Creams, fillers, lasers and facelifts all have their time and place in an anti-aging routine. Now add one more to that list: facial exercises.

Indeed, performing facial exercises (also called face yoga) for 20 weeks was shown to help women ages 40 to 65 look about three years younger, per new research published in JAMA Dermatology. After attending two 90-minute training sessions to learn how to make 32 expressions with their face (like lowering and lifting cheeks), the super dedicated 27 women enrolled in the study performed them for 30 minutes every day for eight weeks; for the next 12 weeks they practiced them every other day.

Researchers then analyzed 20 different features of the face to see if there were any differences. "We found that the upper and lower cheek areas increased in volume, creating fuller cheeks and counteracting the thinness that happens in this area with age," says study co-author Murad Alam, MD, of the Department of Dermatology at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University.

What happens as someone gets older, he explains, is that skin becomes thin and saggy. The fat layer (located under skin) also thins out and slides down lower on the face. "Underneath all of that is muscle, which grew in size because of the exercises," Alam says. The added muscle essentially propped up sagging cheeks.

The idea of face yoga has been around for at least a decade, Alam says, but this was the first study to quantify the benefits. What researchers don't know yet is the minimum time commitment needed to get results. (For instance: Can you get the same benefits from just 15 minutes a day or doing it every third day?)

Even though this regimen takes time and commitment, one big benefit is that it's completely non-invasive and there is no risk of side effects, says Alam. If you're interested in trying this at home, there are a number of resources like books, DVDs, classes and YouTube videos that can guide you through face yoga. Once you know the exercises, perform them in front of a mirror so you know you're doing them correctly, he says.

And, while many women in the study were hoping that this could replace fillers and other treatments completely, Alam says that's unfortunately not the case. "Those minimally invasive procedures are much more effective and still very safe, he says. "Combining those with face yoga may magnify your results."


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