Could facial yoga actually stimulate anti-aging properties? A recent ABC article stirs up the age-old practice of facial exercises to reduce aging, framed in 21st century packaging: Facial Yoga. Proponents allege it tones and lifts facial muscles and claim it's “scientifically proven” to “help prolong the production of collagen and elastin, which makes your face firm and springy.” Yet despite the claim to scientific legitimacy, no research has been conducted on the impact of facial exercises on aging skin.
Intuitively, it seems to make sense; working other muscles in the body renders them toned and taught, so why not the facial muscles? Facial exercises have a long history of adherents, from Cleopatra to French Courtesans. In the modern era, Jack Lalanne was a devotee of “facenastics,” while Bodyflex guru Greer Childers promoted “face exercises” derived from yoga (for example, the Lion exercise).
Childers promoted her facial exercises in the 1990s by citing a “renowned plastic surgeon” who claims they “slow down signs of aging.” Similarly, a dermatologist to the stars is cited as adding legitimacy to facial yoga in the recent article; he recommends yoga for the face to his patients, claiming that it promotes collagen production.
Yet the new facial yoga wave claims to be different than their facial-exercising forebears; “If you just made weird squirmy faces randomly you’d get more wrinkles,” claims facial yoga developer Annelise Hagen (a quick web search unearths several who claim to have founded “facial yoga”). Thus facial yoga aims to
stimulate muscles by contorting the facial muscles without causing wrinkles. Poses include “lion face,” “fish face,” and “satchmo.”
Does it actually work? Devotees claim thousands of fans can’t be wrong; glowing testimonials populate most websites, with many swearing by the practice. Yet most dermatologists, including Dr. Francis Papay, are unconvinced. First, there is the lack of science. And secondly, given the physiology of the skin, the claims don’t make sense.
Papay notes that rather than remedy, heavily-used muscles are the cause of most wrinkles, including crow’s feet and frown lines. For example, those sustaining a stroke that paralyzes half of the face will have the presentation of a smoother, less wrinkly face on the paralyzed side than the active side. Similarly, Botox injections eradicate the appearance of wrinkles by paralyzing muscles that cause wrinkles. Papay acknowledges that neck exercises, however, could potentially tone muscles that tighten skin along the neck and lower jaw.
Despite claims for scientific legitimacy, then, facial yoga’s anti-aging benefits are probably over-hyped. Yet that’s not to say it’s without benefit; the effects simply haven’t yet been assessed scientifically. For adherents who claim to derive significant benefit, there are likely positive benefits that relate to any form of yoga practice: Increased clarity, relaxation, improvement in mood, and that rosy glow one acquires after breathing deeply and moving any part of the body.
Do you practice “facial yoga” or exercises?
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