I have been saying for years that I didn’t believe that facial exercises or muscle toning devices really work. Think of it this way: if facial exercises worked, BOTOX® wouldn’t. And we all know that BOTOX® works by preventing facial muscles from contracting, which softens lines in the skin. Plus, facial aging is not just about sagging or lax muscles—it’s about sagging muscles, slack skin, fat loss or volume shifts, and surface damage in the form of brown spots, sun damage, red veins, and fine lines. My questions have been, “Where’s the science?,” “What are doctors saying?,” and “Has anyone published a study?”
Well, a new study published in the January 2014 issue of the prestigious Aesthetic Surgery Journal of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) showed that there is not enough solid clinical evidence to support the whole category of facial yoga or exercises for rejuvenation. Researchers from Ghent, Belgium reviewed nine published studies that were conducted in South America on the effects of facial muscle exercises on facial rejuvenation. Although the authors of these studies reported positive outcomes, the researchers found that the quality of the available evidence was insufficient for determining the efficacy of facial exercises for aesthetic rejuvenation.
“Our review shows that there is not enough evidence to conclude whether facial exercises are effective for reducing the signs of aging,” says lead author John Van Borsel, PhD, Professor of Neurolinguistics and Logopedics at Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium, and Veiga de Almeida University, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in a news release. “The existing published studies were not randomized or controlled. Most lacked blinding and only used subjective measures to assess the effectiveness of treatment. We need better studies before we can draw any conclusions about the usefulness of facial exercises.”
Apparently, the studies were conducted in a somewhat haphazard manner, not up to the clinical standards many physicians seek out when evaluating a technique or procedure. None of the studies were randomized or controlled. Most studies included more than one type of exercise and used subjective assessments. The researchers concluded that additional studies with superior designs and larger patient populations are needed—especially randomized, controlled, and blinded studies evaluating a single type of exercise using objective measurements. They also called for comparisons of different types of facial exercises, information on the role of intensity and duration of treatment, and the effect of patient-specific variables such as age and signs of aging when they began these exercises.
“This is the first systematic review to look at the effectiveness of facial exercises for facial rejuvenation, and shows that we are really lacking evidence when it comes to the claims that facial exercises can rejuvenate the face,” says plastic surgeon Foad Nahai, MD, editor-in-chief of Aesthetic Surgery Journal. “Randomized, controlled studies are the gold standard for determining the efficacy of any procedure. Hopefully, we will see some well-designed studies in the future that can help us determine whether these claims have merit.”
So ladies, at least for now, think twice before making those bizarre facial distortions that are characteristic of facial exercise routines. According to New York facial plastic surgeon Sam Rizk, “In theory, facial exercises may create more lines and wrinkles in the skin from years of repetitive movements, especially in thin skinned areas of the face that are most susceptible to wrinkle formation, such as around the eyes and forehead, and around the mouth. The whole concept of exercising facial muscles runs contrary to what we know to be true about how the face ages.”