Skin & Beauty: Exercise Your Body -- and Your Skin (cont.)

Indeed, Bhat says that yoga stretches, along with controlled and conscious breathing not only helps tone the entire body, but facial muscles as well. This, he suggests, can deliver results similar to a face-lift.

"Backward bending poses such as fish, camel, and cobra have the power of a face-lift if done regularly, while forward bending poses such as child pose, bowing pose, and modified headstand bring a rich blood supply to the facial skin," says Bhat.

Goldberg tells WebMD that if you exercise the body, you may also influence the rate at which your face ages. Why?

"Initially exercise helps tone and tightens muscles but a muscle that is well toned is also more pliable, meaning that it is holding less tension," says Goldberg.

When you exercise, he says, your whole body tends to relax, including the muscles in your face.

"Eventually crow's feet and anger expression lines are going to soften up. Certainly you will prevent new ones from forming. So in this respect regular exercise can help you to look younger longer," Goldberg adds.

Beyond helping your muscles relax, doctors say most aerobic exercise, such as walking or bicycling, also offer a "cleansing" effect on skin. This helps remove toxins that assault the skin --like cigarette smoke, air pollution, even chemicals commonly found in grooming products such as hair spray, deodorant, and shower gels.

"The better your circulation, which is something aerobic exercise can improve, the more effectively toxins are removed. The better and healthier your skin will not only be, but also look," says Goldberg.

Folks who exercise, he adds, clearly have better color to their skin -- a rosy pink glow, as compared to a yellow-green or ashen grey cast - compared with those who don't.

What can help your skin even more: Hydrating your body before and after exercise.

"If you are properly hydrating yourself during exercise you will get better blood flow to the skin, which in turn encourages the elimination of toxins that would otherwise accumulate in the skin cells," Berman tells WebMD. This, he says, is particularly true for those who overindulge in alcohol, drugs, or even junk food.

"Proper fluid intake -- water in particular -- can increase skin blood flow, allowing the washing out of those toxins, which in turn will help skin not only look better but also be healthier," says Berman.

When Exercise Won't Help Your Skin

Our experts agree that facial exercises, movements designed specifically to tone the muscles of the face, aren't likely to help your skin. Often done with progressive resistance devices held in the mouth or with "beauty calisthenics" using specific movements of the facial muscles, the effects are temporary at best, doctors say.

"While you are stimulating the muscle with the exercise it will twitch and tighten, but it won't last. When the muscles sag in your face it's directly related to gravity. You could tighten it all you want and it's not going to have any permanent effect," says Goldberg.

Kunin agrees: "It's not the muscles on the face that keep skin taut, it's the fat content underneath the skin that keeps your face looking young. You cannot sculpt a cheek bone like you build a bicep."

Also, Kunin warns that facial exercises might just cause you to develop more lines and creases in your face or enhance those that are already there from overusing the facial muscles.

"Forget facial exercises and just exercise your whole body. That's when you'll see some pretty spectacular changes in the way your face looks and feels," says Kunin.

Published May 2005.

SOURCES: Audrey Kunin, MD, director, DermaDoctor.com; and author of The DERMAdoctor Skinstruction Manual. David Goldberg, MD, clinical professor, dermatology, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, New York City; and director, Skin Laser And Surgery Specialists of N.Y./N.J. David Berman, MD, medical director and dermatologic/cosmetic surgeon, Berman Skin Institute, Palo Alto, Calif.; and former chief of dermatology, Santa Clara County Hospital. Vasanthi Bhat, yoga teacher; author; publisher; and founder, Vasantha Yoga Health and Fitness Center, San Jose, Calif.

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Last Editorial Review: 6/6/2005 2:07:01 PM