Can you work out your face to look younger? Researchers at Northwestern University say yes.
Results from a new study published Jan. 3 in the the Journal of the American Medical Association show that facial exercise routines may help middle-aged women look more youthful.
The study is the first of its kind to test the ability of facial exercises to improve the appearance of the face.
Participants in the 20-week study were women between 40 and 65 years old. At the beginning of the study, the women went through two 90-minute training sessions from a facial exercise instructor.
The exercises included activities such as "The Cheek Lifter," which required participants to open their mouths and form the letter O with the upper lip over the teeth, then smile to raise and release cheek muscles.
Another exercise was "The Happy Cheeks Sculpting." During this activity, patients were asked to smile without showing their teeth, then purse their lips together and hold a smile for 20 seconds.
The participants performed these and 30 other exercises every day for 30 minutes per day for the first eight weeks of the study. For weeks nine through 20, they completed the exercises every other day for 30 minutes.
The researchers found that the participants who completed the exercise routine as directed showed improvements in the appearance of their upper and lower cheeks. Participants, on average, were rated as looking three years younger than they did before the study.
Two dermatologists assessed the participants' photos after the study ended using the standardized facial-aging scale known as the Merz-Carruthers Facial Aging Photoscale. Their analysis of the participants considered 19 facial features at the start of the study, during week eight and again at week 20.
The reviewers guessed that the average age of the participants decreased from 50.8 years to 49.6 years at the eight-week mark. They also estimated that they looked 48.1 years at 20 weeks, totaling almost a three-year decrease in age.
Study authors believe the benefits are because the exercises help to strengthen and enlarge the facial muscles, giving the face a more toned and youthful appearance.
They also believe that facial exercises may prove to be a viable and less costly alternative to cosmetic surgery or other anti-aging treatments.
"As we age, we lose fat in our face and our muscle tone declines. Combine these factors with skin that is losing elasticity and the face starts to sag," said Dr. Mona Alqulali, F.A.C.O.G., Ph.D.
Alqulali is an OB-GYN and cosmetic surgeon practicing in Clinton and Bettendorf, Iowa.
Mainstream anti-aging treatments to correct facial aging include Botox, dermal fillers and the surgical face-lift procedure.
Other treatments include Ultherapy, a skin-tightening nonsurgical face-lift procedure approved by the FDA.
"Ultherapy is a nonsurgical alternative to having a face-lift. It uses ultrasonics to stimulate the body to produce more collagen," said Alqulali.
Increased collagen production pulls the skin tighter, reducing wrinkles and sagging.
Ultherapy and other noninvasive or minimally cosmetic facial procedures are gaining in popularity in the U.S., with 15.4 million minimally invasive procedures performed in the U.S. in 2016.
"Minimally invasive procedures are popular because they not only cost less than surgical procedures, but allow patients to get back to their normal routines very quickly," Alqulali said.
Patients who choose Ultherapy report that the procedure is nearly painless. It takes about an hour and patients see their results almost immediately.
Northwestern University. "Facial exercises help middle-aged women appear more youthful: 20 weeks of facial exercises yielded firmer skin, fuller upper and lower cheeks." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 January 2018.