Exercise Your Face?

Jury Still Out On Facial Exercises as Method for Aesthetic Rejuvenation

First systematic review finds evidence on facial exercises lacking

Facial exercises have been touted as a less invasive and less expensive alternative to traditional facial rejuvenation procedures, but do they really work? To evaluate the efficacy of this nonmedical approach to facial revitalization, researchers from Belgium systematically reviewed the medical literature, identifying nine studies that examined the effects of facial muscle exercises on facial rejuvenation. Although the authors of all studies reported positive outcomes, the research team found that the quality of the available evidence was insufficient for determining the efficacy of facial exercises for aesthetic rejuvenation. Their complete findings are published in a new article, “The Effectiveness of Facial Exercises for Facial Rejuvenation,” which appears in the January issue of the Aesthetic Surgery Journal.

“Our review shows that there is not enough evidence to conclude whether facial exercises are effective for reducing the signs of aging,” said lead author John Van Borsel, PhD, Professor of Neurolinguistics and Logopedics at Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium, and Veiga de Almeida University, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “The existing published studies were not randomized or controlled. Most lacked blinding and only used subjective measures to assess the effectiveness of treatment. We need better studies before we can draw any conclusions about the usefulness of facial exercises.”

Dr. Van Borsel and colleagues identified nine published studies, all from studies conducted in South America. None were randomized or controlled; instead, they were single case reports, small case series, or studies that used a single-group, pretest-posttest design. Nearly every study included more than one type of exercise and most used subjective assessments (i.e., assessment by the authors and/or patients). The researchers concluded that additional studies with superior designs and larger patient populations are needed—especially randomized, controlled, blinded studies evaluating a single type of exercise using objective measurements. They also noted that comparisons of different types of facial exercises are needed, as is information on the role of intensity and duration of treatment and on the effect of patient-specific variables such as age and signs of aging at onset.

“This is the first systematic review to look at the effectiveness of facial exercises for facial rejuvenation, and shows that we are really lacking evidence when it comes to the claims that facial exercises can rejuvenate the face,” said Foad Nahai, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Aesthetic Surgery Journal. “Randomized, controlled studies are the gold standard for determining the efficacy of any procedure. Hopefully, we will see some well designed studies in the future that can help us determine whether these claims have merit.”

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), 119,006 facelifts were performed in 2012 and nonsurgical facial rejuvenation procedures were highly popular: botulinum toxin type A injection (3,257,913 procedures), hyaluronic acid injection (1,423,705), microdermabrasion (498,821), and chemical peel (443,824).

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