Smile and the world will see a younger you

By Vivien Leue (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-11-03 09:54
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Workouts for problem zones have long been a fixture in the courses offered at fitness studios. These are meant to tighten muscles and improve the appearance of the skin. The same goes for facial muscles, which also can be made firmer through exercise. The result is rosy, tight skin with fewer wrinkles. Another positive side effect: The exercises can also be relaxing.

"Initially, many of the participants in my course wanted fewer wrinkles and came purely for beauty," says Heike Hoefler, a fitness trainer in Germany.

"Today, many people know that exercises for the face go beyond beauty. They can help relax the entire body."

A person who is angry, sad, tired or stressed shows it in his or her face. The so-called anger line between the eyebrows deepens and the corners of the mouth droop downward. The forehead has horizontal rows of wrinkles. Hoefler shows her course participants what they can do to counter these lines and creases.

A smile exercise is good for the mouth, lips and cheek area, for example. It trains the muscle that extends over the cheekbone. The thumb and index finger are placed on the corner of the mouth and outer eye to prevent wrinkles from forming.

Once the thumb and finger are in place the exercise can begin. The corners of the mouth should be raised and held in position for six seconds as if smiling like a clown. This works the muscle and, thanks to the position of the finger and thumb, no wrinkles form.

"We want to get rid of the wrinkles, not make them worse," says Hoefler. Six seconds of holding the smile is followed by a 10-second rest.

Gertraud Kremer, a dermatologist in Berlin, says people get expression lines through habit. For example, someone who goes around with the corners of their mouth hanging down develops wrinkles in that area, while someone who strengthens the muscles that hold the mouth up can counteract the development.

"Active facial gymnastics is super effective. It can reduce expression lines," Kremer says.

The skin's appearance depends on many things, but most important is the tight net of elastic and collagen fibers it is made up of. In youth these fibers bind with water and influence the condition of the skin. As the skin ages it loses its ability to bind with water. There are specific creams and other products that counter this type of aging of the skin. Beauty specialists recommend them as part of an effective anti-wrinkle program.

"In principle these creams should be massaged gently into the skin every time they are applied," says beauty expert Elena Helfenbein of Germany's cosmetic association in Berlin.

"Simple circular movements from the inside of the face to the outside using the fingertips are sufficient," says Helfenbein. Circulation and metabolism are stimulated by massage.

She also considers facial gymnastics sensible, although she says they cannot stop the aging of the skin.

Hoefler says that isn't the goal of facial gymnastics, but the exercises should help the skin look firmer just as working the muscles of the abdomen, legs and bottom makes them look firmer. However, the exercises must be done regularly.

Kremer advises doing the exercises in the morning and evening for five minutes. They can also be done sporadically during the day. She says that is better than doing them once at full power.

Hoefler suggests doing an air-in-the-cheek exercise while driving. This involves pushing air into one cheek and using the muscles of the mouth to move it right to left and back again. Sticking the tongue out helps reduce a double chin and strengthen the lower muscles of the chin.

"That's another good exercise to do in the car, but perhaps not when a police officer is nearby," Hoefler says.