Aging is a natural process that, with any luck, we will all experience sooner or later. As our cells eventually lose their ability to divide and multiply, face exercises become a useful tool for maintaining a youthful appearance.
Aging manifests in the face as the thinning of the fat pads that give the face much of its shape, as well as the loss of elasticity and loosening of the skin. Although this process is inevitable, the good news is that we can attenuate its effects.
Studies have shown that by gently exercising our numerous facial muscles—which total more than two dozen on each side—we can naturally achieve a toned and younger-looking face. Here are some facial exercises to start incorporating into your daily routine today.
Face exercises for each area of the face
Eyes & eyebrows
You can reduce wrinkles by exercising the muscles around your eyes. One simple exercise is to open them as wide as possible, until you can see a large area of the whites. Hold this facial expression for at least five seconds, release and repeat a few times.
To get more out of this exercise, engage the eyebrows by lifting them up and frowning them hard while your eyes are still looking surprised. Repeat the up and down movement as many times as you can during the five-second duration of the initial exercise.
Fuller cheeks can be achieved by smiling, even if it is done in a slightly forced way. To do this exercise, place your three middle fingers onto your cheekbones and try to lift them by smiling as hard as you can. When you repeat these cheek push-ups five to ten times in a row, you will probably feel your muscles getting a workout.
For a hands-free version, simply pucker your lips as tightly as possible and quickly pull them back into a smile. The abrupt movement will allow for a collective workout of your cheek muscles.
Winking the eyes by way of lifting the cheeks is another effective way to tone them up. Rather than using the eye muscles to close the lids, use your cheek muscles to push your eye closed. This facial pose will engage several muscles, one cheek at a time.
Mouth & lips
To rejuvenate the lower face, exercise those muscles by opening the mouth as wide as you can and sticking your tongue out as far as possible. Hold this position for at least five seconds and then release.
Make sure your lips are moisturized, and then take it a step further: try to smile while doing this exercise. Finally, press the chin down at the same time to increase the number of muscles being toned. Again, hold the position for five seconds, release, and repeat.
Next, stick out your tongue and pucker your lips around it. This will tone not only your face muscles but also those of the neck. A serious pout—like that of an unhappy child—is another good way to exercise the lips. Hold this position for the usual five seconds, release, and repeat.
The expression we adopt when a bad smell is perceived happens to be another beneficial facial pose. Simply wrinkle up your nose and hold this expression for a few seconds before releasing and repeating.
To further engage the nose, try wiggling it by moving your upper lip back and forth. Although the movement is not precisely directed by your nose, it nevertheless involves muscles that would not otherwise be exercised.
Maintain a healthy mind for a youthful face
While poor physical health clearly takes its toll on every part of our physique, a growing body of research indicates that poor mental health is also linked with signs of aging. A 2021 study found that study participants (ages 26 to 45) who experienced anxiety, depression, schizophrenia or drug abuse exhibited early aging by up to 5.3 years.
Independent observers asked to guess the age of these participants rated all of them as looking older than their actual age.
According to Jasmin Wertz, lead author of the study and postdoctoral associate at Duke University, early aging can be caused by unhealthy eating habits or lack of physical exercise that result from poor mental health; but it can also be caused by mental disorders themselves.
Excessive stress, for example, can induce increased circulation of stress hormones—like cortisol—and inflammation, causing skin issues and built-up muscle tension, which can affect the face.
Scientists like Wertz are starting to rethink the connection of mind and body, making mental health a priority in the prevention and treatment of physical diseases. She says, “there’s a window of opportunity, especially because these mental health problems…often occur relatively earlier in the life course than the physical diseases.”
The more science unveils how our state of our mind affects us physically, the more imminent the need to learn how to support our mental health. Fortunately, there are many self-help resources for nurturing the mind and spirit.
For starters, keep a positive attitude—learn to recognize and process negative thoughts. While they may seem intangible and inoffensive, they can shape the way we see the world and even result in serious physical effects.
If the negativity comes from your environment rather than from within, explore positive ways to deal with negative people. Not only will you be protecting your positivity but also saving yourself the stress that comes with trying to help those who don’t want to be helped.
Letting go of unhealthy attachments and replacing them with good habits will help build the foundation for a healthier lifestyle. By paying close attention to our thoughts, and detaching ourselves from harmful notions and emotions, we can cultivate a peaceful state of mind that will ultimately be reflected in our physical health, and a radiant face.
Embrace the flow of nature and age gracefully
While exercising our facial muscles can help reverse the visible signs of aging, just as a healthy mind can prevent them from appearing prematurely, aging is a natural process that everyone should hope to experience, as the alternative is grim indeed. Our only choice is whether to resist it, or embrace it.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”Lao Zi
By accepting the natural course of life, we allow ourselves to experience each of its stages for what they have to offer rather than what we expect from them. When we are able to simply flow, observe and embrace, every second of life becomes an experience worth living.