Medicine, MD

Dr. Liow Tiong Sin is an aesthetic practitioner who practices in Kuala Lumpur and Melaka, Malaysia. He has more than 12 years of expertise with non-surgical cosmetic treatments, and conducts training courses for other doctors from all around Asia. 

To connect with Dr. Liow, Like Cosmedmd's Facebook page, visit Beverly Wilshire Medical Centre's website at http://www.beverlywilshiremedical.com or drop him an email at cosmedmd@gmail.com


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