Can Facial Exercises Really Lift Sagging Jowls?

Developing jowls, saggy skin around the chin and mouth, is just an inevitable component of aging. Even so, there may be ways to slow the physical effects of aging. As to whether face exercises really lift sagging jowls, the verdict is still uncertain, though despite much skepticism, at least one study has demonstrated that continuous exercises over the course of about five months will improve appearance.

One study demonstrates the benefits of face yoga for jowls (Image: microgen/iStock/GettyImages)


Despite skepticism regarding the effectiveness of exercises to lift sagging jowls, one study suggests that facial workouts can, in fact, make skin appear firmer.

Causes of Jowl Sagging

There are several factors that cause jowls to sag, the most common being aging. As skin begins to age, it loses the compounds that keep it taut and firm, such as collagen and elastin.

When we age our skin also becomes thinner, which makes it more difficult for it to keep its elasticity and firmness. Some risk factors for sagging skin around the cheeks and mouth include:

  • Smoking
  • History of sunburn
  • Chronic or severe dehydration
  • Lack of exercise
  • A family history of jowls
  • Extreme, rapid weight loss
  • Chronic or severe stress
  • Bad skin hygiene
  • Habits or expressions that might overuse facial muscles

Skepticism About the Benefits

According to Harvard Medical School Professor of Dermatology Suzanne Olbricht, "There aren't any good, rigorous scientific studies that verify claims that face workouts are effective." She says that some of the studies that claim to produce facial-lifting benefits are dubious, but that doesn't mean you should discount studies altogether.

"Face exercises might help improve muscle tone in the face and could theoretically help with gravity-related fat loss or redistribution in the face," says Professor Olbricht. Building muscle could potentially help fat from sliding down with gravity. That said, Professor Olbricht believes that any changes in the face would be extremely subtle.

Northwestern University Study

One study in particular demonstrates that face exercises can, in fact, help lift sagging jowls. A January 2018 study by Northwestern University published in the journal JAMA Dermatology, showed that facial exercises can enhance upper and lower cheek fullness.

In the study, women aged 40 to 65, participated in two sets of in-person 90-minute training sessions from a facial workout instructor. They continued to do these exercises for 20 weeks. The exercises were essentially face yoga for jowls, as they were developed by Gary Sikorski, creator of Happy Face Yoga.

Results found that upper and lower cheek fullness were enhanced by the facial exercises. Dermatologists who reviewed photos of the participants through the course of the study, estimated lower ages of participants in later stages.

Facial Exercises You Can Do

The women in the Northwestern study were taught several different types of facial positions and workouts, including:

Happy Cheeks Sculpting: Smile without exposing teeth, then purse your lips together and smile, causing your cheek muscles to lift. Next, place your fingers on the corners of your mouth and slide them up to your cheeks. Hold for 20 seconds.

Cheek Lifter: Open your mouth, forming an O. Then smile, lifting your cheek muscles upward. Put your fingers on your cheek muscles and lift up; then release them. Repeat the lowering and lifting.

Sagging Jowls Treatment

If facial exercises are not effective, there are certain medical treatments available that you can discuss with a dermatologist or plastic surgeon. Some of those options include:

  • Fillers
  • Neck lift
  • Ultherapy (ultrasound therapy stimulates the long-term production of collagen)
  • Radiotherapy (heat stimulates collagen production)
  • Chemical peels
  • Laser therapy
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