After 20 weeks of the programme – dubbed facial yoga – women appeared, on average, three years younger than their real age in a series of before and after photos shown to others.
The experiment involved 27 female volunteers aged 40-65 doing a series of facial exercises for 30 minutes a day for the first eight weeks then dropping to half an hour every other day for the remainder of the test.
Both before and after, a team of dermatologists from Chicago’s Northwestern University School of Medicine examined the women and found that, by the end of the course, they had fuller upper and lower cheeks and firmer skin.
This, in turn, changed the shape of their face, making it more toned and, as a consquence, younger looking, the researchers told the specialist journal JAMA Dermatology.
Apart from being cheaper than alternative procedures such as beauty products or invasive treatments such as botox or more permanent surgery, it is also a non-toxic way of warding off the wrinkles, said the report.
The women first went on a 90-minute course to learn 32 facial exercises before being asked to do them every day without supervision.
A number of exercises were taught with names such as the ‘cheek lifter’ which involves opening the mouth as if mouthing the letter O then positioning the upper lip over your teeth and smiling to lift cheek muscles up, putting yuour fingers lightly on the top part of the cheeck, releasing the cheek muscles down and then back up again. Repeat by lowering and lifting cheeks.
Another is the Happy Cheeks Scultping – smile without baring teeth, clench lips together and smile forcing cheek muscles up, then place fingers on the corners of the mouth and slide them up to the top of the cheeks and hold for 20 seconds.
Lead researcher, dermatology professor Dr Murad Alam, said it was the first study to show the benefits of facial exercises in anti-ageing and is now hoping to conduct a bigger study with a much bigger sample of volunteers.
He said: “Now there is some evidence that facial exercises may improve facial appearance and reduce some visible signs of aging.
“The exercises enlarge and strengthen the facial muscles, so the face becomes firmer and more toned and shaped like a younger face.
“Assuming the findings are confirmed in a larger study, individuals now have a low-cost, non-toxic way for looking younger or to augment other cosmetic or anti-aging treatments they may be seeking.”
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