After 3 Weeks of Face Yoga, Here's What Happened to My Face

woman stretching out her face

Photo Illustration by Verywell Health; Getty Images

Maybe it’s the late-night phone scrolling. After getting the kids in bed, the Instagram algorithm naturally points women in their early 40s to products aimed at replacing our lost youth. That’s how I found myself learning about “face yoga.”

In just minutes per day, I could massage, scrunch, and stretch my face and shoulders to remove chicken neck, smile lines, and forehead wrinkles. And using the app that dominated my feed—Luvly—I could allegedly do it within weeks.

I had to try it.

The idea of facial massage isn’t new. The Chinese practice of gua sha, which involves facial massage using a smooth stone, has gained more widespread popularity in recent years. Gua sha tools populate shelves at Target and Sephora, and YouTube abounds with routines for depuffing using the ancient techniques.

But is face yoga the same thing as gua sha? Not necessarily.

The Science Behind Face Yoga

After signing up for the Luvly app, which cost $29.99 for the first month, I filled out the questionnaire aimed at choosing the best treatment plan for my face. I wanted to define my jawline, smooth my forehead, and take 20 years of craning out of my neck. Easy, said the app. You’ll get there by March 22. Dubious, I pressed on. In was March 6.

The Luvly app uses the term “face yoga” for its suite of guided exercises, but in reality, it uses a combination of self-lymphatic massage similar to gua sha and facial exercises shown to have an impact on facial muscles. The app and its supporting website cite evidence of their efficacy based on a small 2018 study published in JAMA Dermatology.

The study observed 16 patients who were 40 to 65 years old, with sun damage and mild to moderate facial atrophy, or degeneration of tissue. After taking two 90-minute lessons with a certified facial exercise instructor, study participants used 32 facial exercises over the course of eight weeks for three to four days each week. Each home session lasted 30 minutes.

After the trial, the participants who completed the exercises found moderate success: upper and lower cheek fullness increased, and patients were satisfied with the anti-aging results. While the results seemed positive, the study was very small and limited to middle-aged women who were already interested in facial exercises as a concept. The study concluded that more research was needed to prove efficacy more conclusively.

Luvly uses several of the exercises used in the study as part of their programming. Each day featured a 10 to 15-minute routine, demonstrated by a real person and narrated using the anatomically correct terms for each action and body part used.

Face Yoga Treats More Than Just the Face

I quickly realized that there was more to face yoga than just massage. Each day focused on a different facial area; some days isolated individual wrinkles in the forehead while others smoothed tension from the crown of the head all the way down to the rib cage. Most of the motions were from the outside in, using the hands and fingers to manipulate the facial muscles.

Koko Hayashi, founder and CEO of Koko Face Yoga, says that the term “face yoga” encompasses more than just one set of exercises or massage—there’s no official definition. Originally from Japan, Hayashi now practices in Los Angeles, California, where she most famously taught facial exercises to Kim Kardashian. Hayashi found face yoga after a failed plastic surgery experience when she used exercises to reshape and firm her face.

Hayashi says that her version of face yoga focuses mainly on exercises that are done using the muscles of the face, rather than manually manipulating the face with the hands.

“We practice face posture, which means how to move the facial muscles in better ways for daily activities,” Hayashi told Verywell. “There are two purposes for the face. One is function, and the other is expression.”

She describes her technique as half facial exercise and half tongue posture, which includes a focus on the placement of the tongue within the mouth. The tongue positioning reinforces good posture throughout the body, she said.

After three weeks of nightly face yoga sessions through Luvly, I can see her point. As the lessons move on, they include more and more of the upper body. All sessions are completed sitting upright in a chair, with an emphasis on good posture: head up and back, shoulders relaxed, gentle breathing. Whether you’re touching your face or not, focusing on this posture for 15 minutes helps unravel the computer hunch that I develop over the course of a day on phones and laptops.

A Solution, But Not a Quick One

In the initial signup, Luvly assured me that I would accomplish all of my goals by the end of March. And while I can see the value in practicing face yoga, whether exercises or facial massage, I didn’t see the results promised after three weeks.

Michelle Henry, MD, founder and dermatologist at Skin and Aesthetic Surgery of Manhattan, said that while the combination of lymphatic massage and facial exercises may help modestly, it likely requires ongoing practice.

“Massage without muscle contraction may not help with muscle tone; however, you may still see improvement due to lymphatic drainage,” Henry told Verywell. “Long-lasting results may require consistent practice over an extended period, but the exact duration for lasting results may vary for individuals.”

Although massage may reduce puffiness immediately, Henry said that facial exercises can improve the muscle tone in the face, which can lead to a reduction in the appearance of wrinkles. Massage, can help improve skin elasticity and increase blood circulation as well.

I can attest to the immediate results—after some days of exercises, specifically on my forehead, I could see the muscles relax and soften. And no matter what the routine that day, those 15 minutes left me feeling relaxed and peaceful.

Maybe it was the music; maybe it was staring at ascetically beautiful women showing me how to address my face solely based on the muscles and lymph rather than features and flaws. But after a robust session of gently but firmly pinching my own eyebrows or moving my entire scalp via gripped hair, I came away with a feeling of calm.

Will I continue to pay for an app to show me how to practice face yoga? Probably not. But I did catch myself kneading my forehead a bit more intensely while applying my moisturizer and smoothing my chin down to my clavicle to direct the lymph. There are definitely aspects of lymphatic massage and facial exercises that are simple enough to incorporate into a daily routine that could have a long-term impact.

Final Verdict

Face yoga can refer to many different combinations of facial massage and exercises, so make sure you know what techniques you’re studying. There are benefits to all of it, but it will likely take a significant amount of time to see lasting results. For a quick depuff, a lymphatic massage can smooth the appearance of your face; you can find numerous videos on YouTube to help you get started.

1 Source
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Alam M, Walter AJ, Geisler A, et al. Association of facial exercise with the appearance of aging. JAMA Dermatol. 2018;154(3):365-367. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.5142

By Rachel Murphy
Rachel Murphy is a Kansas City, MO, journalist with more than 10 years of experience.