If you’re looking to turn back the clock – or maybe just want a non-surgical freshen-up – it could be time to start making faces in the mirror.
A new US university study, just published in the prestigious dermatology journal, JAMA Dermatology, found that middle-aged women looked about three years younger after a few months of exercising facial muscles.
“We became aware that there were all of these commercial programs — DVDs, instructional videos, even personal trainers — that purported to be able to help people exercise their faces in ways that would make them be happier, healthier, and maybe look younger,” Dr Murad Alam, the vice chairman of dermatology at Northwestern University, who led the new study, tells The New York Times.
“But we were not aware of any scientific proof that these programs could be effective,” he adds.
So, they enlisted the help of Happy Face Yoga expert Gary Sikorski, pictured below, to run 27 women between the ages of 40 and 65 through a rigorous regime of 32 exercises targeting most of the muscles in the face and neck.
The women were asked to practice the 30-minute routine every day at home for eight weeks. They were photographed again and told to continue with the full routine every other day for another three months.
Over the course of the 20 weeks, 11 of the participants dropped out, leaving 16 who went the full distance.
The researchers showed the photographs of these women to dermatologists who did not know them and asked the doctors to rate the appearance of various facial features on a standard numerical scale and also to estimate the women’s ages.
They ranked the women as, on average, about 51 years old in the photographs at the start of the study, but closer to 48 years old after 20 weeks of facial workouts.
Here are are just a handful of Gary’s muscle-tightening favourites used in the study.
This exercise helps create a better cheekbone shape. It tightens all of your cheek muscles and helps lift the middle part of your face.
- Smile without showing any teeth, while rolling your lips outward as if you were trying to show as much lip as possible. Try to smile with the corners of your mouth as you force all your cheek muscles up. You should feel a slight “burn” in your mouth corners.
- Place your index fingers just above the corners of your mouth, pressing firmly. Now slowly slide your index fingers up to your cheekbones, pressing deeply into the muscle, using very firm pressure.
- Maintaining that pressure, use your fingertips to lift those strands of muscle up and over the cheekbones, toward the corners of your eyes. When you get to the top of your cheekbones, stop, and press tightly, holding the muscles in place.
- Hold for 20 seconds. You should feel the muscles tightening in your cheeks. Be careful not to slide your fingers up too far, past your eyes, as you will lose the grip on those thin strands of muscle.
- For added pressure, and to help hold the grip in place, press your middle fingers on top of your index fingers. Keep smiling with the corners of your mouth.
- Relax, then repeat this exercise two more times.
This exercise helps to smooth out wrinkles on your upper eyelids, lift your eyebrows and smooth out the vertical lines between the brows.
- Smile. Press three fingertips of each hand under your eyebrows to force your eyes open. Smile while trying to frown your eyebrows down against your fingers. Hold and breathe deeply.
- Now close your upper eyelids down tightly and roll your eyeballs up toward the top of your head.
- Hold tight for 20 seconds. Keep breathing deeply as you smile. Release and relax.
- Repeat the exercise three times.
The Cheek Lifter
This exercise is designed to lift sagging cheeks and help develop the upper lip.
- Smile. Open your mouth and form a long “O.”
- Fold your upper lip over your front teeth. Smile again to lift the cheek muscles up. Place your index fingers lightly on the top part of your cheek, directly under the 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. You have just completed one “push-up.” Do 10 of these “push-ups.”
- On the 10th “push-up,” hold your cheek muscles up as high as you can. Imagine that your cheeks are moving up from your face toward the ceiling.
- Move your index fingers an inch away from your face then up over the scalp area. This will help you visualize your cheek muscles moving up. Hold this position for 20 seconds while looking up toward your fingers. Tightening your buttocks during these 20 seconds will help you push your cheek muscles even harder. Release and relax.
- Repeat the exercise three times.