How to Firm Facial Skin (Backed by Science)

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How to firm facial skin? Firmness is one of important pillars for your healthy and beautiful-looking face. But as we age, it is also the first skin dimension to decrease. I know it’s hard to turn back the clock. But there are plenty of ways to deal with.

Crucial things in skin firming

Poor firmness is likely to cause sagging skin, which is bad for your glowing appearance.

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The first tell-tale signs of when the skin lacks firmness may vary, each case is different. But many times it starts with fine lines in the eye area. This may also be followed with minute sagging around the jawline.

First things first, your skin structure is very complex. But when it comes to youthful skin firmness, there are 2 key elements you need most; collagen and elastin.

When you’re born, your skin has everything including a boost of high collagen so it looks at its firmest level and very supple. Collagen properties in the skin are still at high levels in 20s. But then this decreases afterwards.

Similar to collagen, elastin is also necessary for your skin health and elasticity. This fiber protein is responsible for skin flexibility, making the skin look like a rubber band so it can ‘bounce’ back into place. Without enough elastin, the skin is hard to pull back when you stretch it.

A number of factors can ruin skin firmness, making signs of aging more likely. The most common culprits are as follows:

  1. Age. Again, the breakdown of collagen is likely to increase with age. On the other hand, the natural mechanism of the body produces less collagen after 20s.
  2. UV (sun) rays damage. After age, exposure to UV rays is probably the most common cause to blame for your aging skin. It does ruin your collagen and elastin, making premature aging skin more likely. Also, it damages skin cells. In worst scenario, it can cause skin cancer!
  3. More production of AGEs (Advanced Glycation End-products). AGEs are harmful things formed when sugar combines with fat or protein in the bloodstream. They can provoke aging skin prematurely [1].
  4. Free radicals, unstable molecules that can ruin your skin health (including collagen, lipids, and structure layers of the skin). It causes damage to DNA of the skin, provoking premature skin aging [2].
  5. Dry skin (lack of moisture). As the largest organ of the body, your skin has lots of cells to support your glowing. All these cells need to get hydrated and happy to work well. So, always drink adequate liquids (8 glasses per day). Also, apply moisturizer even though if you have oily skin (for example, use oil-free moisturizer)!

Unfortunately skin in adults is almost impossible to produce more elastin, even if we take medical procedures. But a number of options may help get you closer to what you expect! The key is choosing ingredients that really work, not just ‘hype’.

So, how to firm facial skin?

Loss in skin firmness is an inevitable thing due to natural aging process, and we know it’s almost impossible to turn back the clock perfectly. But there are also lots of things you can explore to look best at your age. 

Even lifestyle measures would help a lot, though these require a long-term commitment since you will not see improvements overnight.

For example, certain face yoga poses may help tone your skin. The same goes for healthy lifestyles such as healthy-balanced diet, good stress management, and regular exercise – all are important pillars for your overall skin health.

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However, sometimes good skincare routine (including the use of appropriate firming products) is also a must to keep the skin firm and supple. Even if necessary, the problem may require a non-invasive procedure to restore the skin elasticity more effectively.

Face yoga poses to help firm facial skin

Facial exercises — face yoga poses for example, would help boost your blood circulation and drive more oxygen to skin cells.

In facial yoga exercises, you learn how to use certain strained facial expressions that drive relaxed muscles and rejuvenated skin of your face. It’s easy for everyone, and sometimes would be effective enough to make skin firmness more likely.

Targeting cheek lines

This face yoga pose trains your cheek muscle to ease or prevent cheek lines.

Look at the mirror. Close your lips and then such the cheeks in (see the picture above), hold for a few seconds (e.g. 10 seconds) and release. Repeat this 3-5 times.

Smoothing forehead

First, frown your face so your eyes and eyebrows closer each other, hold for a few seconds. Then go to the opposite way (lift the eyebrows as high as you can, hold for a few seconds). Repeat 3-5 times.

Toning eye area

Simple, just put your finger at the temples (see the picture). Then close and open your eyelids rapidly. Repeat 5-10 times!

This facial exercise can help tone your eye area, plus you can do it anywhere and anytime.

*Images credit to Nivea


A few tips:

  1. Do these facial exercises regularly, at the same time every day. This is important so you don’t easily forget them.
  2. You facial skin is more sensitive than the rest of the body. That’s why ensure both your hands are clean!
  3. Do these carefully, don’t push yourself too hard. For example, don’t tug or pull the skin aggressively!
  4. If possible, do the facial exercise while you’re lying down. You may gain the benefits most with this way.

What to remember? Face yoga poses or any facial exercises are not everything. Comprehensive strategies are required. For example, it’s much better to do these with healthy-balanced diet, cardiovascular exercise, and other beauty practices to get the best possible boost!

Reduce your AGE (Advanced Glycation End-product) levels!

As mentioned earlier, AGEs are bad for your skin health in long term. High accumulation of AGEs would take a serious toll on your glowing since they are associated with development of degenerative process, including skin aging [3].

Your body is actually equipped with strong mechanism to keep AGE levels normal. It has enzymatic activity (including antioxidants) to keep the level low. But when you get too many AGEs, the body may fail to keep up with blocking and removing them. As a result, they’re accumulated in the body.

Unfortunately, AGEs are also easy to be found in foods especially highly processed foods or those exposed to extreme high temperatures (e.g. during frying, toasting, and grilling). Even ‘bad’ diet is probably the main culprit to make AGE levels increase higher than normal.

Since your diet could be the biggest contributor for the problem, changes in diet would help a lot to control the level. So limit foods very high in AGEs. These include [4];

  1. Animal foods especially red meat.
  2. Fried foods.
  3. Highly processed foods.
  4. Limit also foods containing lots of margarine, cream cheese, and mayonnaise!

If you have to eat them, go with moderation!

Include more fresh-whole foods (e.g. fresh fruits and vegetables) since they’re not only low in AGEs but also high in potent nutrients for your skin firmness booster.

Also, go with more healthy cooking methods like steaming, poaching, stewing, and boiling.

What’s more? Boost your activity level! Being sedentary is likely to drive more AGEs accumulation in the body, one study suggests [5]. Furthermore, it’s clear that regular exercise is always necessary for your overall health, including the skin.

Cosmetic ingredients to firm facial skin

The challenging thing, it’s not easy to find products that really work for your skin firmness. Even many products are just hype.

So to help you sort out some that really work for your skincare regimen, here are some effective and proven ingredients to promote skin firmness more likely.

Retinol

Nowadays retinol is probably the most popular thing to deal with aging skin. It has become a gold standard in anti-aging industry.

Produced from vitamin A, it drives more collagen production in the skin. This reduces wrinkles, fine lines, and makes the skin look plumper. It’s also powerful to improve mottled patches and boost your skin tone.

It’s available in OTC (without prescription). But if you’re expecting more powerful effects, you can see a dermatologist to get retinols stronger counterpart.

Drawback, it makes the epidermis of the skin become dry and flaky. The skin also becomes more sensitive to UV rays after treatment.

So always use it at night. Then apply moisturizer and SPF the next morning!

Furthermore, it doesn’t work for everyone particularly in very sensitive skin. If your skin is too sensitive to respond retinol, these retinol alternatives may help!

Alpha-lipoic acid

Unlike its chemical name, alpha-lipoic acid is actually produced in the body naturally. Even it can be found in almost every body’s cell.

This natural chemical acts as antioxidant, protecting the body from free radicals. And when topically applied on the skin, beauty experts tout it as anti-aging ingredient to promote youthful-looking effects.

It diminishes skin pores and eases wrinkles, making healthy glow more likely. It may also help improve photo-damaged skin [6].

CoQ-10 (Coenzyme Q-10)

Actually, the body has its own mechanism system to fight against free radicals.

Unfortunately, the natural antioxidants produced by the body are likely to decrease with age. As a result, in time your skin is at high risk.

Here CoQ-10 may help! It’s one of popular antioxidants added in skincare products such as creams, toners, or gels.

One study suggests it’s quite promising to help reduce skin wrinkles [7]. You can use a skincare product containing CoQ-10 alone or with moisturizer for more plumping effect.

Collagen-boosting ingredients

As written before, collagen is important element to firm your facial skin. But it’s hard to boost collagen in the skin with something called ‘collagen’ found in many skincare products

Because collagen in these products is usually too large to penetrate into the skin! Even if the collagen ingredient is small enough to penetrate, it’s also difficult to make sure that the ingredient will fuse with natural collagen of your facial skin.

Thankfully, it’s possible to boost your natural collagen production with something else. For instance, topically applying skincare products containing antioxidants or skin-repairing ingredients would help a lot.

Peptides are the building blocks of protein, which is also cell regulator (like retinols) to drive skin-repairing effects. In appropriate formulation, products containing peptides may help boost collagen in the skin effectively.

For topical use, peptides may be used with other ingredient (such as phyto-tensors). For oral use, peptide supplement incorporated in diet is also quite promising to help boost skin elasticity [8].

To gain the benefits most, don’t (only) rely on cell regulator! Instead, include also products containing antioxidants (e.g. flavonoids, vitamins, and polyphenols) in your skincare regimen [9].

BHA and AHA exfoliants

Without question, exfoliation is a must to keep your skin firm and supple.

Your skin has its own mechanism to naturally exfoliate dead skin cells. But this mechanism is likely to degrade over time (a consequence of several factors – the primary ones are sun exposure and age).

Here exfoliation with salicylic acid (BHA) or glycolic acid (AHA) can provide a world of difference to help improve your youthful skin firmness. Both are used to unglue dead skin cells and unnecessary things so your facial skin will look smoother and tighter.

BHA is oil soluble so it works deep inside the skin pores, more recommended for normal and oily skin. AHA also has similar effects, but it is water soluble so it works more effectively on the surface of the skin (more recommended for normal and dry skin).

Caffeine

Caffeine, which is also an antioxidant, may help provide a quick boost for facial skin firmness. Although its anti-aging effect is still debatable, in fact it’s easy to find this natural ingredient in many creams and lotions.

When it’s topically applied on the skin, it may help improve skin wrinkles (especially around the eyes) – one study suggests [10].

It’s probably not clear yet how caffeine (topical use) improves skin appearance. But some experts believe it may work by stimulating better blood circulation to the area where it’s topically applied.

What else?

Again, it’s not always easy to find skincare products that work best for your skin firmness. Sometimes some trial-and-error tests are required.

Whatever skincare product you choose, it bears repeating that what they contain will play a key role. The following are other ingredients (backed by science) to firm facial skin:

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