Could regular jaw/neck/eyelid workouts be the secret to toning my facial muscles into snatched perfection? To find out, I decided to put the practice to the test and commit to one full week of face workouts.
The benefits of facial sculpting exercises
There’s no shortage of facial exercises to be found on TikTok, but to learn more about the actual benefits and come up with a dedicated facial workout plan, I enlisted the help of Koko Hayashi, the founder of Koko Face Yoga. Her videos have racked up millions of views on YouTube, she counts Kim Kardashian among her celeb clients, and the before and afters of how she used face yoga to transform her own face are, quite literally, jaw-dropping.
“We all know that exercise is important for the muscles in your body, so why not for the face? The face has many muscles, too, which are responsible both for creating facial expressions and daily activities such as speaking and eating,” she explains.
Hayashi categorizes these muscles into two groups. There are what she calls “sleeping” muscles, ones that aren’t that active, and “working” muscles, which, you guessed it, are constantly engaged. The goal with face yoga or face sculpting exercises is to both activate those more dormant ones and relax the overworked ones, a combination that can ultimately help create a lifted appearance, and prevent wrinkles and sagging, she says.
A free, quick, painless, no-products-needed way to score all of the above? Yes, please.
5 facial sculpting exercises to try
Another great thing about facial workouts: “You don’t have to do that many exercises every day," says Hayashi."And as long as you’re doing them consistently on a daily basis, they will work." With that in mind, I asked her for a quick rundown of a few things that I could do every day. Here’s what she suggested:
1. Cheek squats
The cheeks are big muscles, and whatever you can do to wake them up will help create a more lifted appearance, says Hayashi. To perform "cheek squats," make an “ooh” sound, then an “ahh” sound, then smile so that you can see at least eight of your top teeth. Your bottom teeth should be covered, with your lip pressed against them. Make sure your tongue is pressed against the roof of your mouth, then lift up the cheeks as high as possible. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat three times per day.
3. Neck toning
To help alleviate a double chin, strengthening your neck is important. To do it, roll your shoulders back, then look up to the ceiling with your eyes closed and stick your tongue out, as if you were trying to lick the ceiling, says Hayashi. Hold the posture for 10 seconds, then slowly bring your head back down, she says. Repeat this three times per day. (FYI, if you have neck pain, avoid this move.)
2. Eye lift
“We tend to move our upper eyelids a lot, but not the lower lids as much. You want to activate these sleepier muscles on the lower lids to make your eyes look more defined and lifted,” Hayashi explains. Simply try to move just your lower lids upward, without moving the upper ones (it will almost look like you’re starting to squint). Repeat five to 10 times.
4. Tongue posture
Unlike an actual exercise, this is more about what you do with your face whenever it’s at rest, meaning you can (and should) be doing this pretty much at any given time. “When your face is at rest, your tongue should always be resting flat against your hard palette or the top of your mouth,” Hayashi advises. This targets the entire face, not only lifting the cheekbones, but also helping eliminate jowls, double chin, and defining the jawline, she says. It’s also very effective for reducing jaw pain and opens the airways for better breathing, beneficial for those who snore.
5. Symmetrical chewing
Again, not another exercise per se, but something to be mindful of whenever you’re eating. “Dominant chewing on one side is the biggest cause of an asymmetrical face, so whenever you eat, make sure you’re dividing the food equally on both sides of the cheeks,” says Hayashi.
My week of facial workouts
Armed with my new workout plan, I committed to doing all of the above for one week. Maintaining proper tongue posture required way more dedicated thought and attention than I anticipated; I had to constantly remind myself to keep it pressed up against the roof of my mouth anytime I wasn’t talking or eating. Same with the symmetrical chewing—I didn’t realize how asymmetrically I chewed until I focused on making it more even. Still, as the week went on, both habits did start to become slightly more like second nature.
As far as the three actual exercises go, I decided to do them in the morning, before my AM skincare routine. I was pleasantly surprised by how quick and easy it was to knock them all out—the whole protocol only took me about three minutes or so. And while it definitely felt a little strange at first (the lower eyelid lifting especially), the moves began to feel nice and pleasant as I continued to do them. It felt more akin to my facial muscles being stretched out, rather than worked out.
Admittedly, I didn’t notice any major difference in how my face looked after just a week of this new protocol, but I did notice a difference in how it felt. I have chronic TMJ and a generally tight jaw and neck area, and both felt significantly better. I felt as though a ton of tension had been alleviated throughout my entire face and neck, tension that I hadn’t even realized I had.
I will 100% be continuing my face workout plan—given how easy and fast it is, I see no reason not to. And I’m continuing to make a concerted effort to maintain proper tongue posture and even chewing, too. Will face sculpting exercises replace all of the other things I’m doing in an effort to age gracefully? Not necessarily, but they’ve certainly become a permanent addition to my workout routine.
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