Thursday, March 8, 2012

Before Botox - Part 2

Last week I wrote about a fascinating book from the early 1950s that offers advice for how to (supposedly) keep one's face looking youthful and vibrant. In short, Helen Hede's beauty manual Dein schöneres Gesicht: Verjüngende Gesichtsgymnastic und neue Pflegemethoden argues that one should (1) practice moderating their facial expression to avoid wrinkles, and (2) fight sagging in the face and neck with regular exercises to tone the underlying muscles.

If you're curious what I thought about the first point on cultivating your poker face, you can hop on over to the last post, but here I want to write more about Ms. Hede's second point.

Source: Dr. X's Free Associations

Bodybuilding for the face

The basic assumption made by proponents of facial toning is that flexing the muscles in the face will cause them both to increase in volume (thereby plumping up the face) and to support the connected facial tissues better (thereby decreasing sagging). Resistance in the form of pressure applied by the hands can be added to the movements to increase their effectiveness.

The jury is still out on whether such facial toning exercises can actually increase muscle volume and whether or not negative side effects can result from performing them.

Still there seem to be more than a few facial toning enthusiasts. Deborah Crowley has written a method book called The Flex Effect that has garnered a loyal following of "Flexers".

And have you ever heard of "Face Yoga" or "Facial Yoga"? Same principle:

(If you have trouble viewing the embedded video, try clicking on this link: Happy Face Yoga Facial Exercises)

The Hede Method

Ms. Hede's method begins with a "face test" in which you assess the state of your face as objectively as possible. A separate piece of paper with a generic drawing and list of areas to consider is provided.

What should you be looking at in your own face? Here is a translation of the list on the first page so you get an idea.

General impression
Skin condition and crow's feet [sic]: cheeks, nose, chin, upper eyelids, lower eyelids, on the sides of the eyes, upper lip, corners of the mouth
Condition of the facial features and obvious wrinkles
Horizontal forehead wrinkles (deep or shallow?)
Horizontal wrinkles and sagging skin above the outer ends of the eyebrows
Vertical forehead wrinkles (deep or shallow?)
Form of the eyelids (best to compare with earlier photos)
Do you bulge out?
Is the arch that frames the eyes from the top still round like a Romanesque church window?
Is there a little "extra sack" appearing in the inner corner of the eye?
Are the eyes generally smaller compared to before?

(My favorite question is the third to last!)

This honest assessment helps you create a program that is tailored to your unique needs since different exercises target different "problem areas" on the face and neck.

The book contains prose descriptions of the daily exercises one should perform to achieve the desired effect, but a separate booklet with instructional pictures is provided for the reader's convenience.

The ground rules for the method are that training should be performed uninterrupted and at the same time of day only after having applied oil to your skin.

One should also breathe regularly during the exercises, relax the body, maintain a good, constant speed, and concentrate one's thoughts and energy on the movements.

Four initial weeks of practice in which less pressure is used for the same movements lead up to the full program. I won't bother to translate all the rules for when and how often one should perform these movements since they are rather involved.

So what do you think about Ms. Hede's "facial gymnastics" or about the more modern "facial yoga" movement?

If any of you had heard of such a thing prior to reading this post or even had experience with a similar system, I would love to hear about it!

Edit (July 25, 2013): In response to a request by one of my readers, I am posting pages 12 and 13 of Hede's book below.

 Direct link to a large version of this picture: Hede Pages 12-13


  1. Thank you very much for sharing this document. To answer your question, yes, facial exercise is a technique known since antiquity and very widespread in some environments, especially in Asian societies. In the West, Helen Hede was a pioneer in this method together with Senta Maria Runge, whose book is old but excellent ( maria-runge). Other similar methods propagators are also Benita Cantiene, Eva Fraser, Carole Maggio or Kiviluoma Leena, all have written books and are on Amazon. I personally prefer the facial exercise modalities practiced in Japan and India. As shown you can see Fumiko Takatsu, Japanese teacher, she in her site offers many free exercises ( You can see also face yoga in India (

    I'd like to ask you favor: Would you please place on your blog pages 12 and 13 of your book? I am face yoga instructor and I appreciate the value of your book because it is an old and interesting document.

    Kind regards.


    1. Marta, many thanks for your thorough and enlightening comment. I did not realize it had such a long history and that such techniques are still practiced in some societies. Perhaps you can you answer a question that's been bugging me: from what I understand, Helen Hede's method was developed primarily for cosmetic reasons, namely, to strengthen muscles with the purpose of plumping up the face to prevent signs of aging like wrinkles and sagging tissue. How are related techniques (facial yoga and the like) viewed in non-Western societies? Is there also a beauty component to them, or are they primarily practiced as an extension of body yoga for purposes of general health and spiritual well-being?

      I would be most happy to post those two pages. (I trust you read German!)


The Hausfrau eagerly awaits your thoughts.