For the past couple of years, I’ve had a birthday ritual of sorts. It involves going to Sephora, wandering the aisles for hours while testing anti-aging products on the inside of my wrist. Eventually, after several in-depth discussions with their (oh-so-patient) employees and a thorough review of my skin type (normal-dry, FYI), I leave with a bag of masks, retinols, Vitamin C serums, and anti-wrinkle night creams to try out, all in the hopes of babying my skin into anti-aging submission in the dawn of a new year.
Full disclosure: I definitely still did that when my birthday hit a few weeks ago. But in addition to my AAA (anti-aging arsenal), I decided to start experimenting with a more hands-on, natural approach to aging that I’d seen raved about on the internet: face yoga.
First, a little background on where wrinkles even come from: As my dermatologist has explained to me, think of your skin as a piece of paper. Any time you fold the paper (read: move a muscle on your face, like crinkling your eyes when you smile or raising your eyebrows), you make a crease. Of course, early on, it’s easy to smooth that crease out – but the more you fold, the more defined that crease becomes. Hence, wrinkles, which tend to form along the most active muscles in your face.
Since the face yoga trend is still pretty fresh, the internet only has peeks and glimpses into what a face yoga routine may look like. To help me on my quest, I enlisted the help of Lindsey Ditri, a medial esthetician from Pittsburgh who recently completed her facial yoga certification.
Face yoga, Lindsey explained to me, is “an all-natural approach to aging, an alternative to Botox and fillers. We have 43 muscles in our face, and face yoga utilizes those in more of a yoga form on a consistent, daily basis.”
In layman’s terms, that means that face yoga is a series of facial muscle contractions (squints, smiles, moving your jaw up and down, and more), with a little self-massage thrown in. The hope is that by deliberately moving your facial muscles in certain ways, you’ll become more conscious of how your facial muscles move in your everyday life- like when you furrow your brow and stare at a screen for eight hours a day, a common cause of wrinkles.
With no equipment needed, no appointments necessary, and only a minor time commitment (Lindsey recommends 20 minutes a day, six days a week), face yoga is an accessible anti-aging solution for people reluctant to dip their toes in the injection waters.
“You can do it at work, at home, or in the car, whenever you have a spare few minutes,” she recommends.
Of course, Lindsey cautions, you shouldn’t expect to see the same results as if you’d gone the other route.
“You’re not going to look like you just got fillers or a face lift, but it’s still going to benefit your skin,” she says. “It’s working all the layers in the skin so you’re circulating more blood flow and stimulating collagen production, allowing more oxygen to come to the skin, so it’s beneficial regardless of whether or not you experience a dramatic skin difference.”
For my beginner’s pack, Lindsey recommended that I watch the YouTube videos of Danielle Collins, who many hail as the modern expert on face yoga. With video tutorials on face yoga for everything from smile lines to glowing skin to dark circles, she has a move for every part of your face and neck.
In my still-new routine, I’ve focused on a few movements recommended by Lindsey as well: the smile smoother, the flirty eyes, and the giraffe (instructions for each are at the bottom of this post, under the “Read More” link).
Have I seen results? I’m not sure yet – as of writing, it’s only been about a week. But there are a few things that I have unexpectedly enjoyed about this new routine: the relaxing British accent of Danielle Collins and the fact that all of her videos are less than five minutes, for one.
I’ve also found that by making face yoga a part of my nighttime skin routine, it’s become a relaxing part of my evenings, subconsciously signaling to my body that it’s time to wind down for the night. In the fitness industry, we focus a lot on recovery for our bodies and muscles, meaning my foam roller and Hyperice ball see a lot of action. My face, however, doesn’t get as much love, and a few minutes of gentle massage combined with the application of my nighttime oils and moisturizers is pretty darn zen, even in my own home.
Plus, Lindsey was right: after a week of face yoga, I’m much more aware of the muscles in my face, how they move, when they’re active versus when they’re lazy. And that consciousness directly corresponds to the body awareness and control part of a yoga practice.
For now, my forehead isn’t completely smooth, and my skin still shows hints of 28 years of smiling. There are eleven months until my next Sephora birthday shopping spree. In the meantime, I’ll keep practicing.
The Smile Smoother
For smoothing smile lines
Step 1: Hide the teeth with the lips to make an ‘O’ shape with the mouth.
Step 2: Smile widely while keeping the teeth hidden and repeat six times.
The Flirty Eyes
For deep eye hollows and drooping eye brows.
Step 1: Place an index finger under each eye, pointing towards the nose.
Step 2: Hide the teeth and tease the top lip and bottom lip away from each other at the mouth.
Step 3: Flutter the upper eyelids while gazing at the ceiling for 30 seconds. You kind of look like this.
For neck wrinkles and sags
Step 1: Looking straight ahead, place the finger tips at the bottom of the neck and stroke lightly downward with the head tilted back.
Step 2: Bring the head back down to the chest and repeat twice.
Step 3: Pull the lower lip out as far as possible to pull the corners of the mouth down and place fingers on the collarbone with chin pointed upward. Hold for 4 deep breaths.