How to ‘work out’ your face muscles to look more contoured

Jodie Comer is just one celebrity client at aesthetician Jasmina Vico's facial massage clinic
Jodie Comer is just one celebrity client at aesthetician Jasmina Vico's facial massage clinic - WireImage

The beauty industry has long revolved around the business of ironing out wrinkles and smoothing the skin back to a “youthful” state. Over the past decade there’s been a boom in fillers designed to artificially give the face more volume and structure. According to a study by University College London, the dermal filler market is projected to reach a value of £11.7 billion by 2026.

While filler, in the right hands, can be effective in restoring lost volume, the tide is shifting. There is a new desirable look in town: the “fit face”. Think muscle that is sculpted and toned and exercised (much like you would train your biceps and quads) lending for skin that looks naturally contoured and not over-filled. And if you have a few wrinkles, who cares? The “fit face” is youthful with a focus on good, healthy skin rather than ironing out the lines.

You only need to take a scan of pictures at recent red carpet events to see that faces are looking more sculpted. Take Demi Moore, for instance, who perhaps favoured a fuller look in the past but her face is looking more toned and contoured as she ages. Sienna Miller also has all the classic signs of the “fit face”: luminous, glowing skin with sculpted cheekbones and jawline.

Sienna Miller: 'all the classic signs of the "fit face"'
Sienna Miller: 'all the classic signs of the "fit face"' - WireImage

I’ve been on the quest for a “fit face” myself: having lost a couple of stones in the past year, the result was evident in my face. While my face had slimmed, it suddenly looked a little more jowly. My skin muscles looked more lax, and my once high cheekbones had, well, deflated. As we age we naturally lose volume from the face, too, which is why focusing on the face and “working out” the facial muscles is so important.

Get the look

Hit the (Face)gym

The answer isn’t always injectables. “Filler fatigue is real,” says Inge Theron, the founder of FaceGym, whose chain of salons aims to exercise and tone the 40 face muscles of its customers through intensive massage techniques and beauty devices. Think of it as a HIIT workout for the face. “Gradually the industry has been moving towards a more natural approach,” she adds. As well as giving a more toned and sculpted look to the face, interestingly almost half of FaceGym’s clients are men looking for a more toned jawline, too.

Treatment stacking

The London-based aesthetician Jasmina Vico, who sees Jodie Comer and Margot Robbie on the regular, agrees. She is one of the best experts in the fine art of facial improvements using machines and massage alone. You won’t find any injectables in her clinic; it’s all masterful gadgetry that tones and sculpts the face.

Margot Robbie is a client at Vico's clinic, which focuses on facial massage over filler treatment
Margot Robbie is a client at Vico's clinic, which focuses on facial massage over filler treatment - FilmMagic

To exercise the face, Vico uses an intra-oral laser which acts to help lift and tighten the cheekbones from within the mouth. This isn’t painful. She calls the resultant look the “reverse gravity effect”, which is possibly the most appealing name for a facial ever. “You go inside…and it reflects on the outside. It’s like decorating the house,” says Vico. She does this treatment for a lot of celebrities before a red carpet event, as “you find the jawline and cheekbones.” I’m keen to find mine too.

Vico also uses a lot of electro muscle stimulation (EMS) and radiofrequency in her treatments, two long-standing tried-and-tested methods of rejuvenating and toning the face. The former feels like an intense workout and the latter helps to stimulate and boost collagen production. While the EMS feels odd, it’s not painful, and the heated massage tool used for radiofrequency is just plain lovely.

“The more you do these treatments, the more the muscles will stay in place,” explains Vico. Both of these gadgets are used alongside a proper, intensive facial massage. Just a word of caution: radiofrequency should be used in the right hands and by an experienced aesthetician, like Vico, who best understands the facial fat pads. The aim is not to melt volume in the face.

Of course there are people who actively choose to remove fat from their face. Designed to make the cheekbones “pop”, buccal fat removal is one of the latest aesthetic trends doing the rounds. It’s a big no-no from Vico, because, she points out, as you age you will lose volume in your face anyway. As we get older, the teeth move and the bones recede. If you’ve already removed buccal fat, you’ll likely look gaunt and sunken over time.

Injectables done correctly

If injectables are your thing, there are ways of achieving a more natural look rather than a heavy-handed dose of filler. The general practitioner and aesthetic specialist Dr Christine Hall, who operates at The Taktouk Clinic in Knightsbridge, says that she is seeing an increase of clients coming to see her with faces that have lost fat, and the desire of overall more tone. “Loss of fat makes us look older,” she tells me. “It can make us look drawn or sunken, with hollowing of the eyes. If we lose weight or as we age, the fat compartments in our skin – the pads which keep us looking youthful – drop down.” This is the anti “fit face”.

Dr Hall explains that a younger face is like an inverted triangle – which doctors call the “triangle of youth”. This equates to more volume in the temples, higher cheekbones and a slimmer jawline and chin. It’s a very youthful ideal. But as we age, this triangle turns the other way: with loss of volume in the temples and cheekbones and displaced fat pads submitting to gravity and causing jowls. It is this shift in fat pads that really affects your face, and it’s these fat pads we need to exercise.

So how can we remedy this sunken and deflated skin? For volume loss Hall has several options. The first is likely the most popular option: hyaluronic acid filler, which gives an immediate lifting effect, and does the required work of restoring lost volume. “This is what filler is really meant for,” offers Hall, rather than a tool in adding excess volume or shape to the face.

On one hand fillers are a fantastic quick fix, and in the right hands can produce really lovely results. You can see immediate change, too: filler can give the impression of a more lifted jawline and toned cheekbones within an hour. The problem is if you notice someone who has had filler, they’ve either had too much or had volume injected in the wrong places.

Alternatives to filler

Dr Marco Nicoloso at the Ouronyx clinic in London says: “Addressing volume loss, particularly in the cheeks, is crucial. Sunken appearance, reduced jowl prominence, and lax skin are common concerns that need attention,” he says. Nicoloso likes to use HarmonyCA, a new hybrid biostimulator, an injectable which provides a lifting effect, but also kickstarts collagen production post-treatment, leading to substantial improvements in skin laxity. Used in conjunction with skin toning devices and good skincare products, you can get a lovely result.

At home devices

If you are keen to strengthen and work on your muscles from home, I really recommend the NuFace Trinity. It’s an at-home microcurrent toning device that tones and stimulates the muscles around the jawline, cheekbones and temples. Dubbed “the five-minute face lift”, you can notice a slightly lifted appearance after one use – but you’ll need to use it five times a week for at least a few months to really notice a change.

nu face
nu face

The Nu Face Trinity Facial Toning Device, £328, CurrentBody

This sounds like a lot, but in practice if you’re already removing make-up and applying skincare every night, a few more minutes using a toning device might be easier to work into your routine than you think. And considering the initial hefty outlay, you get bang for your buck with a techy device promising better skin at the click of a button. Hall adds that if used consistently, microcurrent can help to keep fat pads where they’re meant to be, giving the overall effect of a “fit face”.

Five skincare products to help lift the skin


The Elevator, £68, Trinny London

Designed for the neck and decolletage, this serum helps to lift and tighten the neck area with continued use.


Peptides & Antioxidants Firming Daily Treatment, £121, Allies of Skin 

This brand is one of my favourites for active but tolerable formulas. This gentle, effective treatment is a great all-rounder.


Supernatural Vitale Face Elixir, £85, Emma Lewisham 

You can feel an immediate tightening effect from this serum, which also hydrates and plumps.

skin rocks
skin rocks

The Gentle Acid, £49, Skin Rocks 

Developed by the leading skin expert Caroline Hirons, this gentle toner gives your skin clarity and glow.


Multi Sculpt Gua Sha, £53, FaceGym

This six-sided tool helps with lymphatic drainage and puffiness in the face, as well as sculpting the cheekbones.