In our increasingly image obsessed society, more and more people are going under the knife, or having cosmetic injections to improve their appearance. These procedures can be costly, have significant side-effects and in many cases look unnatural. One little known therapy said to improve facial appearance is performing resistance exercises for the face. So, could facial exercises be a viable alternative to Botox, filler, or even cosmetic surgery? Let’s ask science.
What does the science say? A review paper analysed nine different scientific studies. The studies analysed were on a small number of people and of a pretty poor quality, likely because facial exercises are not yet hugely popular. However, of the nine studies analysed, every single one reported positive effects on appearance (1). Yay! Another review paper, although less structured then the previous paper, grossly reported facial exercises to decrease the appearance of wrinkles in several different studies, but that these changes only lasted as long as the exercises were performed (2). This is about as far as the studies on facial exercise and appearance go, so let’s have a look at the effects of facial exercise on some other things. Studies conducted on patients with facial injuries, found that facial exercises can improve facial muscle strength and alter lip position (3). Facial exercises have also been found to improve facial function in Bell’s Palsy (facial drooping) patients, likely due to changes in muscle strength and activation (4). So, does this mean facial exercises are healthful? Is it healthful? Facial exercises appear extremely promising. We can confidently say that facial exercises can improve facial muscle strength/function and that there is a good chance this will enhance appearance. However, due to the poor quality research on the topic we can’t yet be absolutely certain. Our verdict: Slightly healthful. Once more good quality research is conducted, I am confident this rating will be upgraded to very healthful! I hope this has been healthful.