by Sarah Hughes
Call me a cliche, but I’ve really become hyper-aware of the ageing process since I turned 40. Not just my own ageing process, but that of others too. Why is it that some people can eat all the sugar, drink all the good stuff and dance all night long, yet seemingly experience no ill effects when it comes to developing wrinkles and generally just looking knackered all the time?
Sure, genetics undoubtedly plays a huge part. My own mother has always been disgustingly youthful, despite paying very little care or attention to skincare, and is frequently taken to be ten years younger than she actually is. If it’s all down to genetics then that hopefully bodes well for me.
Like my Mum, I was late to the skincare party. Whilst most of my friends were on the retinol/collagen/hyaluronic acid bandwagon from their early thirties, I was still using those disposable wipes to take off my makeup and then maybe flinging some supermarket moisturiser on if I remembered. I went away to a spa for my fortieth with my oldest school friend who was frankly horrified by my routine (or the complete lack of it). Seeing her with her array of potions gave me the fear… what if I’d left it too late? What if I should’ve been doing preventative work on my skin for a decade and now I was doomed? I got on my phone and ordered everything my friend recommended and prayed there was still time.
I have to say the introduction of ‘proper’ grown-up skincare has been a revelation for me. I never thought I’d say it but my evening routine has become something of a ritual and within about six weeks of starting it I could see the difference. Since then I’ve made it my business to keep on top of skincare trends and developments, and I’ve found the more effort I invest in my skin; the less money I have to invest in makeup. Winner.
I got talking to a fabulously fresh-looking woman at a Christmas party last year and asked her where she got her botox done (full disclosure: Of course, I’ve tried botox). She replied that she’d decided to rest from the needles and instead had taken up Face Yoga. I was equally parts fascinated and confused (how do you downward dog with your face?) and picked her brain for the rest of the night.
On her recommendation, I looked up Danielle Collins, a world-renowned expert in Face Yoga and decided that I would give it a go for a month. I’m a firm believer, having been a Pilates instructor for 15 years, that consistency is key when it comes to achieving any changes for both physical and mental health. You also need a healthy dose of patience too; I was well aware that three sessions of face yoga weren’t going to undo the amount of ‘burning the candle at both ends’ I’d been doing during the festive season.
I was keen to work out how much practice I needed to be doing to see a difference. Just like when people sign up for unattainable fitness programs that they’ll never fit into their busy lives, I assumed I wouldn’t have enough free time to do enough face yoga to get noticeable results.
The good news is that Danielle Collins admits results differ greatly from person to person and anywhere from two minutes a day to 50 minutes might be required. She stresses that regularity is key. You’ve got to do it every single day. Praying that I was one of the lucky ones who could hover around the ten-minute-a-day mark; that’s what I decided to do. Any longer than that and I would’ve found a raft of excuses not to fit it in.
Whilst there are plenty of books on the market about how to perfect face yoga, I’m a digital girl at heart and much prefer to follow a video. Luckily Danielle has hundreds of them on YouTube and seems to update her channel regularly. For the first two weeks, I decided to watch content where Danielle speaks to you and talks you through each exercise, telling you which muscles are being worked on and what areas of the face she’s hoping to affect. It’s a bit like a mini science lesson each time but great for teaching the founding principles. Something I really liked was the fact Danielle never talks about trying to look younger, she focuses on well-being as much as, if not more than aesthetics.
My main area of concern was my under-eye area. My sleep is erratic, to say the least, and I’m prone to puffiness, especially on my right eye bizarrely. But apparently, so much of that is down to sleeping positions. Danielle also recommends silk pillowcases but I’m yet to invest. I chose routines which targeted that eye area but also aimed to tone up the jaw line and reduce the lines running from the sides of my nose down to my mouth (Danielle tells me they’re the naso-labial folds don’tcha know).
The first thing I noticed on day one was just how relaxing the practice was. There was a fair amount of facial massage involved and just as standard yoga relaxes the mind and body, so did face yoga. By the end of the first week, I was really looking forward to that end-of-the-day ritual and I could feel a huge difference in my sleep! I was nodding off quicker and sleeping much more deeply.
Now my feelings during the second week of face yoga echoed my feelings on just about anything vaguely holistic or alternative. I always approach with scepticism, more than a smidgen of mockery of the practice or maybe myself for being ‘sucked in’ by it. But just like I did with Acupuncture, with Reiki, and with Reflexology… I had to admit I was wrong. Not only was face yoga calming my jangling nerves, but I was also starting to see the effects on my face. Those eyes were definitely less puffy and there was a glow which I normally only get when I’m on holiday in the sunshine instead of during a bitter British winter.
For the past two weeks I’ve been following Danielle’s no talking videos which somehow are even more relaxing (no offence Danielle), I’m not ashamed to say I get a bit transfixed. I’ve found a few great ones which focus on plumping up the top lip and smoothing the skin above it. I’m already seeing noticeable results from these exercises and if like me you’ve had fleeting thoughts wondering if perhaps you might look better with a little touch of lip filler; stop. Try this first. I’m also noticing that my face just looks a bit more rested, like I’m carrying less tension, especially around the jaw.
So what does the research tell us about practising face yoga? I was intrigued to know if it was all a bit ‘Emperor’s New Clothes for desperate middle-aged women’.
Well, the research seems to be pretty robust that face yoga does actually work! A pilot study from Northwestern University found that regular practice (their participants did 30 minutes a day which I’m sorry but I do not have time for!) can improve the structural appearance of the face, leading to increased muscular strength and less visible signs of stress. Furthermore, the study stated that you can target specific muscles and their fibres with specific exercises, leading to long-term changes specifically in reducing lower face fullness, and lines at rest.
There are some pretty impressive before and after photos on Danielle’s site, worth checking out if you need a bit of inspiration or motivation. Her claim that face yoga can make you look one year younger in just one month is tempting, to say the least… But my advice would be to give it a whirl purely for the relaxation and well-being hit. If you then see the benefits in your skin and facial structure then that’s a bonus, isn’t it?
Right, I’m off to buy as many age-restricted products as I can fit in my trolley at my local supermarket… I’m pretty confident I’m going to get ID’d guys.