Are High-Intensity Facial Workouts Replacing Injectables?

7 min read

In a time where the possibility of lockdown is always looming, could do-it-yourself facial tools be the downfall of injectables?

From the rise of Gua Sha tutorials on YouTube to the latest in-salon treatments offering jutting cheekbones and a more toned jawline without so much as a scalpel or syringe in sight, facial workouts are becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to more invasive beauty measures in our quest for more youthful skin.

We’re well versed in the virtues of working-out our abs, glutes and biceps to achieve more tone and definition when it comes to our bodies, but if you’ve never really given your facial muscles much consideration, 2021 looks set to be the year that flexing your facial muscles comes to the fore. For the uninitiated, a facial workout is different to a facial; for starters it focuses on what’s going on underneath the dermal layers as opposed to offering a temporary topical treatment. How it is done also varies from manual massage using rose quartz crystals to laser-based equipment. But unlike the ‘no pain, no gain’-style clichés usually reserved for gym bunnies, facial workouts are a pain-free, non-invasive way to subtly manipulate the facial muscles to provide more elasticity, tone, and promote collagen production, and even reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Facial Massage

Trinity Mini Facial Toning Device, NuFACE

The Salon Face Bar, located on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah and Rixos JBR, has recently launched a selection of facials designed to give the facial muscles a targeted workout, without breaking so much as a sweat. Among the workouts are two HIIT (high intensity interval training) facial treatments, Gimme Lift and Notox, lasting 20 minutes apiece. Each workout has been designed to provide intense bursts of rigorous movement of the facial muscles followed by a rest period, which involves a more gentle massage, and both have been devised to lift and tone the skin, particularly the jawline and cheekbones. “In principle, it’s just the same as working-out your body,” Lily Raffan, owner of The Salon Face Bar, explains. “It’s important to activate facial muscles regularly for a toned appearance in the long term. The blood is pumping, more oxygen reaches your face muscles and you feel instantly tighter and leaner after your session.”

“Doing face workouts regularly effectively improves skin tone, reduces fine lines, and detoxifies the skin,” says Isadora Peric, creator of The Fit Face Dubai. “Facial exercises increase your blood circulation, bringing more oxygen to your muscles, skin, glands, and brain. They also boost collagen and elastin production, giving it more strength and elasticity,” she adds. After suffering from a potentially fatal infection in her facial bones in 2014, Isadora discovered face yoga as a healing tool, primarily for herself, before she developed the method she now uses on clients, which involves exercising all 68 muscles of the face and neck.

“It is a non-surgical and natural technique for lifting and returning volume to the face. It helps you bring awareness and control over your facial muscles and prevents unnecessary mimics,” she explains. Having worked with international brands including Chanel, Harvey Nichols and L’Occitane en Provence, Isadora is now well established on the facial workout circuit, but she admits that when she started teaching facial yoga back in 2014, people often thought she had “made it up.” “Now it’s much more in demand,” she says. “I think generally people would like more of a balance between invasive and natural. I’ve noticed that women no longer want to feel pressured into doing something and they would like to be a bit nicer to themselves. This is also a key part of our concept, the mental health and confidence aspect of beauty.”

Jade roller

Jade Roller, SALT BY HENDRIX at Namshi

Rebecca Treston, skincare expert at Dubai London Clinic has also noticed this in recent years. “I have worked in this sector for the past 20 years and the demand for non-surgical intervention has steadily risen in this time; it is currently at an all-time high,” she says. “I think this is because the latest generation of laseror energy-based treatments offer unrivalled, brilliant and long-lasting results almost instantly with little to no downtime.”

Rebecca’s philosophy is rooted in using energy to naturally transform the structure of the skin from within, and while her facial treatments take more of a clinical approach, harnessing the latest laser technology to provide a non-invasive way to lift and tone the skin, she also advocates a 360-degree-approach to nourishing the face from within, in the same way personal trainers maintain you can’t out-train a bad diet. “I completely endorse a holistic rejuvenation concept – that is transformative clinic treatments but maintained with an at-home programme that includes good diet, recommended water intake, exercise, good skincare products featuring antioxidants, exfoliants and moisturisation,” she says.

So, is it possible to get visible results that pack the same punch, perk and plump as injectables without using more invasive methods? “With the correct lasers, yes it is. But rather than one sitting, it may take several sessions to get the desired outcome,” Rebecca explains. “It’s important to remember that unlike injectables, which mask the signs of ageing, lasers and energy-based treatments actually repair the structure and function of the skin to mitigate the ageing process. I always recommend doing the laser-based treatments first, followed by injectables, as this will ensure that the results of the Botox and filler will look better and last longer.”

Nurse Jamie facial massage

Uplift Facial Massaging Roller, NURSE JAMIE at Cult Beauty

This outlook is shared by Isadora Peric. “It’s definitely possible [to improve the tone and texture of the skin] if you have a consistent routine and really learn the techniques properly. Many people start out with just pulling faces, but that won’t do much, because to get results you really need to feel the burn.” The exercises are controlled movements which isolate specific facial muscles. For example, our cheek builder exercise works-out the cheek muscle specifically; when done properly, the rest of the muscles of the face are not moving. “I started at 25 years old, so I saw results really quickly, especially on the bigger muscles in the cheeks, forehead and neck. The results also vary depending on lifestyle and consistency – as a general rule we say eight weeks to three or four months [of exercises in order to see results]. However, many people have said they see results almost instantly especially in terms of getting glowing skin, smoothing out fine lines and looking more fresh.”

While an increasing number of salons and skin clinics are starting to embrace the concept of facial workouts, high performance DIY treatments are also gaining traction thanks to the evolution of at-home skincare tools which have come into their own in the wake of the global pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns that prevented facial enthusiasts from getting their usual professional fix. “I have so many tools that I love. But if I were to choose one to start with it would probably be the Gua Sha because it really does make a huge difference with just a few movements, and works for most skin types. It will literally smooth out stress lines and give you more sculpted cheeks in a few minutes,” Isadora says. “Tools encourage circulation and this is crucial to ensure your skin is well nourished with a healthy blood flow to deliver nutrients to where they are needed,” adds Rebecca. “If you have poor circulation, your skin will be malnourished and won’t function properly.”

Facial workout

The Facialift, SARAH CHAPMAN SKINESIS at Look Fantastic

And the pros also believe a shift in mindset and body image is behind the shift away from a more artificial approach. “Those who opt for Botox and fillers can over time begin to take on a puffy appearance and so rather than looking beautiful or even more youthful (which was probably their initial aim when they started with injectables), they can actually begin to look very odd and unnatural,” Rebecca suggests. The Salon’s Lily Raffan agrees. “Natural, clean and vegan are massive trends in the beauty world and it’s not slowing down. Many celebrities are also choosing to lessen their filler and Botox, and it’s refreshing. We think the best approach to skincare will always be the natural option.”

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  • Words by Aoibhinn Mc Bride