Confession: I’m allergic to yoga. Or rather, I have a deep and visceral dislike/hatred of it. I’m exactly the kind of natural, organic-eating, vinegar-and-baking-soda cleaning, regularly meditating chick one would assume would be totally into yoga, but I’m totally not. Every time I try to do yoga, I get ragey.
I know. Hating yoga feels blasphemous, like hating puppies. It doesn’t make sense, but neither does anything anymore. #tidepods #usagymnastics #donaldtrump
However, there’s a new kind of yoga I think I can get behind. No vinyasa or chaturanga torture. No my-arms-are-going-to-fall off warrior poses or farting-in-someone’s-face downward dogs. Because it’s not real yoga, it’s “face yoga”—a kitchy name someone coined for facial exercises designed to help you look younger.
Yoga that isn’t really yoga and can help me get rid of the wrinkles in my 40-something-year-old face?
Here’s how it works:
As we age, the “fat pads” that fill the space between the skin and muscles in our face start to thin. Combined with diminishing skin elasticity, the loss of that fat layer creates the sag and hollowness we associate with older faces. (Why we gotta lose those fat pads, huh Mother Nature? Could you go ahead and snag the fat pads in my butt while you’re at it?)
Facial exercises—face yoga poses, if you will—serve to build the muscles under those thinning fat pads, creating more lift, volume, and firmness. Plump, perky cheeks are a hallmark of youth, and face yoga can bring a bit of that back into our middle-aged lives.
This may all sound like beauty blogger Internet hype, but there’s actual evidence that face yoga can take years off your face. In a study recently published in JAMA Dermatology, Northwestern University researchers found that after 20 weeks of daily facial exercises, participants appeared up to three years younger.
The study recruited 27 women between the ages of 45 and 60 who were interested in facial exercises. They completed two 90-minute training sessions with a face yoga instructor and then commenced the 20-week trial. Eleven of the 27 participants dropped out before the end.
(Okay, hold the phone. That’s almost half of the participants in the study. Why would you go through three hours of training for this and then drop out before you reach the finish line? I could totally see quitting if it was a hot yoga trial—no thanks!—but this isn’t even real yoga at all. It’s just making weird faces in the mirror, for the love.)
At any rate, the 16 people who didn’t ditch the study had their before, during, and after photos analyzed by dermatologists using a standardized facial aging scale. The dermatologists didn’t know the women and didn’t know which phase of the study each photo they were analyzing came from. On average, they reported that the “after” photos appeared 3.1 years younger than the photos taken at the beginning of the study.
It was a small trial with no control group, but that’s all the proof I and my wrinkles need. Three years younger would put me back into my thirties, man. I decided I should try out some of these facial yoga moves.
A word of warning: If you’re going to do face yoga, you’re going to want to do it alone, in the bathroom, with the door locked. You’re going to feel ridiculous, and you probably won’t want witnesses to your goofy facial expressions. (Unless you’re one of those people with zero inhibitions whatsoever, like the co-ed naked yoga people. Seriously, you couldn’t pay me enough.)
Here are six face yoga poses from Total Beauty that I tried out:
The poses didn’t seem to have official names, so I gave them my own mom-themed names. On the left, we have “What The Hell Are You Doing, Child?!” and on the right, “OMG, This Diaper Smells Like Death.”
Opening your eyes wide like you’re surprised helps counteract the habitual frowning many of us do. (Hello, resting bitch face.) And blowing out your cheeks builds and firms those youthful cheek muscles. (It also makes your chin look like an undescended testicle. Just saying.)
Some poses require you to to get handsy. I call the pose on the left, “If You Don’t Stop Making Noise My Head Is Gonna Explode,” and the one on the right, “Don’t Forget To Smile While Your Kid Tells You About Minecraft So They Won’t Grow Up Bitter Because You Weren’t Interested In Their Hobbies.”
Pulling gently back on your eyes helps firm up those crow’s feet, and pushing up on your cheeks creates resistance on your nasal labial folds—yes, thats what they’re called, go ahead and laugh—to create those perky cheeks.
Finally, we have “If I Keep Looking Up I Won’t Have To See The Mess On The Floor,” which helps tone the muscles in the neck, and “Mommy’s Gone To Her Happy Place,” which is basically just a total relaxation of all of your facial muscles. It’s actually harder to relax your face than it seems. Especially because by this point in the face yoga routine you have some kid pounding on the bathroom door.
So yeah. Face yoga isn’t hard. And if it can keep the jowls at bay for a few more years, that’s worth some funny faces in the mirror for a few minutes a day.