If your dazzling smile is falling victim to gravity, there are a few things you can do about it. Saggy mouth lines are impossible to hide, make your face appear aged and tend to hold and blur lipstick. Growing older doesn't have to mean vanishing behind a mask of wrinkles and grooves. Work that smile and play down telltale worry lines with some simple moves and sensible precautions.
Time, Exposure and Tobacco
As you age, your skin changes; there isn't much you can do to turn back time. You can plan ahead, though, and avoid some environmental causes of face wrinkles, including at the constantly exposed area around your mouth. The National Institutes of Health recommends minimal sun and no smoking to protect facial skin from eventual wrinkles. Exposure to sun exacerbates the natural loss of skin elasticity that leads to sagging and creasing. The Mayo Clinic warns that smoking directly damages your skin. Nicotine causes narrowing of blood vessels in the epidermis, restricting blood flow, oxygen and vitamin A -- all essential for firm, healthy skin. Chemicals in tobacco smoke are harmful to collagen and elastin, fibers that resist sagging and wrinkling.
Carole Maggio, author of "The Ultimate Facercise," recommends a brief daily exercise routine for the face that provides a mini-massage and muscle workout, feature by feature. Mouth-area movements warm and stretch muscles with gentle support from the fingers, followed by light, quick rubbing to boost circulation. Pressing the lips together and pulling mouth corners in tightly may counter saggy sidelines when you push and then pulse with index fingers to provide resistance. Grooves from nose to chin might respond to tightening the mouth into a narrow “O” and working fingers up and down the lines from nostrils to the corners of the mouth, keeping the muscles engaged. Be gentle when stimulating skin and underlying muscles. The National Institutes of Health points out that aging skin is thinner, more fragile and easily damaged.
Although puckering up seems to create those annoying vertical lines that age scribbles around the mouth, the muscle movement actually firms and tightens lips. Try making a fish mouth and then blowing kisses for a simple toning exercise. Pucker power is the new asana for a smoother face and mouth. Yoga studios have added facial exercises designed to tone muscles and reduce worry lines. Smiling Fish pose adds a tiny smile to a fish-face pucker as you hold the pose. The Marilyn has you blowing kisses while relaxing the forehead, a two-for-one exercise that works forehead and mouth grooves. You won't find these asanas in traditional yoga scriptures, but you might find them in a yoga studio near you.
Facial fitness requires the same holistic approach as any fitness program. Exercises strengthen and stimulate saggy mouth lines, but you should support your efforts with a healthy lifestyle. Get your beauty sleep to put your best face forward. Stay hydrated, as dehydration increases the risk of injury to your skin and decreases elasticity. Eat a balanced, nutritious diet with adequate protein and vitamins from fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid sunburn and use sunscreen whenever you go out to minimize sun damage to skin as you age.
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .