Monday, January 15, 2018

Facial exercises to make you look younger? I don't think so.

One would think a study covered by the New York Times would be both scientifically valid and important. Apparently, that is not always the case.

Under the headline “Facial Exercises May Make You Look 3 Years Younger” is a story about a research letter published in JAMA Dermatology. The Times article concludes with a quote from the lead author, “But for now, it is reasonable to consider contorting and pinching up your face if you wish to try to look younger.”

Is it reasonable? Let’s see if this 1½ page research letter proved its point.

Northwestern University investigators recruited 27 women with an average age of 53.7 years and an interest in doing facial exercises. They were taught 32 facial exercises in two sessions totaling 3 hours of live instruction by a certified facial exercise instructor. [Certified facial exercise instructor? I had no idea there was such a thing. I wonder if maintenance of certification is required.]

The participants were supposed to perform the exercises every day for 30 minutes during the first eight weeks and at least 3 or 4 times each week over the next 12 weeks. There was no mention of how compliant the women were with the protocol. Eleven dropped out before completing the study.

Of the 16 women who finished the 20 weeks, a significant improvement in upper cheek fullness and lower cheek fullness was seen, but no difference was noted in 17 other parameters. In addition, two blinded dermatologists estimated the women’s appearance to have decreased in age from 50.8 to 48.1 years, a statistically significant change.

Maybe two dermatologists, who were co-authors of the study and must have been aware of its premise, can reliably estimate ages of 16 research subjects, but is a less than 3-year decrease really that important to the way one looks?

As pointed out in the paper itself, there were many limitations such as the number of dropouts, the small sample size, and although it was billed as a pilot study, the lack of a control group.

An analysis of 19 different parameters should include a Bonferroni correction to compensate for the number of possible false positive findings.

For example, using a p value of < 0.05 as significant means that if an experiment was performed 100 times, the results would be falsely positive at least 5% of the time. The Bonferroni correction accounts for that level of false positivity when comparing several different parameters by reducing the acceptable p value of each one to a number much smaller than 0.05.

Bottom Line: Don't contort or pinch up your face.


Anonymous said...

There is an older version of this "therapy" which consists of exercising the eye muscles to correct vision. This bogus treatment is several decades old.

Old FoolRN said...

I agree with you about facial exercises. My favorite surgeon, Dr. Slambow, insisted that surgical masks promoted a youthful look by moisturizing your face with humidity as you exhaled. The longer the case the more effective the treatment.

I always replied that surgical masks promoted a youthful look by covering wrinkles. Not very scientific, but true.

William Reichert said...

Why would you think that a study covered by the NYT would be valid and important? In my experience the medical coverage in the NYT is either not true or not relevant. Always. your post
does not surprise me in the least. Today there was NYT story suggesting that the reason people who lose weight tend to regain it is that they "dont exercise enough". This is obviously
ignoring the obvious fact that weight is determined mainly by
a combination of dietary restraint AND movement or exercise.
Not just exercise alone. You can ride your bike for an hour
but if you get off the bike and eat 700 calories in ten minutes
( not a difficult thing to do) you will be gaining weight. The NYT is interested in sensational stories. Just read the political news stories and you will see how true that is.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Anon, you are correct about the exercises to improve your vision.

Old, I think you're right about the masks covering wrinkles. If we all wore sunglasses and bouffant caps, just about all of our wrinkles would be invisible.

William, good points as always thank you.

Anonymous said...

I can vouch facial exercise does work as I have been doing them for many years.They have to be done correctly for it to be of benefit.As the face has many muscles of course they can be worked to firm them.I do not always want to do them and when I stop for a few weeks and then restart the difference is very noticeable.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Anon, thanks for commenting. Do you do the exercises for 30 minutes every day? May I ask how old you are and how old people think you are when you have been exercising faithfully?

Anonymous said...

While I agree that the study is likely inconclusive, I wonder how can you say that one should not do it? Do you have data to back it up? :P

Skeptical Scalpel said...

It's just my opinion which is the basis of most blogs. If you want to waste 30 minutes a day fiddling with your face, that's okay with me.

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