By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
If you want to look up to three years younger, facial yoga may be the answer.
Purported to tone the facial muscles and provide facial rejuvenation, facial yoga involves following a regimen of facial movements and poses to provide results.
Gary Sikorski, founder of the Happy Face Yoga method (happyface.com) in Cleveland, Ohio, has been training adherents in the practice since 2006.
“The Effects of Facial Exercise on the Appearance of Aging,” a small study by Northwestern University Medicine published in JAMA Dermatology in 2018, demonstrated that a 30-minute daily then alternate-day facial exercise program for 20 weeks helped middle-aged women improve their fullness of their upper and lower cheeks.
“I’m the first person to medically prove my techniques work,” Sikorski said. “I teach muscle resistance facial exercise. There are 57 muscles in the face, neck and scalp. As you strengthen those muscles, that’s what helps bring a more youthful appearance as it lifts the cheeks and strengthens the jawline. Also, it can improve blood circulation to improve the complexion. As those muscles are lifted and toned instead of sagging, it tightens the skin which helps soften those fine lines. It’s all these things that add to aging.”
He eschews gadgets advertised online as he believes these are ineffective because they don’t strengthen the muscles, although they can stimulate blood circulation.
“That helps with brightness, but it won’t tone the face, so they don’t offer lasting results,” Sikorski added. “Some just do stretching, which won’t add a youthful look to the face.”
His program uses the fingers, hands and, for resistance, the teeth.
One of the criticisms of face yoga is that repeatedly making the same facial expressions will cause wrinkles. However, Sikorski said that in 16 years, no one has complained about wrinkles forming from following his program.
He said that how quickly adherents see results depends upon the condition of their face initially and their age. Factors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, lack of sun protection and poor diet can affect the skin also. Those following the program should perform the exercises daily for six-10 weeks.
“The more exercises you do, the faster and better the results,” Sikorski said. “Once you achieve the maximum success, then maybe one or two times for 20 minutes per week.”
He likened the effects to people who work out at a gym. Stopping the workouts will mean lower muscle tone.
“As we age, facial muscles weaken and begin to sag,” Sikorski said. “Weakened muscles will cause many aging problems in the face. These problems can be corrected, or for younger people,
prevented, by practicing facial exercise.”
These include eyes that appear narrow, sagging cheeks, downturned corners to the mouth, jawline jowls and pouches.
Calling it face “yoga” is not entirely inaccurate, since yoga involves breathing exercises and a meditative, spiritual element.
Ramsey Farah, dermatologist with Farah Dermatology & Cosmetics in Syracuse, said that the small amount of research available on face yoga suggests it may be helpful. However, most of the studies are not long-term nor of a large enough size to appear conclusive. Still, he can see some merit to the notion of strengthening facial muscles.
“One of the ways you could look at it is working out your facial muscles,” Farah said. “What happens when you do resistance is your muscles grow. Look at body builders. In a similar principle, that’s what is supposed to happen. The muscles work against the resistance provided by your fingers.”
But he also said that it’s a lot of work to spend building facial muscle every day. The results are also likely varied by the initial damage, age, consistency of the workouts and diet. Most skin damage comes from sun damage, smoking, pollution, consuming too much sugar and alcohol and skimping on water. People can control most of those factors to improve their skin’s appearance.
“Sunscreen and sun avoidance are number one for protecting your skin,” Farah said. “A good product regimen can affect the appearance of aging. Just like you brush your teeth every day, a sunscreen and product regimen is a must.”
Skin care topical product, mild procedures like hydro-facials and facials and skin rollers affect the appearance of the outer layers of the skin. No non-invasive procedures affect the deeper components of the skin.
A few Happy Face Yoga exercises:
• The Cheek Lifter: Open your mouth to form an “O” and fold your upper lip over your teeth. Smile to lift cheek muscles up, then put your fingers on the top part of the cheek before releasing the cheek muscles to lower them. Lift the cheeks back up and repeat by lowering and lifting 10 times.
• Happy Cheeks Sculpting: Smile without showing your teeth. Purse your lips together and then smile — forcing the cheek muscles up. Place your fingers on the corners of the mouth and slide them up to the top of the cheeks, holding for 20 seconds.
• The Eyebrow Lifter: Press three fingertips under each eyebrow to force your eyes open. Smile while trying to push your eyebrows down against your fingers. Close your eyes and roll your eyeballs up to the top of your head, holding for 20 seconds.