Can Facial Exercises Really Lift Sagging Jowls?

Woman and face care.
A mature woman looking in a mirror. (Image: studiokovac/iStock/Getty Images)

As your skin ages and begins to lose elasticity, you might notice your jowls, or the lower cheek and jaw areas on either side of the mouth, begin to sag down. One purported treatment is facial exercises, which are supposed to tighten everything right back up. However, these could have a detrimental effect on your skin because they don’t target the loose ligaments, fat loss or facial movements that caused the sagging in the first place.

Supposed Effects

The idea behind doing facial exercises is that as you get older and your face begins to sag, you’re supposed to start doing these exercises in order to strengthen the muscles underneath the skin. The exercises generally consist of moving your lips and jaw, and pulling and pushing areas on your face. Some websites sell entire programs that include skin care regimens.

Expert Opinion

The problem with all this pushing and pulling is that if your skin is no longer as resilient as it was before, you could end up with more creases, wrinkles and saggy patches. Paula Begoun, author of “The Cosmetics Cop,” writes on her website that facial exercises won’t reattach ligaments or replace collagen or fat. She says you might see a little more tone in sagging areas, but the skin on top could very well become more wrinkled.

No Studies

Neither side of the argument has studies to back them up, though opponents have basic anatomy and biology on their side. At least one facial exercise supporter claims that because working out strengthens your muscles, facial exercises must do the same for your facial muscles, yet there are no studies. Another point to remember is that working out doesn’t always tighten up your skin. You might have great biceps, but if your skin has lost a lot of its elasticity, it might not tighten up completely and hug the muscles underneath.

Current Medical Uses

Facial exercises are used to strengthen facial muscles, but not because of any cosmetic reason. Facial exercises are part of the treatment for post-jaw surgery patients, and doctors and therapists sometimes prescribe them for patients who have trouble speaking or swallowing. Patients with Parkinson’s Disease or facial nerve disorders might do facial exercises to increase their range of expressions. A thesis done at Washington State University in 2010 looked at the effect of facial exercises on the researcher’s facial paralysis, which she had acquired after a bike accident as a child. After six weeks of therapy, the researcher was able to retract her lip for smiling by about 50 percent more than she had been able to before starting the therapy.


Don’t get sold on an exercise program for your face unless the person selling it can back it up with research. It is much too easy for a slick marketer to make facial exercises sound like a sure thing cosmetically and not in need of any scientific proof. Also note who’s telling you to do the exercises and how they try to convince you -- no matter what degrees they have, stay away if you feel pressured to buy videos or other accessorial items or to start exercises that make you feel uncomfortable.

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