Will it hurt? How sore will I be tomorrow? Is it going to make me sweaty? How much equipment is involved?
All valid questions to ask before a new workout class. But not anything I ever imagined would run through my head as I rode an elevator up a Financial District office building en route to my first appointment with a face trainer.
Yes, that's right, a face trainer, for I was about to visit Face Love Fitness, a "skin gym" promising "some of the best anti-aging skin care there is" through mini-treatments of face-muscle massage and resistance training.
I'd booked a 30-minute FaceLove with co-founder Rachel Lang, a treatment that promised to energize my complexion, tone my face muscles, release tension, rejuvenate my whole body, soften fine lines, and brighten my eye area.
How were they going to work these small miracles on my skin? Why, through muscle interval training, acupressure, face reflexology, muscle rolling, warm/cool stones, and a shoulder release, of course!
The idea behind "facial fitness" is that your face contains more then 40 muscles. Just think about how many opportunities that is for those muscles to hold stress, tension, or any emotion you're experiencing. If those muscles are exercised and relaxed, that tension will never go away and will ultimately result in fine lines, wrinkles and general sagging (thanks, gravity).
We all know that when we do yoga or treat ourself to a massage, we're helping the muscles in the rest of your body release tension buildup. But how often do we compliment that weekly yoga class with a bout of face yoga? Exactly.
I know what you're all thinking: Isn't the cardinal rule of great skin to NOT touch your face? And before my fateful day at Face Love, I'd have agreed with you 100 percent. But this, my friends, is the exception to the rule. Rachel (and her co-founder Heidi) can touch my face with their hands all they want, for their digits are pure freakin' magic.
Why is facial massage so great for your skin? Let's break it down:
- Massage increases blood flow through hands-on stimulation. When blood flow increases to a specific part of your body, oxygen comes with it and collagen is formed. Then your skin plumps and you get a rosy, natural glow.
- If you incorporate products into the practice, the massage will help the active ingredients penetrate deep into the skin, thereby increasing the effectiveness of those products.
- Ever heard of the lymphatic system? You gotta detox that baby of acne-causing toxins through — you guessed it — massage.
- It reduces anxiety. No, seriously, science says so.
And why is facial exercise so great for your skin? Let's break this down too:
- It also works the muscles in your face that you
probablydefinitely neglect, which in turn improves muscle tone and fights sagging.
- A no-brainer, but massage helps relax those same facial muscles and connective tissues that tense up unwittingly. When you clench or tense, the inklings of wrinkles form, so they need to be massaged out. Basically, it's a gravity-defying anti-ager.
So yes, having a (very nice) stranger rub her hands all over my face and instruct me to use an orange, rubber resistance band to strengthen my jaw and cheek muscles was something new, but it was not at all unpleasant.
Face Love Fitness's goal is to strengthen and firm your facial muscles for the long term, and I can honestly say that the series of eyebrow raises, exaggerated smiles, and side-to-side head turns with a Pilates ring really did feel like I was getting a workout (that illustration above is a pretty spot-on representation of what I imagine I looked like). I wasn't sweaty or reaching for a water bottle, but the muscles in my face, neck, and jaw felt more activated and awake than ever before.
(The scalp-and-neck massage and cool jade rollers didn't suck either.)
But I was there for face bootcamp, and when Rachel handed me a mirror at the end of the 30-minute session, I was pleasantly surprised. I assumed I'd look a little deranged after half an hour contorting my face this way and that, but my skin looked glow-y and plump, my eyes were bright, and I didn't immediately head to the bathroom to apply makeup.
Is a face and skin gym the natural alternative to chemical fillers and a scalpel? The future of anti-aging? I can't say that for certain. What I can say, though, is that my face felt like a baby's butt and looked like, well ... like a baby's butt. And that's good enough for me for now.
Photo courtesy of Face Love Fitness