Does Your Face Need to Work Out Too?

There are 43 muscles in your face. Could working them out help tone, define, and sculpt your skin?
You hit up HIIT regularly, tuck and pulse with the best of them, and you live for vinyasa (and savasana!). But have you ever done brow burpees or face yoga? That's the next frontier in fitness, according to a new breed of skin-care experts who say that working out isn't just for your bod.

A centuries-old practice that was reportedly a beloved beauty ritual among Chinese empresses, facial toning is an ancient technique that's getting a modern makeover thanks to salons (or should we call them studios?) like FaceLove Fitness in New York City and FaceGym in London. You actually can tone and sculpt your face, without the use of products (and without sweating!) using facial exercises that target your 43 facial muscles, they say. And judging by the growing list of clients (including among celebs like Lily Allen and Rita Ora), it's working.

"Muscle has memory and exercise is accumulative, so you really can tone, sculpt, and define the face over time," says Rachel Lang, co-founder of FaceLove Fitness. "It also improves bone density and muscle mass," she says, which prevents sagging and boosts collagen production.

Don't worry—doing resistance training with your chin is not as strenuous as swinging a kettle bell. And you know that endorphin boost you get after working out? The same applies when you exercise your facial muscles. "We like to say we're enhancing your face joy," says Lang.

Ready for some neck-up strength training? Here's how it works—and the benefits you might see.

face workouts
Photo: FaceLove Fitness

So what's a face workout like?

At FaceGym, it's structured like your typical sweat sesh: "We first warm up your muscles through massage, then go into 'cardio'—which is [a facial massage that's] all about detox," explains Inge Theron, the studio's founder who was so obsessed with what Barry's Bootcamp did for her body, she created something that did the same for the face.

"Next is sculpting, where we use both our hands and the incredible machines we have—like our FaceGym Pro, an electrical muscle stimulation device—which helps lift, tone, and tighten, followed by a stretching cool-down," she says.

The FaceLove Fitness sessions, on the other hand, begin with aromatherapy and deep breathing, which propels the lymphatic elimination system, Lang says. The warmup consists of a massage that releases neck and shoulder tension—which improves the symmetry of your face, she explains. After that, the aesthetician rolls what looks like a mini Pilates ball all over your face to stretch out the muscles; according to Lang, this "aids in tension release and lymphatic draining."

And then: "strength training," which, yes, involves reps. "We ask you to move your muscles in certain ways as our hands become little free weights providing resistance," she says. One example: the "face burpee," where the facialist pushes down on your eyebrows and asks you to push them up for five seconds—which isolates and defines those muscles. To finish up, a jade roller—the facial version of a foam roller—is used to soothe your muscles and smooth your skin during a five-minute "cool down" period.

The benefits of facial fitness

The FaceGym and FaceLove Fitness pros say their regimens stimulate collagen production, resulting in a lifted, toned, and tightened face.

"Like with the gym, however, there are no shortcuts—it's all about maintenance," Theron says. There is one big difference, she adds: "You don't have to do anything—our trainers do the work for you."

If you want to get an at-home facial fitness routine going, FaceGym sells their ball ("This you can use on pressure points to release tension," says Theron), FaceGym Pro, and a jade roller online, while FaceLove Fitness offers up their mini ball and rollers from their NYC location.

Whether you're at home or in a salon, consider this your chance to work a whole new set of muscles—and feel fit all over. (Soreness not necessary.)

FaceGym, 400 Oxford St., London W1A 1AB, United Kingdom, +44 20 7318 2408,

FaceLove Fitness, 1 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10003, (646) 573-2631,

Temperatures may be dropping, but your workout routine is heating up! Check out our Fall Fitness Preview, your guide to having your healthiest fall yet. And make sure to mark your calendars: Well+Good's annual Fitness Biathlon in NYC is back this October 22.

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