My whole understanding of wrinkles was turned upside down when in a pub one night an older acquaintance showed me ampoules of what is known as "botox in a jar". Me and my friends tried them out on the lines around the eyes. After a few minutes we felt a tingling and a numbness. The whole eye area suddenly was smoothed out, the lines and valleys all looked as if someone had ironed them. The ingredient responsible for this was Argireline, a muscle relaxant.
This was mind-boggling for me. I had thought that botox worked because it paralysed the muscles which stopped you from continually creasing the skin (kind of like when you don't sit down to prevent linen pants from creasing). I thought that the repeated creasing somehow made the creases permanent. But here I experienced how lines and valley were smoothed out in a matter of a few minutes. I realised that the lines and creases were caused some kind of tightness and tension in the deeper layers.
Now I understand that the skin is a corset that keeps everything in place, rather it is just the thinnest layer on top of many other layers -- fat, muscles and connective tissue. Aging happens to all the layers -- even the skull changes shape as we grow older. Fat layers slide lower as we age. Certain groups of muscles become weak and droop, for example the nasolabial fold gets longer as we age, making the lips look thinner. Certain muscles become permanently contracted, for example the muscles between the eyebrows, which leads to drooping eyelids (you can test this at home). Also the lymphatic system does not work as efficiently as it used to, making the face puffy.
So what does all of this mean, practically? The best way to help your face stay in good shape as you age is working with all of the tissues, and not just the surface. There are a couple of ways to do this, by massaging and exercising the facial muscles. These methods are extremely popular in east Asia and other partis of the world. I remember an Iranian neighbour showing me a simple one when I was a kid.
As long as you are using a face oil or lotion for slip, you will not stretch your skin. It also stimulates the blood flow to the skin, so you might see improvement in colour and tautness.
Here are a couple of methods that I know of, you can find more instructions on the internet:
Tanaka face massage:
The Tanaka face massage is lifting as well as gently draining. It is really great for those who have issues with puffiness and fat in the face. However it is strongly slimming, so should be avoided by those who have issues with a thin or "hollow" face. This massage was invented by a Japanese makeup artist.
Facial YogaYoga has a deep understanding of not just muscles but the lymphatic system. I really wish regular Yoga classes incorporated a couple of minutes of face yoga. Also notice how she glows -- yoga does that to you.
FacerciseAn oldie but a goodie. The biggest strength of Carole Maggio's facercise is that the exercises are very specific -- for example you can shorten your nose, or you can choose between widening or slimming the face. Don't let the 80s vibe put you off, the exercises are really effective.
These are an alternative to massaging by hand. These are really fun and relaxing. I own a jade roller like the on in the video, I got a really cheap one from Ebay and it's nice even though it's not perfectly oval and it's doctored jade. I feel that my fingers are a much more versatile tool than a roller, still I enjoy a the coolness of the roller. Also it's really great for puffy eyes.
Another variation of the roller is the Y-shaped roller which is great for slimming the lower face.
Finally there is the traditional Chinese gua-sha tools, which I'd really love to try out one day. From what I have gathered using them takes practice and an understanding of the the face, and is extremely effective when doe right.
Whereas a simple jade roller can be done by just about anybody.
Then there are tons of other methods out there. I really would like to encourage you to try ones that look interesting.
When I feel my forehead tensing up, I do these massages to release the glabellar muscles. I already have hooded eyes, so I do my best to prevent any further drooping.
I especially like massaging the sides of the neck, it feels heavenly, probably because I have some lymphatic issues there:
This is a very simple technique for puffy eyes:
I suggest that you pick a video and try the techniques for a week or two. Later on you can mix and match techniques that suit you best. I like to massage my face when watching a movie or in the shower, it's so relaxing. If you are really in a rush, try doing the yoga lion face -- stick your tongue out, widen your eyes, activate each and every muscle of your face and neck, and try to hold for one minute!