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As you age, your skin begins to lose its elasticity, and fat pads that occur between skin and muscle become thinner, all of which lead to sagging. There is a cheap, scientifically proven way to bring youthful vigor and firmness to mature facial skin: it is sustained facial exercise. And because facial exercise is more or less a non-intrusive and straightforward physical intervention to help shape muscles, it cannot pose any harmful side effects. Research at Northwestern University has demonstrated how a 30-minute daily (or alternate daily) regular facial exercise over a span of 20 weeks has made the skin of middle-aged women participants appear more youthful. In fact, dermatologists involved in the study rated the rigorously exercised facial skin to have cut an average of three years off from aging skin. The relevant paper, titled “Association of Facial Exercise With the Appearance of Aging,” appears in the January 2018 issue of the journal, JAMA Dermatology.

Study participants, women ages 40 to 65, were trained to perform 32 facial exercises. Devised by the paper’s co-author, Gary Sikorski of Happy Face Yoga, the practices involve “puckering and squeezing the cheeks” repeatedly. The women repeated the exercises for a half-hour every day for up to 20 weeks, achieving noticeable results. In addition to firming cheek muscles, the facial workouts present a radical solution to visible signs of aging.

One example of facial exercise is called the Happy Cheeks Sculpting, done by smiling with pursed lips. With the cheek muscles forced upward by smiling, put your fingers in the mouth corners, slide them upward to the tops of both cheeks, and then hold for approximately 20 seconds. Consider doing this a few minutes daily.

Try counteracting the natural skin-aging process without resorting to chemical treatment or cosmetic surgery. Regular facial exercise leads to firmer muscles. Firmer facial muscles appear fuller and therefore youthful-looking.

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