Scientists have found undertaking facial exercises for 30 minutes a day can knock years off your appearance.
Facial workouts – also known as "face yoga"–- have become popular as a beauty trend in the past few years, as a non-invasive alternative to Botox or surgery. Although it may feel a little foolish to contort the features into a series of unbecoming poses, which include "The lion", "The joker" and "Fishy lips", proponents insist it increases blood circulation to all three layers of the skin, allowing oxygen and nutrients to reach cells. The technique is also said to stimulate collagen and elastin production in the dermis – the middle layer of skin – making the face more supple, tighter and, most importantly, younger looking.
Now a new study by Northwestern University, based in Evanston, Illinois, suggests it actually works. When 27 middle-aged women embarked on a course of facial exercises for five months, an independent panel concluded that they appeared on average three years younger. "Now there is some evidence that facial exercises may improve facial appearance and reduce some visible signs of ageing," said Dr Murad Alam, the lead author, who is vice-chairman and professor of dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
"The exercises enlarge and strengthen the facial muscles, so the face becomes firmer and more toned and shaped like a younger face.
"Assuming that the findings are confirmed in a larger study, individuals now have a low-cost, non-toxic way for looking younger or to augment other cosmetic or anti-ageing treatments."
Pads of fat
As the face ages, the skin loses elasticity and the fat pads between the muscle and the skin become thinner. It is those pads of fat which give the face shape and a plump, youthful appearance. But as the skin becomes saggy, the fat pads slide down, causing the face to "fall".
"But if muscle underneath becomes bigger, the skin has more stuffing underneath it and the firmer muscle appears to make the shape of the face more full," said Dr Emily Poon, senior study author and an assistant research professor in dermatology at Feinberg. "Muscle growth is increasing the facial volume and counteracting the effects of age-related fat thinning and skin loosening."
The study also found that after the first nine weeks, the women were able to do the exercises on every other day to see the same impact.
The programme comprised of 32 facial exercises, which were developed by Gary Sikorski of Happy Face Yoga, who was also a co-author on the study.
"Facial exercises that may be beneficial include those that entail puckering and squeezing the cheeks," Professor Alam added. "There are many muscles that collectively allow movement of the cheeks, and our study showed that building these up makes the cheeks look fuller."
The research was published in the journal JAMA Dermatology.
The full lip developer
Smile without showing teeth. Pucker lips and press thumb firmly into centre of mouth. Hold position for 60 seconds.
The forehead horizontal line remover
Smile and press fingertips on to forehead above eyebrows. Close eyes tightly and slide fingers slowly and firmly towards hairline then pull back to original position. Repeat 10 times.
The advanced face firmer
Smile and form an "O" with mouth allowing lips to fold over teeth. Place palms on cheeks and press fingers across temples.
Apply upwards pressure as chin presses forward. Hold for 20 seconds.
The happy face nose lifter
Hold tip of nose up as you fold upper lip into the mouth for a second then relax. Repeat 20 times.
Make an "eh" sound bringing sides of mouth towards ears. Place index fingers on mouth corners and hold for 30 seconds.
The top furrow remover
Open mouth and form an "O" folding lips inside. Press length of index finger into naso-labial lines and make a bunny nose. Press firmly for a few seconds and repeat three times.