Are Japanese Facial Exercises the Most Natural Way to Lift and Smooth Skin?

Are Japanese Facial Exercises the Most Natural Way to Lift and Smooth Skin?
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We know moving your body helps you get strong, fit, and limber, but have you exercised your face? The latest all-natural, product-less trend — face training — is getting the SoulCycle treatment; as in, you can hit up a group class—rousing music and all—to follow an instructor’s moves to stretch and tone facial muscles. With names like “anti-bulldog face” and “forehead freezer,” these facial exercises promise smoothed-out wrinkles, fuller lips, and uplifted, elastic skin.

Koko Hayashi, who was born and raised in Hokkaido, Japan, founded Mirai Clinical where these Los Angeles-based Skin Fit Gym classes take place. After moving to the U.S. in 2016, Hayashi was appalled at the quantity of synthetic chemicals in skin care—a stark contrast to her hometown’s less-is-more, naturally oriented skincare techniques. Face exercising is one of them—and all the beauty aficionados in Japan are doing it, according to Hayashi.

“There are 43 muscles in the face, but we only actively use 30% of them through regular expressions like smiling and frowning,” Hayashi tells Organic Authority. “The idea is to wake up sleeping muscles and strengthen those muscles that have become lazy over the years to prevent or minimize sagging and wrinkles.” And because facial muscles are relatively tiny, any change will make a visible difference.

Japanese Facial Exercises: The Most Natural Way to Lift and Smooth Skin

What Happens at a Facial Exercise Class

Walk into a Skin Fit class and you’ll see rows of people making unusual faces (this class is not for the shy). You’ll see eyes rolled back and mouths making huge Os.

Before starting the workout, Hayashi asks everyone to look at themselves in a handheld mirror looking straight ahead. You then look straight down (this is your saggy face). Then you look straight up (the uplifted face you had five to ten years prior, she says). After that, you do a series of warm-up exercises before you get into the meat of the program, which lasts about half an hour, then finish with cool-down moves.

How to Warm Up Before Your Face Workout: 2 Exercises

Warm-up exercises help relax your face and melt stress away. One move includes scrunching up your entire face, attempting to get all your features closest to the center as possible, then stretching the face by making a shocked expression: wide eyes and open mouth.

Another warm-up includes simply vibrating your lips by closing them and letting out air. (According to Hayashi, lip muscles are connected to other facial muscles, so this exercise actually impacts your entire face.)

Japanese Facial Exercises: The Most Natural Way to Lift and Smooth Skin

An Exercise to Prevent “Turkey Neck”

Hayashi points out we’re always facing down to look at our phones, which means you’re not only crinkling your neck skin, but also leaving your facial muscles stagnant.

To prevent neck sagging, Hayashi recommends this simple exercise: Gently roll your head as far back as possible to stretch out your neck for a count of ten. Bring your head back straight. Do the same thing as you face right, then again as you face left. And since the tongue is connected to your neck muscles, point then stick it out (it’s a way to amplify the workout… think of it as higher weight during resistance training).

Skin Fit’s Signature Move (the “Botox Alternative”)

Face trainers go crazy over this exercise because they can see the instant uplift, says Hayashi. Here’s how it’s done:

1. Stand up straight. Lift your right arm sideways until you create a 45-degree angle to your body. Create a fist. Unfold your thumb, index finger, and pinky.

Japanese Facial Exercises: The Most Natural Way to Lift and Smooth Skin

2. Lift your left arm all the way around until all fingers (minus the thumb) and touch your right-side cheeks. Stay in this position as you tug your head left. Point and stick out your tongue. Count to ten.

Japanese Facial Exercises: The Most Natural Way to Lift and Smooth Skin

Repeat the same on the other side.

How Often You Should Face Train

On days when she isn’t teaching a class, Hayashi spends at least three minutes every day on face workouts, which equates to around five to ten exercises.

If you want to be hardcore, you can always take a class or get a private session on Skype. But go in with this caveat: It will be tiring. If you walk out of spin class without a sweat, you’re probably not pushing yourself hard enough. The same concept applies here. It’s a good reminder, though, that your face has muscles you never think about, and they need to be worked out, just like the rest of your body.

Related on Organic Authority

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Sarah Ban
Sarah Ban

Sarah Ban is a beauty, health and wellness journalist, editor and copywriter who works with the world's best indie brands and publications. Her work has been published in NYLON magazine, The Kitchn and Living Healthy and she has worked with some extraordinary brands such as Odacité Skincare, CO Bigelow Apothecaries, Kopari Beauty and Seaweed Bath Co. When she's not writing or reading, you can find Sarah eating brunch alfresco in her green and gorgeous hometown of LA.