7 Face Exercises To Sculpt Muscles and Strengthen Skin From the Neck Up

Photo: Getty/Marco VDM
Given that all the muscles of the body are designed to move, it makes sense that your face—which also has muscles!—deserves some exercise, too. Enter: Face yoga. "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.

How can I tone up my face?

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 seven expert-recommended face exercises to try.

Experts In This Article
  • Candace Marino, medical esthetician at The LA Facialist
  • Cynthia Rowland, facial fitness expert and creator of the Facial Magic
  • Emily Poon, PhD, assistant research professor in dermatology at Northwestern University
  • Murad Alam, MD, vice chair and chief of cutaneous and aesthetic surgery at Northwestern Medicine
  • Natalie Aguilar, celebrity esthetician and dermatological nurse

Do facial exercises even work?

Many experts tout the benefits of facial exercises, and there’s some evidence to back them up. A 2018 study published in the journal JAMA Dermatology found that a regular facial exercise regimen improved facial features like cheek fullness and decreased the age a person looked. Not to mention that face stretches can feel really good.

Can facial exercises reverse signs of aging?

Experts say that facial exercises have the potential to reverse signs of aging. “Now there is some evidence that facial exercises may improve facial appearance and reduce some visible signs of aging,” says Northwestern Medicine dermatologist Murad Alam, MD, vice chair and professor of dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, according to Northwestern Now. “The exercises enlarge and strengthen the facial muscles, so the face becomes firmer and more toned and shaped like a younger face.”

How quickly do facial exercises work?

While advice varies, there’s evidence that doing 30 minutes of facial exercises every day for 20 weeks will reduce the appearance of aging.

Is facial exercise harmful?

The study did not find any downsides to doing facial exercises. That said, you should always listen to your body and don’t do an exercise if it hurts.

How long do face exercises take to work?

According to the evidence, you should do facial exercises for 30 minutes a day for 20 weeks in order to see an effect.

What happens if you stop doing facial exercises?

Use it or lose it! Just like other muscles, your facial muscles need to be kept in shape.

Can exercises help a sagging face?

Facial exercises can improve sagging by countering the effects of loosening skin and thinning “fat pads” under your skin. As these pads thin, they slide, which contributes to skin looking saggy.

“But if muscle underneath becomes bigger, the skin has more stuffing underneath it and the firmer muscle appears to make the shape of the face more full,” said senior study author Emily Poon, PhD, an assistant research professor in dermatology at Northwestern’s Feinberg school, in a statement about the study. “Muscle growth is increasing the facial volume and counteracting the effects of age-related fat thinning and skin loosening.”

How can I lift my face naturally?

Celebrity esthetician and dermatological nurse Natalie Aguilar uses facial massage techniques to lift her face, specifically her jawline.

"I like to take some time contouring my chin by giving myself a chin and jawline massage," Aguilar previously told Well+Good.

Do face exercises cause wrinkles?

Some dermatologists are skeptical of facial exercise, and warn that it could cause wrinkles in the long term after seeing positive effects in the short term.

Can you get dimple with facial exercise?

Though this is a popular internet trend, there’s no scientific evidence that facial exercises can cause dimples to form.

Do facial exercises help define cheekbones?

If you focus on your cheekbones with a gua sha stone, similar to how some experts focus on jaw exercises for facial tension, you should be able to help define your cheekbones.

What are the best facial exercises?

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," says Marino. 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," says Marino.

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.

7. Face burpee

Strength training the muscles under the skin is an important part of face exercises. To do a "face burpee," use your fingers as resistance by pushing down on your eyebrows as you actively push them up for five seconds, which isolates and defines those muscles. To finish up, use a jade roller—the facial version of a foam roller—to soothe your muscles and smooth your skin for a five-minute "cool down" period.

How to optimize your face exercises

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.

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Alam, Murad et al. “Association of Facial Exercise With the Appearance of Aging.” JAMA dermatology vol. 154,3 (2018): 365-367. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.5142

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