The impact facial exercises have on ageing skin

A recent study has found that facial and neck skin elasticity can be improved with specific resistance training designed for the facial muscles.

Although some experts agree that the exercises will have a positive impact on facial skin, others feel the only treatments that can effectively reduce the signs of ageing skin are cosmetic procedures.

Researchers from Belgium reviewed nine studies on facial resistance training to reveal the true effectiveness of facial exercises on skin ageing, with surprising results.

As well as cosmetic treatments and supplements which are said to prevent and attempt to undo the signs of ageing, a recent study1 has found that certain facial exercises may help to combat the signs of skin ageing.

The study, which was conducted in 2016, found that specific exercises can help to improve the elasticity of facial and neck skin through the use of resistance training specifically created for facial muscles.

As facial skin is influenced by weakened mimetic muscles, the study looked at the impact of resistance training on these muscles in an effort to defend against age-related changes.

Researchers observed the effects on 16 healthy female volunteers aged 35-58 using the Kyunghee Facial Resistance Program (KFRP) for eight weeks. The participants’ results were measured using a Cutometer®2 on the face and neck, and the study results showed the skin was more firm after the facial muscle resistance training, confirming a positive impact from the exercise program.

In this study, all measured regions of skin became firmer and the ability of the skin to return to the initial position was also significantly improved. Researchers, therefore concluded that KFRP had a positive impact on the mechanical properties and elasticity of facial and neck skin as the parameters representing skin fatigue had decreased and the parameters representing skin elasticity had increased significantly when participants trained their facial muscles using the KFRP.3

However, researchers noted that the viscoelasticity of the skin was not significantly altered.

Facial muscles and exercise

These kinds of facial exercises are a non-invasive alternative to cosmetic approaches to prevent skin ageing. However, despite the 2016 study4 finding that facial exercise had a positive impact on preventing skin ageing; other studies conducted over the years appear to produce varying results as to whether facial exercises are actually effective.

The face, just like the rest of the body, is made up of muscles and the term facial exercise refers to the act of stretching and moving those different muscles.

In an article written by Sanaya Chavda on DNA: Daily News and Analysis5, Dr. Bindu Sthalekar, consultant dermatologist and cosmetologist at Hurkisondas Hospital and Skin Solutions Clinic, explained that facial exercises help to stimulate blood flow to the skin, increasing oxygen supply and stimulating the collagen and elastin fibres.

“These can be done not only to achieve a youthful appearance but also help in reducing muscle stress, sinusitis and thyroid disorders. Although facial exercises give longstanding results, it is important not to overdo them. It is very essential to moisturise your facial skin before doing the exercises, so as to not stretch the skin. Results will be seen only over several months. Also, one should slightly massage the face and neck after doing the exercises, so as to ease out the tension caused due to the exercises.”6

- Dr Bindu Sthalekar -

However, Dr. Apratim Goel, MD, DNB, FAGE, Cutis clinic, expressed a different opinion, saying that instead of reducing lines and wrinkles, facial exercises aggravate ageing. She said: “In fact, the popular cosmetic treatment Botox, which is the only treatment for dynamic wrinkles, works by reducing the movement of facial muscles. Facial wrinkles can be of two types: dynamic and static. Dynamic are due to over activity of muscles and static are due to volume depletion under the skin. If dynamic wrinkles are treated with timely Botox, this can delay the onset of static wrinkles.”7 It is worth noting, however, that Dr. Goel is the owner and Medical Director of Cutis Skin Studio®, a dermatology, laser and aesthetic clinic which offers Botox as one of its many treatments.

Dr. Goel said that following a skin care regime of cleansing, toning, sun protection and moisturising is a better way to slow down the process of skin ageing as it helps to stimulate the fibroblasts cells in the skin that lay down collagen. She added: “One must avoid too strong facial movements and even too strong massaging.”8

An example of an effective facial cleansing routine that could be performed as Dr. Goel has recommended involves using griffin + row’s Cleanse moisturiser and antioxidant night cream to ensure any impurities, pollutants, and makeup are removed from the skin while also moisturising it.9

Researchers call to account studies on facial exercise

In 201310 a published study concluded that there was no proof facial exercises are effective.

The study involved 18 participants; nine of whom underwent daily training on their facial skin for seven weeks, while the others did not do any form of facial exercise. This study assessed the effectiveness of four exercises purportedly reducing wrinkles and sagging of the facial skin.

Photographs were taken of five facial areas at the beginning of the study and again after the seven-week study ended. From these photos, only one significant difference was found between the group who took part in the exercises and the group who did not; this difference was that the upper lip area appeared to look younger in the photographs of the participants who had performed the exercises. This difference was, however, only noted by one panel observing the photographs.11

In an effort to clarify the uncertainty on this topic from a range of studies, a group of researchers from Belgium conducted a systematic review of nine published studies on the effects of facial muscle exercises on skin rejuvenation.

The full report of this review was published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal and an article published on the Plastic Surgery Practice website in 201412 displayed the findings of it. The researchers stated that although the authors of each study being reviewed reported positive outcomes regarding the effect of exercise on facial skin, the quality of available evidence in support of this information was “insufficient for determining the efficacy of facial exercises for aesthetic rejuvenation.”13

The findings of this study review were summarised by lead author, John Van Borsel, Ph.D., Professor of Neurolinguistics and Logopedics at Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium, and Veiga de Almeida University, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in a news release. He said: “Our review shows that there is not enough evidence to conclude whether facial exercises are effective for reducing the signs of ageing.” He added: “The existing published studies were not randomised or controlled. Most lacked blinding and only used subjective measures to assess the effectiveness of treatment. We need better studies before we can draw any conclusions about the usefulness of facial exercises.”14

The researchers noted that most of the studies in their review were single case reports, small case series or even studies using a single-group, pre-test-post-test design. They, therefore, concluded that in order to obtain a more accurate insight into the effectiveness of facial exercise and its impact on ageing skin, additional studies with superior designs and larger patient populations were needed. The researchers also commented that it would be important to assess various types of facial exercises in order to ascertain which is the most effective, while also recording the intensity and duration of treatment on the effect of patient-specific variables, such as age and signs of ageing at the beginning of the study.15

In a news release, Atlanta, GA-based plastic surgeon Foad Nahai, MD, editor-in-chief of Aesthetic Surgery Journal, said: “This is the first systematic review to look at the effectiveness of facial exercises for facial rejuvenation, and shows that we are really lacking evidence when it comes to the claims that facial exercises can rejuvenate the face. Randomised, controlled studies are the gold standard for determining the efficacy of any procedure. Hopefully, we will see some well-designed studies in the future that can help us determine whether these claims have merit.”16

The impact facial exercises have on ageing skin

Although facial exercises are viewed as a non-invasive alternative to medical approaches for facial rejuvenation, it would appear that not enough research has yet been conducted on the effectiveness of these exercises on skin ageing.

As the study looking into the effect of KFRP on facial skin is the most recent study of those mentioned in this article, it would be easy to assume it is, therefore, the most relevant and up to date. However, considering the scientific studies and opinions given by experts in a variety of other studies and articles, it would appear that it still remains uncertain whether facial exercises, in general, are beneficial in preventing the onset of ageing.


References and sources:

  1. Kim, K; Jeon, S; Kim JK; Hwang, JS. (2016). Effects of Kyunghee Facial Resistance Program (KFRP) on mechanical and elastic properties of skin. J Dermatolog Treat, 27(2). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26212214
  2. Kim, K; Jeon, S; Kim JK; Hwang, JS. (2016). Effects of Kyunghee Facial Resistance Program (KFRP) on mechanical and elastic properties of skin. J Dermatolog Treat, 27(2). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26212214
  3. Kim, K; Jeon, S; Kim JK; Hwang, JS. (2016). Effects of Kyunghee Facial Resistance Program (KFRP) on mechanical and elastic properties of skin. J Dermatolog Treat, 27(2). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26212214
  4. Kim, K; Jeon, S; Kim JK; Hwang, JS. (2016). Effects of Kyunghee Facial Resistance Program (KFRP) on mechanical and elastic properties of skin. J Dermatolog Treat, 27(2). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26212214
  5. Sanaya Chavda. ‘The truth about facial exercises’. DNA: Daily News and Analysis (online). Available at: http://www.dnaindia.com/health/report-the-truth-about-facial-exercises-196909
  6. Sanaya Chavda. ‘The truth about facial exercises’. DNA: Daily News and Analysis (online). Available at: http://www.dnaindia.com/health/report-the-truth-about-facial-exercises-1969094
  7. Sanaya Chavda. ‘The truth about facial exercises’. DNA: Daily News and Analysis (online). Available at: http://www.dnaindia.com/health/report-the-truth-about-facial-exercises-1969094
  8. Sanaya Chavda. ‘The truth about facial exercises’. DNA: Daily News and Analysis (online). Available at: http://www.dnaindia.com/health/report-the-truth-about-facial-exercises-1969094
  9. https://www.griffinandrow.com/product/skin-cleanser-cream/
  10. Do Vos, MC; Van den Brande, H; Boone, B; Van Borsel, J. (2013). Facial exercises for facial rejuvenation: a control group study. Folia Phoniatr Logop 65(3). Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24296342
  11. Do Vos, MC; Van den Brande, H; Boone, B; Van Borsel, J. (2013). Facial exercises for facial rejuvenation: a control group study. Folia Phoniatr Logop 65(3). Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24296342
  12. Author unknown. ‘More Research Needed on Facial Yoga for Aesthetic Rejuvenation’. Plastic Surgery Practice (online). Available at:http://www.plasticsurgerypractice.com/2014/01/more-research-needed-on-facial-exercises-for-aesthetic-rejuvenation/
  13. Author unknown. ‘More Research Needed on Facial Yoga for Aesthetic Rejuvenation’. Plastic Surgery Practice (online). Available at:http://www.plasticsurgerypractice.com/2014/01/more-research-needed-on-facial-exercises-for-aesthetic-rejuvenation/
  14. Author unknown. ‘More Research Needed on Facial Yoga for Aesthetic Rejuvenation’. Plastic Surgery Practice (online). Available at:http://www.plasticsurgerypractice.com/2014/01/more-research-needed-on-facial-exercises-for-aesthetic-rejuvenation/
  15. Author unknown. ‘More Research Needed on Facial Yoga for Aesthetic Rejuvenation’. Plastic Surgery Practice (online). Available at:http://www.plasticsurgerypractice.com/2014/01/more-research-needed-on-facial-exercises-for-aesthetic-rejuvenation/
  16. Author unknown. ‘More Research Needed on Facial Yoga for Aesthetic Rejuvenation’. Plastic Surgery Practice (online). Available at:http://www.plasticsurgerypractice.com/2014/01/more-research-needed-on-facial-exercises-for-aesthetic-rejuvenation/

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