'Face Yoga' For Beginners: How To Do Exercises That May Smooth Your Skin

While the practice is backed by some research, doing it incorrectly may cause more wrinkles and asymmetry. Here's what experts want you to know.
Dimitri Otis via Getty Images

A simple search of the #faceyoga hashtag on TikTok will pull up countless videos of techniques that promise a younger- and smoother-looking face. And for once, it’s a TikTok claim that’s actually backed by some research.

But “face yoga” is so ubiquitous that you may be doubting its efficacy. Actor Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop, her lifestyle brand, have been all over it for years. You may have caught Alo Moves face yoga instructor Koko Hayashi on an episode of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” as she taught the titular sisters a few moves.

And some skin care professionals are even giving it a whirl themselves, like Dr. Steven Line, a representative of the American Cosmetic Association. “It is something that I have been practicing over the past few years,” he told HuffPost.

As time goes by, more face yoga practitioners are popping up online, many with their own programs that you can try. For instance, Danielle Collins, aka the “Face Yoga Expert,” has a popular YouTube channel where she offers videos on how to do everything from tightening a saggy neck to bringing more symmetry to your face and plumping your lips.

So should you hop on board? Here’s all you need to know as a face yoga beginner:

Does Face Yoga Actually Work?

Currently, the verdict is mixed.

“I have seen promising results on myself, and the reasoning behind face yoga’s potential benefits is sound,” said Dr. Brooke Jeffy, a board-certified dermatologist in Arizona who combines a holistic approach with medical dermatology.

She highlighted one small study that showed some apparent benefits. Published in JAMA Dermatology in 2018, Northwestern University researchers had 16 middle-aged women perform muscle-resistant facial exercise training for 20 weeks, leading to overall improved fullness on parts of the face.

The only caveat is “that we don’t want to contract the wrong muscles,” Jeffy said, since this ”can lead to worsening of the appearance of crow’s-feet, forehead lines or frown lines.” That means doing the exercises correctly is key.

Face yoga also helps to improve the flow of blood and oxygen to your skin, which contributes to its overall health and appearance, said Dr. Lauren Penzi, a dermatologist with the practice MDCS Dermatology in New York. She noted, however, that changes will likely be minimal and “will not replace diligent sun protection, [a] skin care regimen and other cosmetic treatments.”

But Dr. Anna Guanche, a California-based dermatologist at the Bella Skin Institute practice, is not much of a fan.

“The idea of building muscle or making facial movements to improve the appearance of the face is counterintuitive,” she said. “In fact, the most popular cosmetic treatment in the country, Botox, works by inactivating muscles of facial expression, thereby reducing the repetitive pull on the skin and resulting lines and furrows.”

For instance, Guanche cited a popular face yoga exercise that involves placing your fingertip near the corner of your eye and winking your lower eyelid. But the muscle that contracts when you wink is also known to cause crow’s-feet.

“It is possibly true that face yoga may help to ease tension in the face, improve circulation and blood flow, [or] ease some neck pain,” she said. But she doesn’t see a face yoga practice doing much beyond that.

ballyscanlon via Getty Images

What To Pay Attention To When Doing Face Yoga

Though experts are divided on the benefits of face yoga, most agree that doing these exercises correctly is key, as improper form may lead to facial asymmetry or unwanted lines and wrinkles. Try these tips before you dive in:

Start Calm

Before beginning a session, get yourself into a calm mood.

“Take a few deep breaths to get yourself grounded in your body,” said Annelise Hagen, the founder of beauty brand Yoga Face. “Roll your shoulders a few times, roll your neck, and do some gentle stretching and breathing.” This can help you relax enough to focus on performing the exercises precisely.

Inhaling deeply, she added, brings more oxygen to the body, which assists in cell regeneration, oxygenation and calming the nervous system.

“Stress triggers ‘fight or flight,’ which in turn sets off excess adrenaline production,” Hagen said, adding that this can ”accelerate aging, drying of skin, thinning of hair and brittle nails.”

Only Move The Muscles You’re Working

While going through specific face poses, make sure that other parts of your face are not moving. “You can actually make new wrinkles when you scowl involuntarily as you concentrate,” Hagen said.

She recommended using your fingers “to neutralize areas of the face that you’re not working,” while also warning that there can be a learning curve in isolating specific muscles.

“I will always hold down the muscle areas that I don’t want to be involved in the exercise gently with my fingertips,” she said. “And I will use fingertip pressure to ... [apply] resistance where I want to build strength and volume and muscle tone.”

Keep Your Tongue In Its Proper Position

“The most important thing is your tongue posture when your face is resting,” Hayashi said, adding that the tongue is the core muscle of the face. “When the core is weak, it cannot easily stand up the face, and the face tends to sag.”

She suggested keeping your tongue up and flat on the palate whenever your face is not doing anything, so that the cheek area is slightly lifted. This can enhance your cheekbones and avoid jowls and saggy skin.

“When the cheek muscles are lifted and activated, your face gets lifted too because the upper jaw is lifted,” Hayashi said. Cheeks, she added, play a significant role in this because they are located in the middle of the face. So if you want to lift up your face, including cheeks and jowls, you want to lift up the cheek muscles — making your tongue posture critical.

“The reason why your tongue is probably down right now is that your tongue is weak, which starts as early as pre-teenagers,” she said.

Try her “tongue swing” technique to strengthen your tongue so it’s easier to keep the correct posture:

  1. Make a big smile.
  2. Show at least eight upper teeth. (Don’t expose the lower teeth.)
  3. Swing the tongue slowly with the upper teeth showing, and do three reps.

Be Gentle

“Facial yoga promotes repetitive facial muscle activities like frowning and smiling, which can lead to more creasing, tugging and wrinkling of the face,” said Dr. Melanie Palm, a board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon at the Art of Skin MD clinic. Other face yoga movements that require using your fingers to push or pull the skin, she said, can have a similar effect.

Thus, Palm recommended using a facial oil or serum that provides some glide to minimize unnecessary tugging. Remember to use light pressure as well.

Consistency Is Key

Hagen suggested doing a little bit of face yoga every day.

“It doesn’t take a lot, maybe five to 10 minutes,” she said. “One or two curated face poses in your trouble areas at a time. Try to be consistent, like in any other exercise program, but be gentle with yourself at the same time.”

Just like other exercise programs, it’s a longevity and consistency practice.

Start With A Clean Face

“When you practice face yoga, be mindful to keep your face and skin clean, without any makeup or heavy products,” said Rashika Khemani, a face yoga instructor with the company MyYogaTeacher.

This, she said, is because cosmetics and skin-rejuvenating products can lead to inflammation or redness, which you wouldn’t want during your exercises.

Face Yoga Exercises To Try

Want to try face yoga out for yourself? Here are some poses designed to target some of the biggest beauty complaints:

Cheek Squat

“This move is for waking up the sleeping cheek muscles to lift up the entire face,” Hayashi said.

  1. Say “Oh, Ah,” and make a big smile.
  2. Make sure your upper teeth touch the bottom lip.
  3. Inside the mouth, place the tongue up and flat against the palate.
  4. Lift up the cheeks and upper jaw with the tongue as high as possible.
  5. Keep the pose for 10 seconds. (Don’t use other muscles, such as the neck.)

V For Victory

This position is geared at tackling pesky crow’s feet.

  1. Use your fingers to make a V shape and frame your eyes with your index and middle fingers.
  2. Apply gentle pressure to the outer corner of your eyebrows, and slowly look up while squinting.
  3. Finish by closing your eyes tightly for 10 seconds.

Smiling Buddha Face

Hagen said this is a nice reset for your face that will encourage lifting in the cheek area, tone in the jaw and smoothness in the eye area.

  1. Practice a neutral smile in which you spread the corners of your mouth toward your ears. Keep your eyes soft so that you don’t create new wrinkles.

Kiss The Ceiling Or Lick The Ceiling

“These exercises will help tone the jaw and the neck,” Hagen said.

  1. Look up and pretend to “kiss the ceiling” three times in a row.
  2. Then look to the right, look up and kiss the ceiling three times in a row.
  3. Then turn the head left and look up. Kiss the ceiling three times in a row.

Here’s a variation:

  1. Look to your right and up, stick your tongue up toward the ceiling and take your eyes to your far right over your shoulder. Hold this for 10 seconds.
  2. Do the same on the left.
  3. Do this three times in a row.

Inner Tube

This one by Hagen is aimed at smoothing vertical lip lines.

  1. Inhale through the nose. Put the air underneath the upper lip to puff the lip outward, and then do the same with the lower lip.

By circulating the breath between the inside of the lips, you’ll stretch and smoother the fascia around the ring muscle of the mouth, Hagen said.

Eyelid Squat

“This move is great for lifting up eyes, [the] eyebrow and providing a more defined look,” Hayashi said.

  1. Keep the tongue up and flat on the palate.
  2. With your fingers, lift up only the lower eyelid without moving any other areas. Do this for 10 reps.

Want some more ways to keep your skin looking fresh? Below are the most effective skin serums, according to dermatologists and reviewers.

HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently selected by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change.

iS Clinical Super Serum
I am absolutely devoted to this powerful vitamin C serum. My esthetician recommended adding iS Clinical’s Super Serum to my lineup, and now I can’t imagine my skin without it. It's an oil-based vitamin C-rich serum that not only has the potential to help reduce typical signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles and sun damage, but can help to reduce scarring as well. While it costs a pretty penny, I think it’s absolutely worth it. Not only are the quality and the results unbeatable, but a little goes a long way, making it less of a financial burden than one might imagine. It’s definitely worth the splurge.

Promising review: "Love this stuff. It might be a tad expensive, but it has done wonders for my skin to even it out and make it so smooth. Lines seem to have almost vanished (I’m 57). I have sensitive skin and this was not harsh, nor did it break out my skin. VERY happy with this product and would recommend this to anyone with sensitive skin who wants their skin to feel soft and look radiant. I get SO many compliments on my skin. Have been using for 5 months and will continue to do so.” — Kindle Customer
Sunday Riley Good Genes serum
I've been using Sunday Riley's Good Genes for nearly a decade, and despite testing hundreds of other comparable products, I always come back to it. I’m particularly obsessed with the high content of lactic acid, a unique chemical exfoliant that encourages quick cell turnover in the surface layers of the skin, leaving it smoother and helping clear up blemishes. It’s paired with licorice and lemongrass in this formula, which can help brighten up the look of dark spots, sun damage and other discoloration, and prickly pear extract that can help soothe redness and calm sensitive skin. It's the perfect example of a product with a fairly common active ingredient that is perfectly formulated with other complementary ingredients to make it even more effective than many other options.

Promising review: "Hands down the best skin product I've ever used. Worth the price. I don't write reviews on amazon but if I can help anyone justify the price given the magic it's done to my skin - worth the time! My 35 year old skin looks at least 10 years younger. I will buy this for life. (I could care less about the smell and honestly, don't really smell it? weird?)" — Patricia Izquierdo
The Inkey List
The Inkey List 10% azelaic acid serum
Dr. Adeline Kikam, a board-certified dermatologist who shares advice on @brownskinderm, is a huge fan of this particular azelaic acid serum. She told HuffPost that "it is gently formulated with azelaic acid at 10% and allantoin at .3% for extra moisture." It can help soothe and calm irritated skin and help to reduce the appearance of redness. It's also formulated with micro-fine green color particles that can help to mask the look of existing redness as well, acting almost like a color corrector.

Promising review: "Helped my rosacea and PD. I bought this 3 days ago and am actually super surprised and impressed with this product. I’ve used azelaic acid before but found it irritating and heavy silicones in those formulas broke me out. I struggle with perioral dermatitis and rosacea. I was going through a pretty bad flare 3 days ago and as of today it’s 90% gone. I have some tips for how to best use the product: 1. Apply to dry skin only. Applying azelaic acid to wet or damp skin makes it super itchy and can cause irritation. ... I’m super impressed. This really helped clear up my latest flare and I’m excited to have found something that finally works for me. I’ll continue using and buying this as long as these results continue!" — Becca
Dieux Deliverance serum
Find out why Dieux's cult-favorite Deliverance serum keeps flying off the shelves. It's formulated to address three main skin issues: irritation, uneven tone and the look of fine lines. The lightweight formulation helps leave skin soft, soothed and delightfully glowy. It's a great starter serum for anyone looking to amp up their routine or a wonderful addition to an already-established regimen. It harnesses the power of cannabinoids, niacinamide, peptides and more to leave skin looking and feeling its absolute best.

Promising reviews: "Phenomenal. I’m still currently using it but I’ve been using it a few weeks and it’s already made such a huge difference in my skin. my redness isn’t as severe and my skin glows! LOVE this product!" — Grace B.

"Saving grace. I have struggled with hormonal acne for years and have searched high and low for a product to help my skin (also very dry and sensitive). This product has changed my skin, slowly but surely. I absolutely notice more hydration. I’ve started breaking out less, and marks from old breakouts fade quicker than usual. Charlotte never misses." — Mary T.

"One of those products where you start to freak out a little when you realize you’re almost out. So good. Any time I fall off my routine I realize how potent this serum is and effective." — Allison M.
Vintner's Daughter
Vintner's Daughter active botanical serum
This award-winning face serum is ideal for anyone wanting to harness the power of plant ingredients. It's chock full of moisturizing fatty acids, nourishing omegas and antioxidants that fight free radicals and help to restore and strengthen the skin. This active botanical serum leaves skin moisturized, nourished and renewed — it's as luxurious as it gets.

Promising review: "If I had to choose to reduce my skin care routine to one product and feel confident that my skin will get all the nutrients it needs, it would be the Active Botanical. I have tried many products over the year, I work in fashion and are exposed to quite a bit of them. The active Botanical is the one for me." — Verified customer

"This serum is insanely expensive, but also insanely good. It’s like a bottle of love for your skin. Hyperpigmentation? It fades dark spots. Acne? I haven’t had a zit since I started using it 6 months ago. Sensitive skin? I can now start using chemical exfoliates, which I’ve never been able to do. This stuff is amazing! It’s expensive, but I no longer need serums and oils and moisturizers - just this stuff." — BKOMC
True Botanicals
True Botanicals chebula active serum
Address dull, uneven skin, rough texture, fine lines and dark spots with this powerful True Botanicals serum. This brand is beloved by celebs, skin care enthusiasts and everyone in between. The chebula serum is a hydrating serum that can help to reduce the visible signs of aging while helping to support and strengthen the skin's natural moisture barrier. It's definitely a splurge, but one that you likely won't regret.

Promising review: "Skin feels great. At 52, I have tried all types of skin care products. Some seem to work for a short time, others feel too thick and heavy. This product feels light and amazing on your skin. It has replaced all other moisturizer products and my skin feels healthier than ever before. I use less makeup and feel more confident." — Blustar70
The Ordinary mandelic acid 10% + HA
Mandelic acid is a game-changer for acne-prone skin like mine, and The Ordinary makes it easy to pick up a high concentration of this anti-bacterial AHA exfoliant without breaking the bank. It's recommended for sensitive skin by two board-certified dermatologists, Dr. Purvisha Patel in Memphis, Tennessee, and Dr. Jennifer MacGregor of UnionDerm in New York City. The addition of hyaluronic acid brings skin extra hydration, making this a great formula for introducing your skin to mandelic acid. It's ideal for acne-prone skin, reducing the look of fine lines and chemical exfoliation.

Promising review: "Skin type: 30s, cystic acne prone, hyperpigmentation, redness, combination skin, CANNOT use salicylic acid, glycolic or lactic acid. I never thought I had sensitive skin until a product with salicylic acid broke me really badly a month before my wedding. Curse you, salicylic acid, you are not for me. But this product is - mandelic acid. I can't remember how I heard about it, but what really got me interested was the fact that's is recommended for Skin of Colour, like mine :D FIRST USE: I applied four drops on my face (forehead, cheeks, nose/chin) after cleansing (oil and foam), then allowed it to sink in before continuing with the rest of my routine (toner, serum, moisturiser). Honestly, it takes a little while to sink in your skin, don't use too much, you'll be waiting a LONG time. The next morning I was washing my face and I was like, omg, my cheeks are baby soft. So soft, my skin was legit renewed, it felt like a miracle was happening. Basically, any sort of decongestion was dissolved and I was left with smooth skin. Yes, it works, if you need an acid that won't irritate your skin, this may be the one for you." — PS
Sunday Riley A+ high dose retinoid serum
HuffPost shopping writer and beauty devotee Tessa Flores swears by Sunday Riley's A+ retinoid serum, and she's not alone. It's a great way to introduce a powerful active ingredient into your routine. And while it's definitely an investment, a little goes a long way. The results also speak for themselves, making it worth every penny.

Promising review: "Sunday Riley’s A+ retinol serum initially caught my eye because it was advertised as an advanced strength retinoid that was suitable for both individuals with sensitive skin and experienced users of the ingredient that might be in search of a stronger product. The formulation contains a 6.5% retinoid blend, a relatively high percentage compared with other retinol products on the market. After using this product consistently for two months, I’m noticing a significant reduction of my keratosis pilaris in that the texture is smoother, less red and with fewer clogged hair follicles. I’ve also noticed less congestion in my T-zone, fewer sun freckles and an overall increase in skin plumpness — all without those telltale signs of retinol-induced irritation." — Tessa Flores, shopping writer
SkinCeuticals C E ferulic acid serum
If you're into skin care, you've likely heard people sing the praises of this cult-favorite serum, and with good reason. The SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum has been praised by dermatologists for its ability to help lighten fine lines, firm skin, provide environmental protection and brighten a dull complexion. The stabilized formulation means all ingredients are working at the peak of their powers, in tandem with each other.

Promising reviews: "I have tried many vitamin c serums and keep coming back to this one. It’s been highly effective on my skin, and while it’s pricey the results have been well worth it. One thing I have especially noticed is that it helps fade my acne scars pretty quickly." — GG

"When I first bought this, I was so apprehensive because of the price. But it really is amazing! You have to use it consistently for a few weeks to see the results, but it’s worth it. My skin has never looked better. A little goes a long way, so the price is worth it." — Emma
Paula's Choice 10% azelaic acid booster serum
Also recommended by Kikam, this serum from Paula's Choice is a lightweight, oil-free cream-gel formulation with .5% salicylic acid to boost skin brightening. It's great for redness, irritation, acne-prone or otherwise distressed skin. The formula is lightweight and won't clog pores or leave skin feeling heavy. You can use it as a spot treatment or all over your skin, depending on what it needs.

Promising reviews: "The holy grail. If you had to buy one skin cream in the world, it would be this product. Absolutely love it!!! This product moisturizes my face SOOOO well that I glow and it minimizes my redness. I definitely will repurchase!!" — Kate

"It works! My dermatologist recommended this product for my sun-damaged face. I cannot believe how great this stuff is! I had hypoplasia and this moisturizer really works and my skin looks great now! I will be ordering this again." — Deb O.
Naturium mandelic topical acid 12%
This is also on Kikam's list of must-haves. She explained that it's "a lightweight serum with 10% azelaic acid boosted with other calming ingredients like niacinamide, vitamin C and coffee seed extract to help with oil control and discoloration." It's designed to slowly penetrate the skin, encouraging cell turnover and leaving the complexion looking brighter, radiant and more youthful.

Promising review: "Gentle yet effective. Great for those with sensitive skin looking to clear out your pores. I have really sensitive skin. I can no longer use Salicylic Acid. This is what i use now. It's amazing. During the winter though I'm sticking with the PHA, and may just use this once a week or every other week as i have acne prone skin but sensitive skin as well." — Jenny Marie

"I have used hydroquinone for a long time and this fades spots better than any high-end hydroquinone formula I’ve ever used. I have acne scars and sun spots and both have faded significantly more with this product than clinical hydroquinone products I have used in the past." — Kennedy
Sunday Riley Luna sleeping night oil
I happen to be obsessed with using Luna oil in conjunction with Sunday Riley's Good Genes; it's a powerful duo that leaves me swimming in compliments and glowing skin. If you’ve been on the fence about trying an oil or retinoid, then this is the perfect place to start. Soothing botanicals like blue tansy and German chamomile are paired with an advanced retinoid ester that supports skin health and elasticity, evens out redness and fights fine lines and wrinkles. Avocado seed oil plumps up the skin and delivers a healthy dose of antioxidants. It doesn’t clog pores, which is perfect if you are acne-prone like myself.

Promising review: "I’ve been skeptical of Sunday Riley since their review debacle. I use other high-end skincare and wasn’t looking to add anything but this came highly suggested from a friend I trust. Now I can’t go a night without this beauty! The natural scents of chamomile are so relaxing and great part of self care to any nighttime routine to tell your nervous system 'it’s time for sleep.' It’s a very soft texture in the skin that feels nourishing and I love the deep blue tansy color that easily fades into skin as you apply. It’s a gentle retinoid that doesn’t irritate or interact with my other skincare. Overall my skin always looks bright and even in the morning. Love love this product, bought another for my mom for Mother’s Day! Can’t go wrong with adding this to a luxurious nighttime routine!" — shelby k
Caudalie Premier Cru anti-aging serum with niacinamide and hyaluronic acid
This lightweight serum from Caudalie is perfect for anyone looking for a deeply nourishing blast of powerful niacinamide. Hyaluronic acid keeps the skin hydrated and quenched while the serum plumps, moisturizes and helps repair damaged skin.

Promising reviews: "I have noticed a visible reduction in my fine lines since using this product. It also doesn’t leave my face oily or sticky like other serums can and do. I also really love that it has clean ingredients and does not have hardly any fragrance at all for those who are sensitive to fragrances like myself." — Daniii89

"Loved it! Excellent product !!! I've been using it since I bought it and I can see the difference in my skin. Highly recommended." — Kary9103

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