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By Maria Scinto | The List | March 18, 2021
A little over a year ago, Zoom was just the name of a ’70s children’s television show, or ’90s if you watched the reboot (via the The New Yorker). Now it’s, well, a way of life for many people. Zoom meetings, Zoom conference calls, Zoom happy hours, Zoom birthday parties, Zoom holiday celebrations, the list goes on. Yes, a wee bit of Zoom fatigue has long been taking its toll, since it’s actually pretty exhausting to stare into your computer screen for hours while trying not to obsess over that little piece of hair that insists on pointing the wrong way, or that tiny spot of coffee on your collar.
While much has been written about the mental toll of having to be always mentally “on,” there’s been less attention paid to the physical side of our current state of living.
According to nutritionist and chiropractor Dr. Stacie J. Stephenson, Zoom calls are detrimental to your face. She warns, “Your eyes can get dry and sore if you stare at the screen too long and don’t blink enough,” adding that our faces “can ache from keeping that smile going, and smiling too much can scrunch up your eyes and cause more wrinkles.”
As if this past year hasn’t been tough enough, who wants more wrinkles? So what should consistent Zoom users do to avoid its facial downfalls? Plead technical difficulties so we can keep our cameras turned off? Well, that’s one idea, but Stephenson has a more creative idea: face yoga.
What is face yoga?
According to Dr. Stacie Stephenson, face yoga is a trendy term that usually refers to facial exercises rather than any actual yoga poses that involved the face (although these do exist). Trying to combat droopy jowls and wrinkled brows by giving your face a workout is not a new practice, though. Cosmetics and Skin reprinted a number of vintage ads and articles showing it was a popular concept as early as the 19th century.
Stephenson says that face yoga as it is currently practiced has three known benefits: toning the facial muscles to add contour and lift, boosting the circulation in order to increase your skin’s blood flow to add the “glow,” and moving facial muscles in ways that counteract any habitual wrinkle-causing with the hopes of achieving smoother, suppler skin.
While there are numerous videos and websites offering a wide range of facial exercises, Stephenson outlined a variety of exercises for anyone to practice that she believes will address some of the specific issues we face as a result of the excessive amount of Zoom time most people are subjected to.
Perform this exercise to tone your facial muscles
While Dr. Stacie Stephenson admits that “Zoom fatigue actually does tone certain face muscles,” it’s actually the wrong kind of toning, or at least the wrong muscles.
She explains, “What you want to do is relax the ones you’re overusing and tone the ones that are getting ignored.” While she says that most of us will try to stay all smiley during a Zoom call, this results in over-exercising the cheek muscles while neglecting the rest of the face.
In order to counteract this problem, Stephenson suggests sticking out your tongue. Specifically, you should open your mouth as wide as possible, keeping your lips over your teeth, then sticking your tongue out as far as you can. While your tongue is out, look up as far as you’re able to without moving your head. Try to do this with your eyes alone, without scrunching up your forehead. If you can manage this, your other facial muscles will get a workout while your cheeks take a break. You probably shouldn’t do it while on-camera, although it would certainly be one way to liven up a boring meeting.
This exercise can help your circulation
Despite the popular misconception, Dr. Stacie Stephenson says that holding a fixed, frozen smile for hours on end “doesn’t do anything for your circulation.” In order to get the blood flowing, she explains, “Try tapping your face lightly with your index and middle fingertips.”
Begin tapping on your forehead right between your eyes, then work around each eye to the temples, along the cheekbones, up the side of the nose, then back to the forehead again. Be sure to perform this cycle on both sides.
Following this, you’ll want to tap all around those overworked cheek muscles, since this tapping will also help them relax and restore some of the blood flow. Finish up this exercise by tapping your collarbone, all down your neck, and back up the neck – first in the middle, and then again on each side.
What will you get from all of this tapping, besides a slightly silly feeling? Stephenson says it will all be worth it in the end, as getting your facial circulation going again will “increase glow and decrease puffiness.”
Counteract the habitual movements that lead to wrinkles
Did your mom ever say to you, “Don’t make that face, it’ll get stuck like that?” While faces don’t work quite that way, continually making the same motions with your facial muscles will leave their mark, hence the terms “smile lines” and “frown lines.“
One way to fix this is Botox, thus effectively preventing your face from making any movements whatsoever, but a far less medical way involves simply training your face in counter-movements.
In order to erase brow furrows, Dr. Stacie Stephenson suggests placing both index fingers between your eyebrows and sweeping them over the brows and off to each side of your face. She says to do this 10 times.
For crow’s feet, another byproduct of too much on-camera smiling, she says to place your index fingers against the corners of your eyes and sweep them towards the corners of your ears “as if you were ironing out those creases.” Again, do this 10 times. Treat your saggy jowls (exacerbated by fatigue from staring too long at the screen) by placing your middle and index fingers on each side of your chin and sweeping them upward along your jawline toward your ears. This exercise, too, should be performed 10 times.
In addition to wiping away some of the ravages of time and another Zoom meeting, Stephenson says, “A daily face yoga practice…[is] a great way to decompress after those long calls and get your face back to looking like you in the mirror.”