From water cycling to the mega-trendy Megaformer, it’s almost impossible to keep up with the bevy of unconventional workouts that are popping up every other day. So, it should come as no surprise that something as eccentric as a face workout exists. Generally speaking, facial fitness involves a series of unattractive facial contortions performed in repetitive pulses similar to, say, a barre class. It promises reduced facial puffiness, increased glow, and noticeable tightening in the areas that tend to sag over time—namely, the cheeks, chin, and neck. And while facial fitness may sound like the brainchild of the new-age, wheatgrass-loving wellness community, the practice of facial exercising actually originated thousands of years ago in Asian cultures, particularly in Japan.
Stateside, FaceLove in New York City is a burgeoning hotspot for facial fitness—with a twist. Not only do FaceLove treatments incorporate muscle-toning facial exercises, but they also rely on facial massage techniques to maximize your results. The brand was founded by renowned facialist Rachel Lang and massage therapist Heidi Frederick, who learned specialized upper-body massage techniques from her Japanese stepmother. Together, Rachel and Heidi built a class that they hope will become as integral to self-care, beauty, and wellness as household names like DryBar and SoulCycle.
Currently, FaceLove teaches workouts on the second floor of a Pinterest-worthy design studio in New York City. Curious to see what the hype was all about, I booked an appointment. The space itself is bare bones in an intentional, Scandinavian-chic way. I met my instructor, whose glowing complexion is a true testament to the treatment’s efficacy, before being treated to a warm-up massage which applied just the right amount of pressure to my temples, cheeks, neck, and the bridge of my nose. I could literally feel stress melting from places that I didn’t even realize I held tension.
After my muscles were fully warmed up, it was on to the exercises. I was guided through a series of repetitive movements, which were different variations of raising, lifting, and furrowing specific muscles. I kid you not, it was surprisingly difficult. Just try furrowing your brows 15 times. My trainer provided various methods of resistance by gently holding my face in certain spots like my forehead while instructing me to raise my eyebrows.
Post-workout, I was given a cooldown that consisted of a cool jade-roller smoothed over my face, followed by some swaddling with a steamy towel. It was wonderfully soothing. But the best part (aside from feeling major bliss) was how insanely glowy I looked after the treatment. I left happy and positively radiant. “Not only can you see the difference resulting in a radiant glow, but you can also feel a high flow of positive chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin,” explains Lang.
And she’s right: According to studies produced by the National Touch Research Institute (NTRI), massage can serve as a natural antidepressant. Additionally, McMasters University in Ontario recently discovered a positive relationship between skin tone and exercising the underlying muscles. Namely, the skin connected to muscles that were consistently stimulated (i.e. massaged and exercised) had higher levels of collagen, less damage, and had more clarity after a mere two months. On a more intuitive level, our faces are comprised of 43 different muscles, so it makes sense that—as with other muscles in our bodies—providing resistance and strength training to our facial muscles increases firmness and tautness. Plus, having your face and neck massaged just feels good.
Anecdotally, Lang says she notices that clients who make facial fitness part of their regular routine have “less puffiness and firmer face posture.” She recommends practicing facial fitness at a studio at least once per week, which will cost you up to $65, but says clients can (and should) practice some of the exercises learned in the training sessions at home, “maybe while watching Netflix or in the shower.” Now that’s something I can get behind.