The moves I learned at a "face fitness" studio definitely make me feel silly, but they are actually working.
I have always been a bit self-conscious about my full cheeks and dramatic expression lines. So when I heard about a "face fitness" studio here in New York City, where I could presumably tighten and tone my visage, I was game. But I had no idea what to expect. I wondered if I'd break a sweat. Would I be sore the next day? And could a face workout really create visible changes?
My session at FaceLove Fitness began in a beach chair. Co-owner Rachel Lang encouraged me to lay back, listen to the peaceful music playing in the studio, and close my eyes. The aromatherapy oils she held in front of my nose helped me relax.
Under normal circumstances, I don't like my face to be touched. Yet when Rachel began massaging my scalp, neck, face, and temples, it felt too good to protest. It was like a deep-tissue massage, but on my head instead of my back.
She gradually increased the pressure, and focused in on an area of my upper neck/lower scalp that was tight, probably from hunching over at my desk, she said. It hurt at first, but I could feel the tension releasing from my body.
When I mentioned to Rachel that the lines across my forehead are ever-present, even though I'm only in my 20s, she explained that increasing circulation in that area would help, and spent a good deal of time rubbing my forehead with circular motions.
Next came the exercise portion of my session (what I’d been waiting for!). The first set of "moves" involved me trying to raise my eyebrows as Rachel pushed down on the space between them with her fingers. In another, I simultaneously smiled super hard and squinted my eyes for five seconds at a time. Then Rachel had me pushing my jaw toward my chest against resistance. The exercises were actually quite challenging for me, even painful. As I was struggling to finish the sets, Rachel counted down the number of repetitions and cheered me on, just like any other trainer might. I knew at that point I would definitely be sore the next day.
The workout was followed by more delightful massaging, a few arm stretches, and a cool down, which involved Rachel rubbing my cheeks and forehead with cold jade rollers. I lost track of time because I was enjoying the session so much, but it couldn’t have lasted more than 20 minutes. The studio offered me a free session as a journalist, but the usual rate ranges from $10 to $65, depending on the type of session you choose.
When I glanced in the mirror afterwards, I was shocked. I saw myself looking five years younger. For the first time in my life, the expression lines on my forehead and cheeks were gone. My face looked bright and awake. I wasn't sure how long the effect would last, so I took a few selfies and relished the glow while it lasted. I also decided then that I would continue doing the facial toning exercises at home.
The more consistent you are, the better your results will be, Rachel told me. So every night for the last week and a half, I've been diligently working out my face. I kind of enjoy waking up with sore facial muscles. It makes me feel as if I am making progress. But to really see a difference, Rachel encouraged me to keep up my cardio routine and follow a healthy diet. And of course, she said, I shouldn't expect to see results overnight.
After 10 days, I’m not sure my face looks much different, but I definitely feel a difference. Overall, my face feels firmer and stronger. That's my fitness goal for the rest of my body, so why not for my face too? Just like any other type of workout, my facial routine helps me feel more confident in my skin, which is the best possible result of all.
If you're interested in trying out some moves, here are the three I do at night:
1. Place 3 fingers horizontally above your eyebrows, and firmly press in and down. Now raise your eyebrows and hold for 5 seconds. Do 10 reps.
2. Place 3 fingers from each hand horizontally across your cheekbones, and press firmly. Then smile as hard as you can and squint your eyes. Hold for 5 seconds. Do 10 reps.
3. Place your fists beneath your jaw and press your elbows against your chest. Use your fists to create resistance as you slowly push your jaw toward your chest with your mouth closed. Hold for 5 seconds. Do 10 reps. Need more of a challenge? Try slowly opening and closing your mouth against the resistance of your fists.