WELL + GOOD: 6 Face Exercises To Sculpt and Strengthen Your Muscles and Skin From the Neck Up
iven that all the muscles in our bodies are designed to move for optimal wellness, it makes sense that our faces (which also have muscles!) deserve some exercise, too. Face yoga does that. “It’s the yogic way to tone the skin,” says Candace Marino, a medical aesthetician at The LA Facialist, who believes the practice can slow down the aging process, relieve tension, and help to tone your face’s underlying muscles.
If you’d rather skip invasive treatments like injections and lasers, facial exercises could be the au naturel option for keeping your facial skin firm. As with any exercise, different moves target different muscles—and consistency is key (don’t expect to have chiseled cheeks after just one session). Ready to hit the skin gym? Keep reading for six expert-recommended face exercises to try.
6 face exercises to tighten and tone
1. Upper-eye exercise
Cynthia Rowland, a facial fitness expert, and creator of the Facial Magic exercise program recommends this move to give your upper-eye area a little boost. Take the three middle fingers of each hand and place them underneath your eyebrows. Then push your eyebrows straight up. “Look straight ahead and use your forehead muscles to push down against the fingertips that are holding your brows,” Rowland says. Hold for ten seconds, and on the seventh second, close your eyes keeping your eyebrows high and anchored. Relax and then repeat the move two more times, for three total.
2. Chin-ups exercise
Place the pads of two fingers just behind your chin bone, on the soft area just under where your tongue is located. Gently press upward with your fingers. Next, push your tongue up into the roof of your mouth. You should feel a muscle contraction on your fingers. Relax, and then repeat 10 times total. “This helps strengthen the muscles, toning the area and helping to prevent the laxity,” Marino says. Rowland also recommends a variation of the exercise above: Lift your chin about two inches and pressing your tongue to the roof of your mouth as you look up at the ceiling. Then allow your lips to open slightly and hold the position for five seconds. Release, and then repeat three more times, for 10 seconds each time.
3. Neck stretches
When your neck is tight and tense, Marino says that tension can be visible on your face. Your eyes may appear smaller, and overall, your face may look as if it’s pulled downward. Stretching and massaging your neck can help relieve the tension. To begin, tilt your head towards one shoulder, place your hand on your head and gently pull it closer to your shoulder to deepen the stretch. Repeat on the other side. “After you’ve stretched both sides, use your hands to massage the muscles at the back of your neck on either side of the spine, working from the base of your neck up towards the back of your skull,” Marino says.
Watch what happens when one of our editors tries a collagen-stimulating microcurrent facial, meant to firm the skin:
4. Under-eye exercise
The under-eye area is one of the most sensitive spots on the face and the skin is thinner than anywhere else on your face—but the muscles in this region still need exercise. Rowland suggests this move: Look up, then begin to close your eyes by raising the lower lids first, so you almost look like you’re glaring at someone. Hold that position, with the under-eye muscles contracted for five seconds, and then release. Do the move three times total.
5. Crow’s-feet exercise
To target the skin on the outer edges of your eyes, Rowland recommends this move. Place the pads of your thumbs on the bones located at the outer corners of your eyes (right thumb on right side, left thumb on left side). Next, without moving your head, look up and gently press your thumbs in towards your eyes. Flutter your eyelids for five seconds, and then release. Repeat the exercise three times and you’re good to go.
6. Jaw-tightening exercise
As we age, the skin along our jawlines can begin to sag—and constantly looking down at your phone or tablet might contribute to that. Jowl-tightening exercises can help. Here’s how Rowland recommends doing them: Lift your chin to form a taut line between your chin and your clavicle, without hyperextending your neck. Turn your head to the right and look over your right shoulder at the ceiling behind you, then jut out your jaw. Hold that position for five seconds, release, and then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat the move three times total, then switch to your left side and do the same thing.
How to optimize your face-exercise ritual
1. Be consistent. If you want to see results, consistency is key. Rowland recommends doing facial exercises six days a week for at least 12 weeks. “After that, the face looks substantially younger, and that new look can be maintained by performing the routine three times each week,” she says. Rowland adds that most people will start to notice improvements after the first day, but lasting changes kick in around week six. (Pro tip: Marino suggests doing the exercises while you’re watching TV to ensure you fit them into your schedule.)
2. Stick to upward motions.“As a rule, when we massage or manually work out the face, we want to always move in an upward motion to encourage lifting,” Marino says. Always up. Noted.
3. Use firm pressure.You don’t want to tug or pull at your skin—but you don’t have to be ultra-gentle either. “Muscles need to be worked out in order to keep them healthy and strong,” Marino says. Plus, she adds, the ligaments, fascia, and other layers of tissue can handle the workout. They hold tension and get tight, so don’t be afraid to get them moving.