What do you consider more attractive – a healthy, fit-looking person or someone who looks cosmetically enhanced? The statistics say we all prefer the more natural look. And according to market research company Zogby International, only 6% of men would like a woman to use Botox rather than have wrinkles.
So if you want to try natural a way to eradicate your frown lines, saggy skin and deep wrinkles, here's how.
Will it really work?
"People want instant results," says Marja Putkisto, of Method Putkisto, a company with branches in the UK, US and Finland, where the 'face school' method originated.
"As with exercising any part of your body, however, it takes a few weeks before you'll see the effects. But you will see an amazing difference - our exercises eliminate double chins, reduce puffiness and wrinkles, and improving skin texture. It also helps realign the upper body, key to reducing shoulder and neck tension."
Even cosmetic surgeons agree facial exercise is beneficial: "When you exercise, you tone and tighten the muscles in your body," says Dr Mark Berman, former president of the California Academy of Cosmetic Surgeons. "So why not apply the same principles to your face? I've seen the results, and it works."
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How does it make me look younger?
"Skin needs a good supply of oxygen to stay looking healthy," says Dr David Orentreich, dermatologist for Clinique. "That means good circulation and muscle tone."
"Very few people utilise their full range of muscles," says Marja. "Just think, for example, how little you move your eyes when you sit at a computer all day. These exercises increase circulation and oxygen - clearing away toxins, smoothing lines and giving a healthier skin tone."
Isn't that just a case of pulling faces?
It's not quite that simple - knowing which areas to target is key to getting good results. "Our method focuses on relaxing the tight, short muscles in your face, such as your biting muscles," says Marja. "Strengthening other, smaller muscles. This method also realigns the jaw, improving posture."
Can't I just use massage to the same effect?
Massage is very good for the skin, but it won't improve muscle tone. "Using different muscles and parts of your face also encourages you to use different muscles when you perform 'standard' facial expressions such as smiling or frowning, for example," says Marja. "The frown lines you already will appear reduced because you're spreading the effort across more facial muscles."
So how can I fix my saggy cheeks?
"The Centre Triangle Lift stretches, mobilises and strengthens the important cheek muscles, lifting your cheeks," says Marja. "Place your fingertips on your cheekbones, a couple of centimetres in from your temples and tilt your chin towards your chest. Use your fingers to lift the muscles up and over the cheekbones, and breathe out." Create a stretch by opening your mouth slowly, continue opening and closing your mouth - repeat between five and 10 times. "You may be surprised at how tight these muscles are and may even feel the stretch in your neck," says Marja.
And my wrinkly neck?
"Loose skin on the neck indicates that you are not holding your head and jaw in a relaxed position," says Marja.
Try this: Lift your chin and place both your hands at the top of your throat. Now lift your jaw without flinging your head back. Push your jaw forward to feel the stretch. "To see how tight your neck muscles are, try swallowing in this position," says Marja. "This tightness hinders support of the upper part of the neck, allowing skin to sag."
Can face exercise get rid of extra chins?
The first step to losing an extra chin is to lose weight – like the spare tyre around your waist, a spare chin is often down to excess body fat.
Loss of definition around your cheeks and jawline is often caused by lost teeth that haven't been replaced – your gnashers and jawbone are the scaffolding to your skin. Get well-fitting dentures to ensure this isn't the case for you.
And to target the chin through exercise try this: sitting upright, tilt your head back to stare at the ceiling. "Now bring your lower lip up and over your upper lip as far as possible -–count slowly to five," says Marja. "Relax and let your head come back to its normal position. Repeat five times. Do this exercise twice daily."
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What can I do about the excess baggage under my eyes?
A main cause of eye bags is collected toxins and water under your eyes - that's why you look slightly puffy eyed if you've been drinking the night before.
"To improve the skin around your eyes, put your fingertips under your eyebrows and gently lift your eyelids," says Marja. "Now press your upper lids down, holding your fingertips in place, and count to five. Then relax." Repeat this twice.
"Now put your fingertips to the outer corners of your eyes, moving your fingers upwards as you move your eyelids down - repeat three times."
Can I make my frown lines disappear?
Exercise different forehead muscles to increase blood flow to the area. "Press both your index fingers on your forehead above your eyes," says Marja. "Then push up against them with your eyebrows. Resist with your fingertips. Repeat this 8-10 times, rest, then repeat five times."
Cosmetic surgery expert Wendy Lewis isn't convinced, and sounds a cautionary note.
"Facial ageing involves more than just lax muscle tone," she says. "It has to do with the ravages of sun exposure, sagging skin, descending fat pads, breakdown of soft tissues and the supporting structures.
"Facial muscles are like fine elastic sheets that are stretched in layers over the facial bones. Exercising these muscles can't repair or restore the ligaments that hold the muscles in place and weaken with age. If you repeatedly manipulate your skin, it is likely to cause more elasticity.
"Facial exercises should not be considered a non-surgical facelift or better than Botox/Vistabel."
Meditate to slow wrinkles
Meditation appears to slow some of the cell loss which causes wrinkling of the skin. If you’ve ever read the label on an anti-wrinkle cream, you’ve probably heard of telomerase. It’s an enzyme that looks after the long-term health of your cells and is found in many expensive lotions. A study from the University of California has found that meditation increases telomerase activity too.
Telomeres are structures at the end of chromosomes, sometimes envisaged as the equivalent of the cap on the end of a shoelace. They get shorter each time a cell divides and when they drop below a specific length, that cell can no longer divide and dies. By maintaining telomere levels or promoting their activity, it’s possible to slow down cell loss. It’s this cell loss that causes wrinkling and other signs of ageing.
The researchers believe that this beneficial side effect of meditation is down to the reduced stress that practitioners feel. They base this theory on the fact that those study participants who showed the highest levels of telomerase activity were also those who showed the greatest improvement in terms of positive psychological changes.
So while it’s tempting to think meditation could help keep you younger, in fact it’s psychological wellbeing that helps keep you younger. If meditation makes you feel good, de-stressing you and giving you a general sense of wellbeing, then it may also increase your telomerase activity. But if gardening or painting gives you a similar sense of wellbeing, it may well be just as effective.
Seven face-saving tips
- Maintain good circulation through regular exercise.
- Buy some flaxseed oil. "It's the richest vegetable source of omega-3 fatty acids, essential for lubricated, supple skin," says registered nutritionist Carina Norris.
- Cut down on alcohol. "Alcohol dehydrates and adds toxins to a system that's already having to deal with pollution, chemicals in food and so on," says Norris. "If you must, drink red wine which contains antioxidants.
- Look after your teeth- they, along with your jaw bone, form the scaffolding that holds your face skin in place.
- Eat blueberries. "These are packed with antioxidants to fight skin-damaging free radicals," says Norris.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of liquids.
- Avoid the evil trio: sun, smoke and stress. "These three factors will dramatically increase the number and severity of wrinkles," says Dr David Orentreich.
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