Face Love Fitness, a pop-up boutique in downtown Manhattan, offers face workouts and massages to keep the skin and muscles of the face and neck healthy, looking young and feeling good.
"The popular notion that one should avoid touching one's face for fear of creating wrinkles is completely incorrect. Skin responds beautifully to mindful touch," says Rachel Lang, an esthetician (skin care therapist), who co-founded the Face Love skin gym with massage therapist Heidi Frederick and personal trainer Kate Gyllenhaal.
Not all skin experts agree. Some dermatologists, including Dr. Patricia K. Farris, a clinical associate professor at Tulane University, say that exercising facial muscles is counterintuitive to dermatologists. They treat lines and wrinkles caused by facial muscle movement, called dynamic wrinkles, with the muscle relaxing medication botulinum toxin, commonly known by the brand name "Botox."
"I do think there could be some value to relaxation and stress relief provided by massage, but exercising facial muscles will not make you look younger and may even make you look older," says Farris.
But proponents of massage say healthy, youthful skin is well-worked skin.
"When you stimulate pressure receptors under the skin, as you do in a moderate pressure massage, you increase the temperature of the skin, you slow down the physiology, you reduce the release of stress hormones and enhance immune function" according to Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine. "Just as massage and exercise contributes to health in general, it would also be expected to contribute to skin health."
This is the philosophy at the skin gym, where they say the massage and movement is detoxifying and increases oxygen and blood circulation to the skin, which can result in fewer wrinkles, a firmer jaw line, improved skin tone, and even reduced headaches and eyestrain, according to Lang. "It is like any exercise, you need to do it two to three times a week for the best results."
It may look a little silly, contorting your facial expressions as Lang drags a plastic roller across your face, or trying to lift your eyebrows against the resistance of an elastic band across your forehead, but the effect of working out your face is pleasantly refreshing.
Under the skin there is an area of fatty tissue called the subcutaneous layer. It diminishes with age. The loss of this area contributes to decreased firmness, giving facial skin an older, tired look. Exercising the facial muscles tones and lifts the skin because your facial muscles are attached to your skin and the bone like a web that forms the shape of your face. Through the massages and resistance training, Face Love Fitness claims muscles in the face become stronger and taut, rejuvenating the appearance of the face.
"This is great for everyone, it doesn't matter what age or gender or skin type. This is beauty and health anti-aging from the inside out. It supports and amplifies whatever routine you already have and will give you positive results regardless of your skin condition," says Lang.
"Because it refreshes and detoxifies, the massages are also good for hangovers," she adds.
"We all know that keeping the body fit with exercise is essential. Why do we stop at the neck?!" asks Gyllenhaal.