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.
Becky Hall, esthetician and owner of Derma Renew Spa, LLC in Rochester, offers among her services spa facials, microdermabrasion, chemical peels, oxygen infusion therapy, LED red light therapy and high frequency treatments. In addition to these, she believes that jade rollers and stone can help improve the skin’s appearance.
“They can reduce puffiness used every day by relaxing the inflamed area,” Hall said.
Although she stated that calling it face “yoga” is inaccurate, since yoga involves breathing exercises and a meditative, spiritual element, she can see how “it could be beneficial, as they’re moving lymph” and tone facial muscles. But does not think many people will stick with a face yoga regimen and remains skeptical that face yoga could reverse lines on the skin from facial expressions.
Most skin damage comes from sun damage, smoking, pollution, consuming too much sugar and alcohol and skimping on water.
“The sun is the number one free radical, which damages skin,” Hall said. “Avoiding the sun will benefit you. From day one, protecting with SPF has been proven in preventing sun damage, which is cellular, DNA damage and hyperpigmentation. Start young. You can prevent a lot of things.”