The Duchess of Sussex, the glowing newlywed formerly known as Meghan Markle, famously told Birchbox.com in 2015 that she is a devotee of facial exercises to maintain her youthful appearance.
But for Markle, now 36 and a natural beauty, how hard can looking that fabulous be?
Perhaps we need to be looking at Madonna to see the true benefits of facial exercise or yoga. Reportedly a client of face workout guru Eva Fraser, the Material Girl, at 60, is as radiant as ever, with plump cheeks and beautiful eyes that lack the telltale surprised look of plastic surgery.
“It makes sense. My body looks great with yoga, but my face is still aging, so how can I rejuvenate my face through yoga?” says Annelise Hagen, a yoga instructor and author of The Yoga Face: Eliminate Wrinkles with the Ultimate Natural Facelift.
Facial exercise is not new: Traditional Chinese medicine has embraced it as a key to ageless beauty for thousands of years, according to Dr. Mao Shing Ni, an acupuncturist and anti-aging specialist based in Santa Monica, Calif.
But as more women seek natural, nonmedical ways to maintain their health, beauty and peace of mind, facial workouts, especially those combined with traditional yoga, meditation and relaxation methods, have become popular.
“The benefits of regularly practicing (my) method are anti-aging, reducing fine lines and wrinkles, improving skin tone, reducing headaches and eye strain, relaxing tension … face yoga also gives a holistic feeling of well-being, which can benefit mind and body,” says Danielle Collins, a U.K.-based face yoga expert whose videos include 10 Minute Natural Facelift.
But does it really work? Until this year, fountain of youth seekers had to rely on anecdotal evidence of the practice’s efficacy. In January, however, researchers at Northwestern University released results from a small study that showed participants’ faces looked nearly three years younger after performing facial exercises for five months.
Participants saw improvements in the fullness of their cheeks, and most important, they were happy with the results.
“Assuming the findings are confirmed in a larger study, individuals now have a low-cost, nontoxic way for looking younger or to augment other cosmetic or anti-aging treatments they may be seeking,” says Dr. Murad Alam, vice chairman of dermatology at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
For Hagen and Collins, who have spent years teaching their clients that odd-looking facial expressions can be key to a relaxed, happy, youthful visage, the study is affirming.
“It’s great to see scientific evidence to prove what I’ve seen for over a decade. Face yoga works wonders,” Collins says.
“I feel really validated that people on the medical side are moving (toward) what I’ve known all along,” Hagen says. “It’s magic when we connect to the side of ourselves that is the fountain of youth, and it’s easily accessible. It’s why it works so effectively. You can see results instantaneously.”