I Worked Out My Face For a Month and This is What Happened
The phrase "hitting the gym" has recently taken on new meaning for me. London's popular FaceGym opened a few years ago in the States, with several studios in New York and Los Angeles, and since then, face workouts have garnered popularity among celebrities and beauty editors alike. But what exactly does a face workout entail and does it actually work?
During a treatment, FaceGym's aestheticians use a combination of centuries-old massage techniques to work out the kinks, kneading your jaw and speedily tapping your cheekbones until your skin glows (and your eyes water). Radio-frequency and microcurrent tools further stimulate muscles for a more lifted appearance.
In today's vast beauty landscape, where facial acupuncture and Eastern massage practices like gua sha have permeated the zeitgeist, jade rollers have become as common to a skincare routine as dumbbells are to an arm workout. But should we be just as concerned with massaging and toning our buccinators as we are our biceps and triceps?
"I'm not opposed to facial massage because, scientifically, it's leading to more lymphatic drainage, moving fluid around so it's not pooling," says NYC-based dermatologist Shereene Idriss. (This practice is different from "exercising" your face by making exaggerated expressions in front of a mirror, which could actually lead to sagging, she says.)
Massage is a cornerstone of the FaceGym philosophy. Inge Theron, the brand's founder, spent years as a columnist testing cutting-edge treatments, until she found herself as a 30-something woman suffering physically and emotionally from botched cosmetic procedures.
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"My face was all messed up," Theron says. "I started FaceGym because I was looking swollen, puffy, and older than ever before." She saw a spiritual healer in Mexico. And she did some serious self-reflection. "Why, when I looked in the mirror, did I see all this negativity? I had that change emotionally and started accepting and loving myself a bit more." Daily massages helped bring her face back to equilibrium. "When I saw the power of something as simple as this muscle manipulation over a period of time, the results were so profound," she says. "If you think about massage, [its benefits are] proven. Lymphatic drainage? Proven. Electric muscle stimulation? Proven. And they're all part of our protocol."
Knowing other women might be having similar struggles, she began to plan her brand. "What we do in the studio is personal training; it's not facial exercise," Theron says of the program, which includes a warm-up "where we knuckle in and get a grip on what's going on," followed by "cardio," a.k.a. lymphatic drainage, to move the toxins and de-puff.
Theron says mimicking a workout was exactly the point. "Each session begins with a warm-up to boost blood circulation through the tissues and warm up the muscles ready to workout," she explains. Then comes the "fast-whipping" movements (or cardio). "It's exactly like running on a treadmill in the gym. These movements really help to stimulate circulation. And we end with a recovery cool down. With softer sweeping and draining movements, just like after you finish a workout."
Aesthetician Joanna Czech, who was trained in Poland and has decades of glow-boosting experience, says she strongly believes in massage. "But there are so many facial tools these days; some are more effective, others less." Her Facial Massager ($189; joannaczech.com) allows you to cradle muscles from two sides to facilitate shaping, as opposed to flattening. But even if you're using a stone roller like a Zamboni across your face, Czech is hopeful you're at least prompting some blood circulation. "Hemoglobin carries more oxygen into the tissue, which means skin gets brighter."
After learning about these "exercises" that had gained traction in both the beauty industry and Hollywood, I decided to give it a try for myself and visit one of these "gyms." I have pretty sensitive, oily (but dry), acne-prone skin, so I started out somewhat skeptical, wondering if the process would just further irritate my skin.
But immediately after starting the warmup of my first workout, which consisted of knuckling, kneading, and pinching, I noticed just how much tension I was unknowingly holding in my face. My trainer worked through these areas, even proclaiming that she found several knots (!!) in my facial muscles. I didn't even know that was possible. Honestly, I've never even thought at all about the results of housing strain in my face muscles, but Theron said that's quite common. In fact, she even refers to those 40+ muscles in your face as "forgotten" for just that reason.
"Many people don't know we have so many, and also haven't connected the dots that if you train the muscles in your face consistently, they will retain memory and prevent sagging, much like working out your body," Theron explains before adding that teaching others awareness about their facial muscles is part of why she started her business.
"You need to adopt a facial fitness routine just like you do in the gym for your body to see fantastic results," she says. "Our methods are all about toning, tightening, lifting, sculpting and brightening to deliver instantly visible results you can see and feel."
After the warmup and "cardio" portion of my facial, I received FaceGym's Skin IV tubes, which deliver ingredients like oxygen and vitamin C via pressurized air. Over the next few days, I saw a pretty bad breakout heal with a bonus of some extra hydration.
So after finding the workout insanely relaxing and helpful for my problematic skin, I decided to start a month regimen, where I would adopt a strict, twice a day at-home routine with once a week studio visits. The daily workouts coordinated with FaceGym's skincare (I used the Electro-Lite Cleanser, Hydro-Bound Serum, and the Supreme Restructure Firming Moisturizer).
Each product comes with a special QR code that when scanned gives you a workout that perfectly coincides with the item and can be done anytime, anywhere. These movements include plucking, knuckling, sweeping, and cheek hooks, all derived from their signature workouts and designed to strengthen your muscles and tighten your skin overtime.
"As with any workout, consistency is key. Just like you won't get a six pack from doing three sit ups, it's the same with your face." says Theron. "When you become more proficient in facial workouts you can start to increase the time of your workouts every morning and evening until they just become part of your everyday routine."
You can also add tools into your routine, like a gua sha or a Pure Lift toning device, which are incorporated into all of their studio visits, to lift and tighten your face for instant results.
VIDEO: Facial Acupuncture
During studio visits, customers can also receive muscle sculpting and stimulation with treatments from energy-emitting devices, like Radio Frequency to rejuvenate and tighten, as well as the Cryo Medi Lift to sculpt and target multiple areas at one time, both of which I received during training sessions. My personal favorite? FaceGym's Cyro Contour workout, which delivered a high-pressure shot of frozen CO2 to plump skin and intensely hydrate.
After a month of the daily workouts and weekly sessions, the most noticeable result I saw was the awareness I gained of facial tension. I've now been able to catch the moments when my facial muscles feel tight or strained and apply the techniques I've learned to relax my face and erase stress in that instant. While my skin's problems certainly haven't been cured, I have noticed an increase in my skin's suppleness and glow. Not to mention, my cheekbones have never looked so prominent.
The bottom line:
If hold the majority of your stress in your face and seriously needs to work out any tension, a facial workout or massage would probably be extremely beneficial. Plus, they're amazing for lymphatic drainage and de-puffing. These workouts can also tighten and lift your skin and smooth fine lines and wrinkles. So if you're someone who isn't looking to go under the knife or opt for injections, FaceGym is probably worth giving a try. The most important thing to note is that just like in the regular gym, consistency is key. So if you're looking for longterm results, plan on investing time and money for these workouts and tools.
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