Doctor reveals common act that can make you look older


Welcome to Ask Doctor Zac, a weekly column from news.com.au. This week, Dr Zac Turner discusses the pros and cons of facial exercises.

QUESTION: Hi Dr Zac, My boyfriend LOVES to chew gum – and he does it 24/7. One of his lame excuses for doing it all the time is because apparently it trains his jaw and gives him a ‘sharp jawline.’ I think I’m dating one a the vainest guys in Australia! He’s so obsessed with exercising his face he guilts me into doing it as well to help with my wrinkles. I try to tell him none of this will work, but he is so convinced it does.

Who is correct? – Bella, 30

ANSWER: Thanks for your questions Bella. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this. We can all be so precious about our face because it’s what everyone looks at every day. I’ve noticed on social media more people selling facial exercisers like rubber gum chewers or crystal rolling pins. It’s probably best I clear the air so we know what’s good, and what isn’t.

Your apprehension is warranted as facial exercises are in a murky area. There is no real harm in doing facial exercises, but there aren’t any clear cut, scientifically backed, benefits. If it makes your boyfriend feel good, why take that away from him?

You can’t expect life changing results from chewing gum, it won’t give you a crimson chin. There may be some small incremental changes but eventually you will hit a wall of genetics. You also may find you develop jaw clenching issues from the repetitive motion. No scientific study has ever found gum to be an effective tool for producing a jawline. However, there are some dental and digestive benefits to chewing sugar-free gum, for a short period after food as this can help to produce more saliva and clean your teeth.

We all know exercising burns calories, but we can’t choose a spot on our body and burn the surrounding fat. If we could, no one would have a pot belly. So while facial exercise strengthens your muscles, it will hardly remove any fat that covers your cheekbones and jaw. In fact, working out your facial muscles can have undesirable effects. Your boyfriend will hate hearing this – it can actually make you appear older. And that’s because it can produce more lines and more bulk in the lower part of your face.

The muscles in our face form a kind of complex web, where they attach to all the bones and skin. Our skin is like elastic, it stretches. And when we move skin around it stretches and forms wrinkles. The truth is that many of our facial wrinkles come from excess muscle activity. Laugh lines, crow’s-feet, and forehead wrinkles all come from using facial muscles.

Some cosmetic injectables work by relaxing or in some cases inhibiting your muscles’ regular movement. So you’re essentially paralysing the muscles in the face and, just like your muscles in your body shrinking if they aren’t worked out, your face muscles can shrink as well. If your muscles don’t move, your skin doesn’t and so no wrinkles appear. In fact many people who clench or grind their teeth due to having large masseter or lateral jawline muscles can get severe headaches and migraines if they don’t relax those muscles regularly.

Facial exercises do have a role to play to loosen up and lessen the appearance of a tight scar. Massage and exercises that stretch the skin affected by scarring can make a thick scar become thinner and more pliable.

It is no secret that the most effective way to sharpen your face is through a good diet and exercise. If you lose fat as a whole, your face will become slimmer. If preventing wrinkles is your goal, simple steps like using sun protection, staying hydrated, and moisturising can go a long way. Try a facial acupressure massage to relax muscles and relieve tension.

Factors such as genetics, sun protection, skincare, and lifestyle choices play more significant roles in the ageing process. Maintaining good overall health, staying hydrated, following a balanced diet, and adopting a comprehensive skincare routine are generally more effective strategies for supporting a youthful appearance.

And lastly, yes – facial exercise machines are available in various forms, and they are marketed with the claim that they can help improve facial muscle tone, reduce wrinkles, and contribute to a more youthful appearance. In Japan and some other countries, there has been a market for such devices.

However, the scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of these devices is limited. While some studies suggest that facial exercises may have modest benefits in terms of muscle tone, there is still debate about their overall impact on reducing signs of ageing, such as wrinkles and sagging skin.

Facial exercises can improve circulation and collagen, which can contribute to a more youthful appearance. The underlying muscle will remain mostly unaffected. If you really want results, you would need to seek traditional anti-ageing options such as “fillers” and other non-invasive or minimally invasive cosmetic interventions.

Got a question? Email askdrzac@conciergedoctors.com.au

Dr Zac Turner has a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from the University of Sydney. He is both a medical practitioner and a co-owner of telehealth service, Concierge Doctors. He was also a registered nurse and is a qualified and experienced biomedical scientist along with being a PhD Candidate in Biomedical Engineering.

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