Do Facial Exercises Work?

by Gio
does facial exercise work

I remember first reading about facial exercise in a teen magazine. I must have been 16 or something. The article mentioned that these exercises helped maintain facial muscle tone and so, I dutifully sat in front of the mirror and started playing with my face.

I felt so silly! But, I was more than willing to put up with some embarrassment if these exercises really made my skin look better. But, after continuing for a few days and seeing no results whatsoever, I quit. 

Was it the right choice?

Hard to say. Talking about facial exercises is like opening a can of warms. There’s no scientific proof yet that facial exercises work, yet fans swear they help keep their skin wrinkle-free. Who’s right?!

Let’s try to unravel this mess, shall we?

Why Skin Ages And Sags

Fans of facial exercise claim that toning facial muscles prevents, stops, and even reverses sagging skin. Kind of like when you exercise your body. The more you do it, the more toned you get, and the smoother everything becomes.

But, this theory has a major flaw: lack of muscle tone is NOT what causes sagging and wrinkles. Even if you tone those muscles, you won’t be able to reverse aging.

So, what causes aging?

  • Bone and hormone loss
  • Depletion of collagen, elastin, and fat
  • Genetics
  • Gravity
  • Loosening of the ligaments that hold the muscles in place
  • Repetition of facial movements
  • Sun exposure

Related: 8 Science-Backed Ways To Rebuild Lost Collagen

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Is Facial Exercise Bad For Skin?

See what I highlighted above? Repetition of facial movement causes wrinkles. And, when you’re exercising your face, you’re repeating the same movements over and over again. The experts agree.

Paula Begoun, in one of her articles about facial exercise, quotes Dr Wilma Bergfeld, Head of Clinical Research, Department of Dermatology at The Cleveland Clinic: “Though I don’t recommend them I do believe they could work in some controlled situations. However, you would never want to do anything that moves the facial skin, especially as it ages, or overmanipulate the skin, because it would create more wrinkling, increasing the loss of elasticity in the skin.”

Dr Oz and Dr Michael F. Roizen in their You: Being Beautiful book, agree: “Exercising the facial muscles is a sure way to increase wrinkles. The facial muscles pull on the skin to give you facial expressions. And the repetitive movements of the skin, over the years, combined with the normal thinning of the collagen and elastin of the dermis, will eventually crack the skin, causing wrinkles. Botox is the reverse of exercise; it paralyzes muscles and lessens wrinkles.”

This makes a lot of sense. Think about it: what are the areas of your face that have more fine lines and wrinkles? The forehead, and the areas around the eyes and mouth.

Why? Because you move them a lot. When you smile. When you frown. When you squint your eyes. When you purse your lips. Is it really wise to increase these repeated movements on purpose? Mmmm….

What Does The Science Says About Facial Exercise?

This is the frustrating part. Science isn’t saying anything about facial exercise, yet. So, both these theories

  • Facial exercise is good because it tones up the muscles
  • Facial exercise is bad because it causes wrinkles through repeated movements

are just that, theories. Until there’s a study that proves one of them, what should we believe and do?

Personally, I believe the truth, as is often the case, lies somewhere in the middle. I agree with Dr Bergfeld: facial exercise may help in controlled situations, but, if you do it alone, without proper supervision and control, you may do your skin more harm than good.

The Bottom Line

There is no scientific proof facial exercise works, but there’s some evidence that repeated facial movements can lead to wrinkles. Unless you know what you’re doing, don’t bother with facial exercise. You may make things worse.

Have you ever tried facial exercise? Share your thoughts win the comments below.



peka January 10, 2019 - 4:51 am

Forgive me if this seems harsh, but I don’t think you’ve really thought this through. You said in an earlier comment: “I guess my problem is that I don’t really fully get how facial exercises could possibly work because there really is no scientific proof explaining it.”

There is plenty of “scientific proof explaining” resistance exercise. Yes, people can sometimes hurt themselves exercising improperly. And yes, it’s true that exercise is not a cure-all magical fix for every human ailment, but that it “works”, and benefits our bodies in many ways, is well established.

You’re essentially dodging this by throwing in the qualifier “facial”, as if that changes things, but it really doesn’t. To truly use a skeptical approach, the claim in question should not be whether resistance exercise (facial or otherwise) works. We already know resistance exercise causes muscles to either get stronger, larger, or both. The claim that should be in question, the one you seem to be blindly accepting, is the claim that facial muscles don’t respond to exercise the way our other muscles do.

The burden of proof is on you, and all the gurus you personally put your faith in, to demonstrate that.

If you can provide studies and conclusive evidence demonstrating that facial muscles are somehow, magically, functionally different from the other muscles we exercise, then you might have a valid claim. But without such evidence (and in fact, with a growing pile of evidence to the contrary), the logical and skeptical position is that facial muscles can be toned, strengthened and/or enlarged just like any other muscle we can consciously contract and flex. There’s no reason to assume otherwise, and every reason to conclude this is so (not the least of which is the fact that speech therapists and various types of physical therapy employ facial exercises for facial paralysis, like palsies). To insist otherwise is not being “skeptical” or “scientific“. It’s just special pleading.

Gio January 24, 2019 - 1:31 pm

Peka, I know there is a lot of proof that exercise work for other muscles. Facial muscles are a little different because they attach to other muscles of directly to skin, NOT to your bones like the other muscles in the body. I’m waiting for studies to determine whether this makes a difference or not. If I see studies showing this makes no difference, I will edit the post accordingly. It’s not that I want to hate on facial exercises, it’s that I haven’t seen enough proof to back up their effectiveness – and I acknowledge part of it is because of the lack of studies on facial exercises.

Also, as loss of muscle tone isn’t the only cause of premature aging. I’m curious how facial exercises can make up for other factors, like bone loss.

Jana August 17, 2019 - 9:03 pm

Do you know Peta and her FACEROBICS?
Try YOU TUBE,please.

valentina karpenko March 7, 2020 - 7:59 pm

What about micro-current; does that improve your muscle laxity?

Gio April 4, 2020 - 7:39 am

Valentina, it can help when properly done by a professional. At home devices don’t do much.

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