Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Middle-aged women who perform facial exercises at least once every other day had improved facial appearance, researchers at Northwestern University report in a new study.
In the study, which was published in the journal JAMA Dermatology, women with an average age of 50 had fuller upper and lower cheeks after conducting exercises over 20 weeks. The researchers said it is the first scientific study to test the premise of facial exercise improving appearance.
Middle-aged women 40 to 65 years old underwent two sets of face-to-face 90-minute training sessions with Gary Sikorski of Happy Face Yoga, who developed the exercises and is a coauthor on the study.
For the first eight weeks, participants did the exercises at home daily for 30 minutes. From the nine-week to 20-week points of the study, they did the same exercises every other day for 30 minutes.
Twenty-seven participants were initially recruited, and 16 did all the exercises for the entire duration of the study.
"Now there is some evidence that facial exercises may improve facial appearance and reduce some visible signs of aging," Dr. Murad Alam, vice chairman and professor of dermatology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a release. "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."
Skin loses elasticity and fat pads between the muscle and skin become thinner as the face ages and causes it to "fall down." The fat pads give the face much of its shape.
"But if muscle underneath becomes bigger, the skin has more stuffing underneath it and the firmer muscle appears to make the shape of the face more full," said senior study author Emily Poon, an assistant research professor of dermatology at Feinberg. "Muscle growth is increasing the facial volume and counteracting the effects of age-related fat thinning and skin loosening."
Dermatologist raters examined 19 features of the face.
They found upper cheek and lower cheek fullness were significantly enhanced after exercises. The raters also estimated average patient age. The found the average patient started at 50.8 years of age, dropped to 49.6 years at eight weeks and then to 48.1 years at 20 weeks.
"Facial exercises that may be beneficial include those that entail puckering and squeezing the cheeks," Alam said. "There are many muscles that collectively allow movement of the cheeks, and our study showed that building these up makes the upper and lower cheeks look fuller."
In addition, participants said they were highly satisfied with the results, noticing improvement in facial conditions on nearly all areas.