20 Face Exercises – A Natural Facelift

Facial Exercises

A woman practicing facial yoga “blowfish” exercise.

We know it’s important to exercise every day, but how do we exercise the face? What are face exercises?  Is there a way to do a “natural face-lift” without surgery?  First let’s look at the muscles.


Exercising is about stretching, strengthening and building muscles, so what about the muscles in the face?  If the face isn’t strengthened then as we age, we have wrinkles all over the face, stress lines in the forehead, and pockets of fat or sagging skin under the eyes and in the jowls, cheeks, and around the neck, and puffy eyes, or dark circles under the eyes.

Here are some of the muscles in the face:

Auricularis anterior (2), Auricularis posterior (2),  Auricularis superior (2), Buccinator (2), Corrugator supercilii (2), Depressor anguli oris (2), Depressor labii inferioris (2), Depressor septi nasi (1), Frontalis (1), Levator anguli oris (2), Levator labii superioris (2), Levator labii superioris alaeque nasi (2), Mentalis (1), Nasalis (2), Orbicularis oculi (2), Orbicularis oris (1), Platysma (1), Procerus (1), Risorius (2),  Zygomaticus major (2), and  Zygomaticus minor (2)

Facial Muscles

There are about 43 muscles in the face.  There is no accurate listing because different systems and different countries have a unique way of labeling muscles.

There are about 43 muscles in the face.  Some systems list about 53 muscles, others identify about 33 or even 21 muscles. There is no accurate listing because different systems and different countries have a unique way of labeling muscles. The 7th cranial nerve is the facial nerve.  The facial nerve originates from the cerebral cortex to your skull just in front of your ears and divides into five primary branches: temporal, zygomatic, buccal, mandibular and cervical, which reach different areas of the face.  The nerve branches stimulate the face to allow it to move into various expressions.

It has been said in many popular quotes that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile.  Is this true?  No one can say specifically how many muscles it takes to smile, frown, etc., because every smile or frown is unique.  One person’s smile might be a slight contraction of the lips, whereas another smile might be many muscles in the cheeks, lips, chin, eyelids, etc, but it is true that research shows that smiling can aid in circulation and increase overall health.

Facial exercises are nothing new.  People have been doing them for many years, although recently there has been increased awareness of the importance of these types of exercises.

A 1903 ad for a facial exercise book written by Professor Anthony Barker, "Improve Your Face."

A 1903 ad for a facial exercise book written by Professor Anthony Barker, “Improve Your Face.”

The first face exercises are thought to be released commercially in a pamphlet in 1710 about a beauty routine that also included formulas for facial creams by Jeanne Sauval. Sauval was the personal attendant of madame Ninon de L’Enclos.

Mr. Sanford Bennett’s book Exercising in Bed was published in the early 1900s and Elinor Glyn wrote a book on facial exercises entitled “The Wrinkle Book.”Jack LaLane, exercise guru, opened the first fitness gym in 1936, and was well-known for his fitness television program and youthful appearance where he demonstrated facial exercise. He continued to do facial exercises at age 90.


Child fish face

Suck in the cheeks to make the “fish face.”

Facial yoga or face pilates was developed in the 1950’s and made popular in the 1960’s by Senta Maria Runge.    Many of these exercises, or variations on these are used in Eastern practices.   The facial exercises are best combined with deep breathing, inhaling and exhaling to oxygenate the face.  ALWAYS consult a physician or trusted heath practitioner before beginning a new exercise program.

Some of these exercises may seem silly, as you are making silly faces, but try them every day for several months, and expect to see improvement in the elasticity of the skin, improved circulation,reduce wrinkles, improve complexion and stronger facial muscles.

  1. Gently hold the earlobes between your thumb and forefinger and rub gently.  Slowly work your way up and around the rim of the ear and then back down again.  Repeat for the other ear.
  2. Put one finger on each side of the nostrils. Breathe deeply through the mouth. Pinch the nostrils with one finger on each side, while moving in slow, tiny, circular motions up the nostrils to massage the nasal passages. This helps remove toxins.
  3. Put the pointer finger inside the mouth with the thumb on the outside of one cheek. Grasp the cheek in this manner. Contract the cheek muscles while grabbing it with the pinched forefinger and thumb to provide resistance. Do this ten times on one cheek then on the other.
  4. Do the fish-face exercise. Breathe through the nose.  While inhaling, suck in the cheeks and lips to make a “fish face.”  Hold for ten seconds or longer, then exhale by popping out the cheeks in the opposite direction, like a blowfish.   Repeat.
  5. Pretend you are a horse. Inhale deeply and the exhale to cause the lips to flap, making a “horse” or “motorboat” noise by blowing air through relaxed lips and cheeks.  Breathe deeply each time and repeat.
  6. Stick the tongue out of the mouth while wrapping the lips around the tongue. Blow air.  This is the position that children use when “sticking out the tongue” and blowing air in a defiant attitude.

    Man Sticking out Tongue

    Sticking Out Tongue and Popping Out Eyes

  7. Pretend you are a buzzing bee. Inhale deeply.  While exhaling, tighten the lips and rapidly push air through the lips to create a “bee buzzing” or high-pitched electric speedboat sound.  This is the sound commonly made when blowing up a balloon.  It can only be achieved with tightened lips and contracted cheek muscles.  Inhale and repeat.
  8. Open the eyes widely while raising the eyebrows high and opening the mouth to stick out the tongue, to enlarge and stretch the facial muscles. Inhale through the mouth.  Then bring the eyebrows down and close the eyes tightly, to pinch the face and lips up toward the the nose, also lifting the nose like a rabbit, and tightening all the muscles.  Exhale through the small of the mouth. Do this while breathing in and out, inhaling with one movement, and exhaling with the other movement.
  9. Gently pat your face and neck with the flat of your hand several times. Pat or gently slap your face in small patterns to completely cover the entire face.  Afterward, you will notice the circulation has improved and you will feel energized.
  10. Massage the face completely with the thumbs and fingers by pinching and then gently rubbing areas of the skin with the soft, fleshy part of the thumbs.  Do this  in sections. Massage the forehead and eyes with the fingertips, gently moving inside and around the eye without massaging the eyelid covering the eyebal
  11. Energize your face. Think positive thoughts, breathe deeply and quickly slap and rub the palms together in a circular motion for about 30 seconds until tingling is felt in the hands. Put cupped palms over each eye while closing the eyes.  Feel the tingling energy in the eyes and cheeks. Breathe deeply and relax, to surrender stress and worries.
  12. Do the ear tug exercise. Grab the top of your ears, one hand on each ear, and pull up.  Hold for 5 – 10 seconds.  Repeat.
  13. Be a Lhaso Apso. Extend and move your lower teeth out farther out than your upper teeth and then lift your jaw up toward your nose, while extending (so as to look like the jaw of a Lhaso Apso dog).  Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
  14. Do chin exercises. Lift the chin up to try to point the chin up to the ceiling. Inhale. Slowly point the chin down toward the chest. Exhale. Repeat.
  15. Stretch the neck to the side. Slowly point the chin to the right shoulder. Inhale. Slowly point the chin to the left shoulder. Exhale. Repeat.
  16. Facial Exercise - Mouth DownDo the bubble blowing exercise. Get a glass of water and a straw.  Hold the glass of water below the chin.  Inhale air. Hold your head down to let the blood rush to the head.  Grasp the straw with the lips and blow bubbles in the water with a straw while contracting the cheek muscles tightly.  Lift the head up to the ceiling to inhale air.  Repeat.
  17. Do the straw sucking exercise. Put the straw in your mouth with no fluid. Suck in air through the the straw, while gripping with the lips as tightly as possible. Release the grip and exhale to blow air out of the straw. Repeat this ten times to firm the lips.
  18. Exercise your eyeballs. Sit with your eyes closed.  Look up to raise the eyeballs with the eyes closed.  Hold for 10 seconds. Look down for 10 seconds. Look to the left for 10 seconds. Look to the right for 10 seconds.  Repeat.
  19. Bring circulation to your eyebrows. Place your index finger and thumbs on your eyebrows to pinch the eyebrow. Hold for 10 seconds. Release. Repeat 10 times. Gradually move the pinched fingers along the eyebrow to travel from one end to the other, and stimulate the entire eyebrow.
  20. Relax your face and neck. Apply heat packs to the face and neck. Relax and listen to meditative music.

Facial Muscles 

Old Facial Exercise Chart


Jean E. DartThis article is written by Jean Voice Dart,  M.S. Special Education from Illinois State University.
 Jean is a published author and has written hundreds of health articles as well as hosting a local television program, “Making Miracles Happen.”  She is a Registered Music Therapist, Sound Therapist, and Master Level Energetic Teacher, and is the Executive Director, founder and Health and Wellness Educator of the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance.  The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3  nonprofit health and wellness education organization.  For more information about  the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com.

Disclaimer: The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.

2 thoughts on “20 Face Exercises – A Natural Facelift

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