The role of skin laxity and substructural fat and muscle loss in the appearance of facial aging has been recognized already, and there has been interest within the nonmedical community regarding use of facial exercise to improve appearance,
The researchers recruited healthy women aged 40-65 years with some photodamage to the face and an interest in facial exercises. After two 90-minute, in-person training sessions with a certified instructor, the participants were asked to perform a 30-minute facial exercise session daily for 8 weeks at home, followed by sessions every other day during weeks 9-20. Sixteen patients completed the full 20-week study.
Two blinded physicians used validated assessment scales to compare photographs of the participants taken at the beginning and end of the 20-week period. Facial exercise was associated with an improved mean upper-cheek fullness score, compared with baseline (1.1 vs. 1.8, respectively; P = .003), and an improved mean lower-cheek fullness score, compared with baseline (0.9 vs. 1.6; P = .003).
In addition, blinded physicians’ estimates of the women’s ages decreased significantly: The estimates dropped from an average of 51 years at baseline to an average of 49 years after the women completed the 20 weeks of facial exercises (P = .002), Dr. Alam and his associates reported.
The study was limited by several factors, including its small sample size, the lack of a control group, and a self-selected population that may have been especially motivated to follow the exercise routine, the researchers noted.
However, the results suggest that the cause for improvements in appearance as a result of the exercises “may be exercise-actuated hypertrophy of cheek and other muscles,” they said. “Further research is warranted to isolate the causes and effects of exercise-related changes and to assess the generalizability of these findings,” Dr. Alam and his associates concluded.
The study was supported by research funds from the department of dermatology at Northwestern University. Dr. Alam disclosed serving as a consultant for Amway and Leo Pharma and has served as an investigator on studies supported in part by Allergan, Medicis Pharmaceutical, BioForm Medical, and Ulthera.
SOURCE: Alam M et al. JAMA Dermatol. 2018 Jan 3.