Pampering and relaxation are a given when you get a facial, but long-term anti-aging benefits may be another reason to indulge in this beauty treatment. Regular facial massage and exercise not only firm and tone the skin, but can also strengthen the muscles below to permanently lift and smooth features. No wonder there’s a spate of DIY tutorials (Tanaka, acupressure, ceramic spoon, etc.) available on YouTube.
The notion of working the face muscles to tighten the skin is at the core of London-based yoga instructor Danielle Collins’ Face Yoga Method. “As the muscles in the face and neck become stronger, the skin attached to the muscles is also lifted and tautened, reducing lines, wrinkles and sagging,” Collins tells LivingHealthy.
At the most basic level, face massage relieves tension to temporarily relax lines and helps clear underlying congestion to de-puff and detox skin, according to celebrity aesthetician Nichola Joss, who treats clients like Gisele Bündchen, Scarlett Johansson and Kate Moss at pop-up spas in London, Los Angeles and New York. Massaging skin also stimulates the muscles below, increasing blood flow to maximize oxygen and nutrient circulation as well as skin radiance. However, skin is thinner on the face, so a light touch, circular motions and an oil or balm are essential. “Never drag at the skin,” Joss says. “Always start from the center of the face, working outward and upward.”
Joss recommends a few minutes of self-massage each evening, preferably at bedtime. Here are some of her at-home techniques to relieve tension and muscle stiffness:
1. Using the first two fingers like scissors, “snip” strongly along the jawline to add definition.
2. Take the thumbs and push up and along and under the cheekbone area to sculpt.
3. Press index fingers deeply into the eyebrow area at the nose and sweep toward outer eye area to de-puff.
4. To stimulate the muscles under the skin and lift the cheeks, place thumb pads on cheeks (by the nose) and apply pressure.
5. To open the eye area, press forefingers under brows and draw them out toward the temple along the arc of the brow.
6. To firm the jawline, run the knuckles of the index and middle fingers behind the jawbone from the chin toward your ears.
Collins’ Face Yoga regime, which includes acupressure, massage and muscle work, requires a bit more time and commitment. Her 18-exercise video program, The 10 Minute Natural Facelift, takes 20 minutes—10 for upper face and 10 for lower, which can be done all at once or two different times a day. Her most popular exercises:
1. The V: To firm lower lids and reduce lines around the eyes, place two fingers in a V-shape around each eye, look up and make a strong squint; relax eyes back down, squinting and releasing (lids will pulse or shake, which means the small muscles are toning);
2. The Smile Smoother: To reduce lines around the mouth and lift cheeks and jaw, position the lips in an “O” shape, hiding teeth. Then change lips into a smile shape. Repeat several times.
3. The Giraffe: To lift and tone the neck, stroke downward with fingers from jaw to collarbone, then (leaving hands on collarbone) lean head back, stick bottom lip out and hold.
Collins recommends following her program six days a week. “You will see and feel some difference straight away—less tension in the face. After two weeks, you should start to see some improvement in your face and neck. People have reported that they look many years younger within six to nine months.”
The largest facial muscle will respond fastest. According to Look Great for Life author Nancy Welker, one of the major cheek muscles (the one we use to blow or chew) responds very well to exercise and massage. “By working this area, you increase the muscle strength—that leads to an increase in volume in the cheeks, much the way that cheek implants and injections create,” she explains.
If all of this self-massage and exercise sounds like too much effort, you could always go the high-tech route with handheld devices that claim to increase firmness and reduce fine lines with just a few minutes of daily use. The FOREO LUNA is two-sided—one side cleanses the face, the other delivers low-frequency T-sonic pulsations to massage skin and increase product penetration for improved anti-aging benefits. Clarisonic’s Opal sonic infuser uses more than 200 sonic movements per second and a gentle kneading motion to micro-massage serum in the silicone tip into skin around the eyes to reduce fine lines and puffiness. But just like Joss’ techniques, Collins’ Face Yoga or any exercise regimen, you have to keep up the work to see long-lasting results.