Could muscle manipulation be the key to tighter, lifted skin?

‘Even in this super digital world, writing is not a lost art’

Though microcurrent devices are yet to take off in India, face yoga and massage are seeing a rise

The beauty industry loves to talk about “the first signs of ageing”, sometimes at as young an age as 25. But we begin to see how we will age only after 40, depending on lifestyle, sleeping patterns, environment and genetics.

For me, it was a loss of facial volume, compounded by weight loss during the pandemic. I don’t know what really caused it, perhaps it was a mix of age, repeated surgeries for endometriosis or a session of ultherapy gone wrong. The irony was that I had spent my 20s and 30s bemoaning my round cheeks and full face, not realising that fat was the scaffolding that held everything up. Since then, I have managed to add volume to my face with regular sessions of face yoga and massage.

Muscle manipulation is one of the adjunct practices in beauty to preserve and enhance the contours of the face. It includes manual massage, face yoga or devices that range from jade roller, gua sha and kansa wand, to microcurrent devices such as NuFace (around 20,500), Myolift ( 27,500) and Foreo Bear ( 27,200). Take an informed decision on what may, or may not, work for you.

Also read: Is the future of beauty ingestible?


The global market for at-home beauty devices is projected to jump from about $9,500 million (around 78,500 crore) in 2020 to $89,500 by 2030, growing at an astounding 25.1% CAGR (compounded annual growth rate), according to a September 2021 report by the market research firm Prescient Strategic Intelligence. Though microcurrent devices are yet to take off in India, face yoga and massage are seeing a rise.

“As a company, we have grown 200%, while muscle manipulation and face tooling has seen 1,000% growth, which includes devices and also services such as face yoga tutorials,” says Vibhuti Arora, who founded the Gurugram, Haryana-based House of Beauty, a holistic beauty company, and also runs India’s first face yoga school offering teacher training courses for face yoga and Ayurvedic cosmetology diplomas—on her app as well as offline, at her studio in Gurugram (courses start from 2,999). “In the first month of our launch (2018), we taught only 20 students in a month and now we average between 1,000-1,500 a month; plus, from 100 visitors in a month on our website, we now get 40,000 visitors a month,” she says. “What makes it so attractive is that it’s affordable when compared to injectables, procedures or/and surgery.” In fact, Arora says even clients who opt for injectables practise face yoga to keep their muscles active.


Whether to become face yoga teachers or to practise self-care at home, Indians are taking multiple courses, whether it’s from Arora, Sofia Wu in Goa, who specialises in gua sha, or international experts such as Fumiko Takatsu, Daniel Collins and Karina More.

While one reason for the popularity of massage devices is the rise in ageing population around the world, one cannot ignore the role of social media, where we are watching ourselves like never before. I began face massage and exercises because I noticed skin laxity in the videos posted on Instagram—and I am not the only one.

“It is definitely possible because I find I look better in person but was alarmed by my face in Zoom calls,” says Vandana Verma, Goa-based founder of the wellness blog The Tonic and Ting, a newsletter. She got the Foreo Bear, which gave her a visible lift. “It’s temporary obviously but I use mine every day as it’s kind of nice to see how one side looks completely different after using it.”

Sona Singh, a Seattle, US-based ceramic artist, started using the NuFace Mini in 2021 after she noticed some asymmetry in her face and heaviness in the lower jaw in pictures. “I bought this device primarily for my lower face and use it almost every day except the weekend.” Within three months, she found her jawline was sharper and the asymmetry less.


My journey began when I met Rajni Ohri, founder of Ohri Ayurveda, for a work meeting. Her face looked lifted, like she had fillers, but it was just the face yoga she had learnt during the pandemic from Japanese masters such as Koko Hayashi. “There are almost 43 muscles in our face—some are overused and others that are underused. With face yoga, we create balance by activating the underused muscles and support the overused ones,” Ohri says, explaining that these techniques include breathing and posture correction. It was her course (the Ageless Face Yoga Program) which helped me regain the volume on my face.

The NuFace kit.

It’s easy to believe facial exercises lift and firm facial muscles. When I practise the “yummy face” or “cheek squats”, the masseter muscles in my face hurt, just like my thighs do after three sets of leg press. “This is because face yoga plumps the muscle, stretches the skin, and, therefore, reduces hollowness,” says Arora.

Some experts claim facial exercises increase collagen. That, however, is not backed up by data. “I have seen no randomised double-blinded trials that I have come across that prove this but we have seen a lot of improvement through face yoga, Tanaka face massage, gua sha and at-home microcurrent and radio frequency devices,” says Pooja Shah Talera, aesthetic dermatologist and founder of Kosa Wellbeing in Pune, Maharashtra.

During facial manipulation, she explains, you are working the scaffolding on which the skin drapes itself, i.e, the fat, lymph, muscle and bone. These techniques strengthen these layers and drain the lymph, tightening, lifting and de-puffing the skin. “During the day, we put a lot of tension on the active muscles of our face by frowning, raising our brows, which causes our muscles to contract. Therefore, the skin which drapes over these muscles creases in a perpendicular format,” says Talera. “Microcurrent devices ease these muscles, so your skin is also allowed to relax and drapes more smoothly,” she explains.


Some face yoga movements can deepen wrinkles, so exercises must be chosen with care and after consulting an expert. In fact, massages are contraindicative for those with acne-prone skin, for touching the face spreads the bacteria. So, though microcurrent devices are considered low-risk, it is prudent to read up on side effects before investing in one.

The other issue is time. A small study in 2018 by the US-based Northwestern University, published in JAMA Dermatology, found that 30 minutes of face exercise increased firmness and yielded a fuller upper and lower face in middle-aged women.

Thirty minutes daily can be a tall order. Supriya Vivek, a Chennai-based digital content creator, started using the NuFace in her late 20s, along with gua sha, jade roller and cupping, to contour her face and reduce under-eye bags. “I also tried micro-needling and the gold bar by Jillian Dempsey and face yoga too but ultimately, only under fillers helped reduce under-eye puffiness,” she says. Since she has had a baby, though, Vivek rarely gets time to use these “time-consuming” devices.

So do you need to do all this? No. But if you are bothered by the changes in your face, these techniques may help.

Vasudha Rai is a beauty journalist and author of Glow: Indian Foods, Recipes And Rituals For Beauty, Inside & Out and Ritual: Daily Practices for Wellness, Beauty & Bliss.

Also read: How the beauty industry exploits our fear of ageing

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