From the Botox-addicted Desperate Housewives to the celebs who will try any and every anti-aging treatment (yes, you, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston), everybody is crazy for face yoga lately. Is one of your eyebrows raised as you read this? That's face yoga! (Kind of.)
Face yoga is a series of exercises that promise to do for your face what yoga does for your body: relax and tone muscles. So, I set out to investigate if making these targeted (not to mention ridiculous) facial expressions can really prevent -- and even reverse -- wrinkles and sagging.
Skip ahead to see the 6 face yoga poses that'll prevent signs of aging.
Some plastic surgeons and derms say sorry, face yoga is absolute nonsense. "The earlier you start face yoga, the earlier you'll get wrinkles," says cosmetic facial plastic surgeon Jeffrey Spiegel, MD. "You don't get wrinkles from loss of elasticity in your muscles; you get wrinkles in your skin. And repetitive movement creates creases in the skin. It's like folding a piece of paper." Translation? Even if you have the facial muscles of the Incredible Hulk, all that flexing and stretching is also stretching out your skin, ultimately causing wrinkles.
But proponents of face yoga say that it can relax your face, which ultimately smoothes those tension-filled expressions we make every day without even realizing it. And just relaxing those usually contorted facial muscles can give you a natural face lift. Who needs Botox to freeze muscles into a smooth, relaxed state when face yoga can do something similar?
"Relaxing the facial muscles, especially where we hold tension -- like the jaw, brow, and forehead -- can counteract the wrinkle-causing grimacing we do on a daily basis," says Annelise Hagen, a New York yoga instructor and author of "The Yoga Face: Eliminate Wrinkles with the Ultimate Natural Facelift."
"Since the muscles on our faces can't lift weights or go on the treadmill, when you apply pressure with your fingertips or make certain facial expressions, you're toning and strengthening the muscles," she says. "I would never say face yoga eradicates all lines, but it can definitely change the downward drift."
Alright, so the jury's still out on just how effective face yoga is. But I was convinced enough to try it myself. If doing these exercises can make me look like I spent a week on the beach reading "50 Shades of Grey," I'm game to give it a go. Here are the six face yoga poses that seem to do more good than harm.
Widen your eyes, trying to expose as much of the white in your eye as you can. Hold that until your eyes start to water.
How it works: By holding this expression, Hagen says you're exercising the muscles around your eyes and your forehead, erasing the negative effects of scowling by doing the opposite action.
Take a big breath through your mouth, then puff the breath from cheek to cheek like a bullfrog; then release.
How it works: This pose strengthens your cheek muscles and prevents them from becoming thinner and looking hollow. "If you look at people who play the saxophone, they always have firm cheeks. When you use a muscle in a specific way, it changes the facial appearance. So do this if you want toned,
Imagine winking with your lower lid. Kind of hard, right? Hagen says it'll take some practice, but your brain will learn how to do this quickly. First, lift and release your lower lid gently without moving any other facial muscles. Then add a little bit of fingertip pressure in the outer crease of the crow's feet, which creates some pressure for the muscle to work against. Just make sure you don't drag or pull the skin, says Hagen, since that area is very sensitive. You also want to make sure the skin is clean and slightly moisturized so it's not tight.
How it works: By exercising the muscles around your eyes, you're firming the skin to keep it from folding into itself, which creates wrinkles.
Smile with your teeth showing, then gently press your fingertips into the creases between your nose and lips. Lift the muscles up and press your fingertips down into the muscles for slight resistance.
How it works: One of the best signs of youth are plump, round cheeks, which is why people use injectables to fill the area. Instead, Hagen says to try this exercise, which will "strengthen the muscle so that it doesn't become slack." "When your fingertips push into facial muscles, the muscles push back, which is what makes them stronger and fuller," she says.
Press the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, then smile and swallow while pointing your chin at the ceiling.
How it works: While you may never forget to slather SPF on your face, your neck may often get skipped -- and that's why the neck is one of the first places to show signs of aging. Hagen says this pose is "great at tightening the jaw, since you're working out your chewing muscle and the platysma, which is the muscle that surrounds your upper chest, collarbone, and neck," she says.
Saying your "oms" can relax more than your mind, it may work to relax those lines on your face as well. Good news: This exercise is the easiest of all of the face yoga poses. Hagen says all you have to do is "imagine the face of Buddha superimposed over your face like a Photoshop filter." Just close your eyes, visualize the point between your eyebrows, and make a very slight smile.
How it works: Hagen says this pose can "reset your facial habits" -- almost like rebooting your computer. "Most people don't realize they're grimacing. It's an unconscious thing. But repeated scowls create wrinkles. This pose helps offset those line-making expressions."