You want to slim your face down? TikTok and YouTube gurus are at the helm. A perfunctory search through #slimface and #faceyoga will reveal pages worth of users sharing their know-how videos. In one clip, user Renata Tuany Santos, winks at the camera as she sucks her cheeks in. One bewildered TikTok user commented on her video, “I always do this, I didn’t know this was an exercise.” That’s a common sentiment.
In another video shared by user Riru, she relates her hack to “achieve a slim face and jawline”. She details the ‘fish style’, where she sucks her cheeks in, the lips rotation, and then ‘lifting’ the lower lip towards the ceiling for 30 seconds. She advises, repeat them every day. Other exercises include rolling your tongue to both sides of your cheek, as it apparently ‘tightens the saggy areas’ of the face.
The followers appear excited and promised to start doing the exercises. However, how much of this really works? Will you really lose that facial fat and get rid of the double chin?
"Facial exercises will not slim the face as such. It is more about enhancing your facial features by keeping the muscles stimulated and reducing the tension, which can otherwise lead to a puffy face,” explains Sarah Battikha, the founder of the Dubai-based dermatology clinic Frame. Currently there is no data showing that facial exercises reduce facial fat, she adds. Our facial muscles are considerably weaker than the rest of the body. Our strong facial muscles are those that help us in chewing. However, the rest of your face will not change, no matter how hard you do your facial exercises. Fat cannot dissolve just because it is stretched.
However, not all is a waste. “As facial exercises focus on very specific areas such as cheekbones or brows, it will improve the skin texture and skin will look more even,” she adds.
Address the root of the problem first
If you’re concerned about facial fat, you need to understand the problem, first. That will determine your course of action.
There could be several reasons for facial fat. It can be due to fat accumulation in the wrong places, muscle laxity associated with the aging process, or even poor lifestyle choice, explains Fazeela Abbasi, a dermatologist at the Dubai-based Euromed clinic. Another possible explanation is that you could just have a broad facial structure anatomically, she says. “It can also be due to lymph collection, due to the thyroid gland not functioning properly and this has nothing to do with fat.”
Facial exercises will not slim the face as such. It is more about enhancing your facial features by keeping the muscles stimulated and reducing the tension, which can otherwise lead to a puffy face.
Like Battikha, Abbasi isn’t in favour of facial slimming exercises. “It can tone the muscles, but the animations that you do during these exercises can cause the overlying skin to wrinkle,” she says. “This renders the need for Botox by some people to soften the crinkling or wrinkling skin, which also needs to be administered very carefully.”
Do facial straps and rollers help in reducing facial fat?
There’s not much scientific evidence surrounding facial straps. The continuous light compression might decrease your blood flow and your face will look slimmer for a few minutes. But there’s not much of a chance for permanent change. “There is no shortcut for sagging chin especially for longterm improvement,” says Battikha, dismissing the use of face straps.
People also attempt to use facial masks include firming and anti-aging ingredients such as vitamin C, vitamin E, caffeine and niacinamide. Apparently you need to loop the mask around your face for 20-30 minutes, which is said to stimulate blood flow. However, these effects are temporary and last only for a day as well.
However, rollers on the other hand, are far more beneficial. “Rollers can be a great tool to help with the absorption of skincare products such as hyaluronic acid,” says Abbasi. “Electric rollers can stimulate the motor neurons of muscles. These devices will tone muscles in a more targeted and therefore much more effective way than exercises,” she says.
Massaging your face daily using your hands or with rollers do offer benefits to your skin such as increased blood flow, explains Battikha. “It can provide a cooling sensation, decreased puffiness as well as providing a moment of relaxation,” she says.
What actually helps in reducing facial fat
Two words. Healthy lifestyle.
It’s the most holistic approach, says Abbasi. “It is important you follow a healthy lifestyle with a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and supplementation,” she advises. “Exercise regularly to ensure your circulatory and respiratory systems are functioning at their optimum. You also need to ensure that hormones such as growth hormone and cortisol are in balance too,” she says. These are far more effective than investing money in expensive treatments or unproven Internet methods.
It is important you follow a healthy lifestyle with a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and supplementation. Exercise regularly to ensure your circulatory and respiratory systems are functioning at their optimum. You also need to ensure that hormones such as growth hormone and cortisol are in balance too.
"Working out your face” isn’t going to get you slimmer cheeks," agrees Mukta Teewani, the co-founder of Miss Pallettable,a UAE-based beauty brand. "The body doesn’t work like that. In order to get slimmer cheeks, weight loss needs to be achieved through diet and exercise. Working out your face muscles may strengthen the muscles but expecting spot weight loss is unrealistic."
Otherwise, here are treatments that you can opt for:
Lymphatic drainage, which is essentially a massage, is a form of gentle massage that helps move the lymph fluids around the body. This ultimately helps remove waste and toxins from the bodily tissues via the lymphatic system, says UK-based site Medical News Today. While it is similar to a normal facial, it focuses on different elements of the face that specifically encourage lymphatic drainage.
According to the US-based site StyleCraze, the key to a DIY lymphatic facial is to start off with the right products. Choose your oil well, depending on the sensitivity of your skin, and then massage your face upwards with circular motions as it increases blood circulation and reduces toxins. Following this, massage your jawline, cheeks, and neck. It will help in reducing the double chin, as well as the excess fluids in your face. Such methods aid in releasing tension in the jaw, and lift the muscles. You will also look less puffy.
HIFU (high intensity focused ultrasound facial)
A non-invasive treatment, HIFU facial uses ultrasound to create heat in the depths of the skin. It activates the SMAS layer of the skin. The superficial musculoaponeurotic system, or SMAS, is the layer of tissue or membrane that connects your face and neck muscles to your skin, explains Abbasi. “It includes muscle, collagen, and fat. As you age, your skin and the SMAS lose its elasticity, resulting in sagging cheeks along the jawbone, excess skin, and often a double chin."
By targeting the SMAS, you can prevent visible signs of ageing by tightening the muscle and removing fat. It tightens the lower two-thirds of the face. If, however, this is not done correctly, you can actually lose volume so the choice of practitioner is very important, she warns.
Radio frequency microneedling therapy is a minimally invasive and effective method that will reduce fat and can provide skin tightening. It is primarily meant to ‘injure’ the skin in a controlled manner, kicking off elasticity and collagen production. In the procedure, tiny needles and radiofrequency is used to rejuvenate facial skin. The skin that grows back is thicker and smoother. Calling it a ‘brilliant’ treatment for stimulating collagen supplies, Abbasi says, “It is important that the needles are placed at a correct depth and that an accurate amount of energy is used.”
What about treatments like kybella and coolsculpting?
Kybella is a nonsurgical injection technique that reduces excess fat beneath the chin. “Kybella uses fat busting enzymes so it is only good to use in small areas of fat to contour the area, rather than use it for losing fat, says Abbasi. “I would only really ever use this on the jawline and certainly not anywhere near the eye area.” Moreover, the problematic downside to this method apart from being expensive, is that your face can swell up.
Coolsculpting is similar to Kybella. However, instead of using an injected detergent, you use a device that gets the fat so cold that it dies. It’s an extremely expensive technique, and you’re at risk for nerve pain. Your face may also swell up.
Kybella uses fat busting enzymes so it is only good to use in small areas of fat to contour the area, rather than use it for losing fat. Preferably use it on the jawline and certainly not anywhere near the eye area.
“I always believe that it is a good idea to focus on repositioning the fat or if it needs to be removed, then a gradual approach must be used,” says Abbasi. “If you destroy the fat or remove it completely, then it can leave the area looking hollow, which over time can be very aging and difficult to reverse.”
Take TikTok claims with a pinch of salt
Only qualified dermatologists and aesthetics experts understand the anatomy of the face, the composition of the underlying structure and how this and the different cells such as fat and muscle can react to stimuli, says Abbbasi. “Unless you are following one of these professionals who is administering the advice, I would say it is better to avoid taking advice from social media including TikTok. Have a consultation with a qualified dermatologist who can explain the best course of action to help you achieve your aesthetic goals,” she says.