Face Yoga Is Taking TikTok By Storm—But Does It Really Work?

Reviewed by Alicia Bigelow, ND

You’re scrolling through your TikTok feed and see a creator making the weirdest facial expressions— lifting their cheekbones to mimic a Joker-like smile or making kissy faces at the ceiling. You’re probably thinking, “What kind of weird trend is everyone doing now?” The answer? An ancient practice called face yoga.

Face yoga is exactly what it sounds like: yoga for the face. “Face yoga refers to facial exercises intended to improve the appearance of facial skin through muscle toning, improved blood flow and lymphatic circulation, and relaxation,” says Dr. Brendan Camp, a New York-based board-certified dermatologist at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery centers.

Though the practice is mainly used as a non-invasive, natural alternative to cosmetic procedures like injections, face yoga also hosts a range of mental health benefits like stress relief and mindfulness. This article explores the psychological and physical benefits of face yoga and how one can start incorporating face yoga into their self-care routines.

<p>Olga Kozicka / Stocksy</p>

Olga Kozicka / Stocksy

What Is Face Yoga?

Typically used for anti-aging, face yoga is the act of “working out facial muscles [to] help slow or even reverse the aging process,” explains NYC-based board-certified dermatologist Michael Tassavor. “We’ve long known that the aging process affects not only the skin but also the fat and muscle layers of the face.” Exercising your face, that is, gently stretching and massaging your facial muscles, strengthens the skin and adds volume.


As we get older, Dr. Tassavor explains, the elasticity in our skin decreases, thus causing wrinkles and fine lines. People opt for injections and fillers because they target specific muscles like the masseter muscle, the medically correct term for the jawline, to plump up any sagging areas and add definition. But you can achieve the same results naturally by enlarging your facial muscles through routine exercise, he adds. 

Annelise Hagen, the creator of the first face yoga course, started doing face yoga nearly 20 years ago after accidentally discovering the practice while training as a yoga teacher. Though she mostly uses face yoga for self-care and relaxation, she does credit it for her youthful appearance saying, “It’s not a substitution for, say, Botox, [but] it does tone and lift your face and makes you look more rejuvenated.” 

Related: A Lymphatic Drainage Massage May Be What Your Self-Care Routine Needs

How Does Face Yoga Work?

Dr. Tassavor says to think of your facial muscles like the ones in your arms or legs: the more you train them, the stronger they grow and the bigger they are. You retrain your muscles by doing certain exercises to target specific areas.  It’s the same process for your face, albeit on a smaller scale. And like other muscles in the body, results only occur if you’re “working out” consistently.

Camp cites one 2018 study as evidence, stating that the report found there was “mid-face and lower face fullness” after 20 weeks of daily 30-minute exercises. Even moving your face every day for just eight weeks shows the slightest bit of improvement, Dr. Tassavor says.


However, there is insufficient definite research to conclude that face yoga can fully reverse wrinkles and fine lines—or at least not as much as Botox. So, you won’t get a natural facelift as some yoga practitioners claim, but you will see some muscle hypertrophy (an increase in muscle mass) in the face and a slightly slimmer appearance.

Furthermore, Dr. Tassavor adds that slim research speaks to the mental health benefits of face yoga. However, there are some studies that report slight improvements in mental health attitudes after routine exercises.

The Benefits of Face Yoga for Self-Care

The research may not have caught up to the mental health benefits of face yoga, but for yogis like Hagen, face yoga acts as a form of self-care. She says it’s like ugly crying, where you make the weirdest facial expressions but feel so much lighter afterward. She describes yoga as “a medicine” that made her happy and helped her function.

It also helped regulate her nervous system when she was in a fight-or-flight state.

“Yoga is one of the main ways [to] help you switch your nervous system from sympathetic—fight or flight—to parasympathetic,” she says. “And parasympathetic is the relaxation response.” Those struggling with anxiety can use face yoga to regulate their nervous system and soothe their anxiousness. Practicing facial exercises can bring your body into “a more slow, calm state of relaxation,” she says, which can help “stop that loop of anxiety and stress.”

Even if you don’t struggle with depression or other mental health conditions, face yoga can still be a form of self-care. Dr. Tassavor says the physical benefits of face yoga (i.e. a slimmer face) greatly improve one’s mood and overall self-confidence.

“We know that there is a certain mind-body connection when it comes to muscles of facial expression,” he says. “Botox, for example, is thought to improve mood through facial feedback. Internal feelings drive facial muscles, which drive facial expression. The reverse can also be true – certain expressions can drive internal feelings! Reducing tension in muscles we commonly tense in anger and anxiety can thus improve your mood.”

How Do I Start Face Yoga?

The best way to start is to just go for it, Dr. Tassavor says. He recommends Fumiko Takatsu’s Face Yoga Method on YouTube for beginners as it's easy and simple enough to incorporate into your daily routine. Hagen says classic exercises like Lion’s Breath—opening your mouth and eyes really wide and exhaling your breath slowly, making a distinct “ah” sound—and Kissing the Ceiling—titling your head upright and puckering your clips to make a kiss—are good starting points for new yoga practitioners.


There aren’t any safety concerns when it comes to facial yoga, but both Dr. Camp and Dr. Tassavor advise caution when stretching certain areas of the skin, specifically around the eye and forehead.

“The static lines that appear on our foreheads, between our eyebrows, and around our eyes develop as a result of repeated facial muscle contractions over time,” Dr. Camp explains. “When practicing face yoga, the emphasis should not be on repeated facial muscle contraction at the risk of making these types of static lines more pronounced.”

Related: Need a Breather? Try These 9 Breathing Exercises to Relieve Anxiety

What Is the Best Face Yoga Method?

Every yoga exercise targets a specific area in the face, so there’s no “best” method to choose from. It’s all about which area you’re looking to improve.

For example, The Baby Bird—putting the tongue to the roof of your mouth and trying to smile while also swallowing—works the platysma muscle to strengthen your jaw and add definition. It’s one of Hagen’s top five exercises but is difficult for beginners as it triggers their gag reflex. She recommends trying it first with water or saliva.

If you’re looking for a subtle facelift, try Smelling the Cheese. Press your fingers into your cheekbones with slight pressure and slowly move them upwards to your temple. Don’t stretch or pull, Hagen warns. “You have to put fingertip pressure on it because the face muscles can't lift weights,” she says. “So, you give them resistance…and that smooths, blends, and lifts up the muscles of the cheeks.”

You can also try the following exercises:

  • Sideways smiling. On one side of your face, lift your lips and smile while keeping your other side neutral. This targets uneven smiles and brings symmetry back to the face.

  • Mewing. Take your tongue and plaster it on your palate. This tones the chin and adds definition.

Incorporating Face Yoga into Your Self-Care Routine

Dr. Tassavor says you can easily add yoga to your skincare or wellness routine. “Try incorporating it into your morning care routines, daily commute, or time in the shower,” he recommends. “New habits are best built around new ones.” And try to stick to it every day!

How Quickly Does Face Yoga Work?

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it’ll take a couple of weeks to see any anti-aging changes on your face. Progress is slow, Dr. Tassavor says, with results that can take at least eight weeks to notice.

But if you are using face yoga as an emotional regulator or a coping mechanism, the timeline is different. Hagen says she feels instantly calmer after completing her routine, but everyone’s nervous system and mental health are different. The key is to curate a custom routine by experimenting with different facial exercises and finding the ones that best meet your mental and physical health needs. Make sure your routine aligns with your lifestyle so it easily fits into your life.

Precautions and Considerations

Not only is practicing face yoga safe every day but it’s also encouraged. As with all exercise, consistency is the only way to see results. However, you should be cautious of where on the face you’re “working out,” Dr. Tassavor warns. “While muscle contraction can build volume, remember that it is this very motion that can also cause wrinkles in the first place!” he says. “My advice is to pay attention to areas [where] you may be developing wrinkles already and avoid any exercises that could potentially worsen them.”


And, as always, consult a dermatologist or relevant expert if you’re concerned about damaging your skin. Face yoga may strengthen your muscles and produce collagen, but sometimes the skin—just like the body—does what it wants.

Read the original article on Verywell Mind.