I fear frown lines a lot more than I do crow’s feet. I see the latter as the sum of my happiest moments—most noticeable with a big smile—while the former is more like a map charting less desirable emotions (hence the name).
I hear self-administered face massaging is supposed to stave away fine expression lines—and it certainly seems like an admirable habit to grow. (Alexandra Soveral’s calming tutorial almost made a convert of me, except that I’m lazy and forgetful.) Occasionally I'll perform some horizontal wiggles at the corners of my mouth when grimacing at the computer screen has been my default position for too long, but I'm almost certain half-hearted measures like this will do nothing in terms of keeping me looking younger.
I have to ask myself, as I do with many things: Is the reason I'm not more routinized in facial massages because I haven't bought myself enough gadgets yet? The answer was obviously yes, so to encourage a more face exercise, I decided to investigate the slightly bizarre world of mouth-exercise tools. Here’s the lowdown on a few frown fighters you’ve likely only seen before in infomercials or in-flight magazines.
The Facial-Flex Ultra
Probably the most familiar of the pack, Facial-Flex was invented in 1989 as a rehabilitation tool used to treat nerve damage and speech disorders, but then the resistance bands took some time, looked inward, and asked “Why limit ourselves?” Now sold with a six-month supply of 6 and 8 oz. sets (14 oz. are also available), which you replace on a weekly basis, Facial-Flex is essentially Pilates for your cheeks. In clinical trials, a regimen of twice-daily flexing for two-minute stretches has produced visible toning effects in as little as eight weeks. For my part, I could definitely notice a lift after the first week of use. Though I don’t expect to see any significant or immediate “rejuvenation” in my early-30s visage, it’s possible that my relationship with the Facial-Flex could develop into a long-term one. The two-minute exercise feels like an act of good faith for my future appearance, and I found it both easy and not too embarrassing to use. This, I mention because embarrassment becomes a central issue with our second contestant. May I introduce…
The Face Slimmer
Hailing from Japan, the Face Slimmer is a bubblegum-pink silicon mouthpiece designed (as its name suggests) to slim your face by strengthening the droopy muscles around the mouth and neck. It looks like it was designed for another purpose (as put forward by professional daytime-TV lush, Kathie Lee Gifford). Once in place, it reveals your front teeth in grotesque fashion, and this (plus the fact that it is near-impossible to extract from your mouth drool-free) means it’s not really a device you should whip out in the company of others. But for education’s sake, here’s how you use it: make like a maniac Eliza Doolittle with three minutes of vowel sounds a day, and allegedly, you’re on your way to a thinner, tighter chin and cheeks. I couldn’t get past day one.
**Frownies are the brainchild of late-19th century stage mother, Margaret Kroesen, who worried her concert-pianist daughter was developing concentration-induced wrinkles. Called “Wrinkle Eradicators,” they went on to earn a cult following among actresses during Hollywood’s Golden Age. Modern-day Frownies are essentially heavyweight, lozenge-shaped Band-Aids. To use: Identify offending wrinkles, pull skin around them taut, then apply stickers over top. The idea here is that Frownies work to prevent you from making repetitive facial expressions (those chief architects of wrinkle production) in the first place. The company recommends use at bedtime (as does Raquel Welch, flawless septuagenarian and longtime Frownies fan) and promises results in as little as three weeks. As I haven’t developed any permanent deep wrinkles quite yet, my application of Frownies may be a tad premature, but for those looking to experiment with age-defying accessories, these are certainly cheaper than Botox and have a hundred-year history to recommend them.
Photographed by Benjamin Jurgensen.