Limber Up Your Lips, Ladies!



Photo from “Facial Exercises 1: Discover a Lovelier You” via Woman Alive magazine, 1972


“In the early 20th century, a man named Sanford Bennett wrote rapturously about his face workouts in a book called Exercising in Bed,” explains Elizabeth Weingarten in Slate magazine. “Troubled by how quickly his face and body had aged, Bennett began exercising at age 50; after two decades, he was a regular Benjamin Button, known by some as ‘the man who grew young at 70.'”

Taking Sanford’s cue, an entrepreneurial gal by the name of Kathryn Murray published her System of Exercises for Facial Beauty in 1912, which was advertised far and wide as a veritable fountain of youth:



Now, before you dismiss these early facial fitness gurus as mere snake oil vendors, consider this:

“[T]he action of a muscle drawing in blood to itself [is] very important to the effect of my exercises for keeping youth and beauty in the face,” wrote English novelist Elinor Glyn in 1927. “The reason for this is fairly obvious, I think. The blood is the life, in it are contained all the gland secretions and nourishment of the body which are necessary for its upkeep and wellbeing. Therefore, if you draw blood to the flesh of any given part you nourish and renew it.”

It’s hard to argue. Much to the dismay of the multi-billion dollar cosmetic industry, Glyn’s wisdom makes darn good sense to this day.

Does facial exercising erase all signs of aging?

Don’t I wish.

Even so, contorting one’s cheeks is completely toxin-free, infinitely cheaper than cream and lotions, and …

it feels good. A real stress reliever.

Yup, I’ve done it for years after featuring the idea in my magazine eons ago, but you’ll find no photographs of me “drawing blood to my face.” Confession: I do it when I drive. Alone. On empty country roads.

So, give it a whirl, farmgirl—here’s a whole series to inspire you, from a 1966 record album called Facial Exercises and Massage Routines for Skin Beauty:


Photos courtesy of


Photos courtesy of


Just be sure to keep in mind the words of Lillian Russell, published in the Washington Herald in 1911:

“The use of facial massage and good cold cream or skin food will be found generally beneficial, but the most important factor in all beauty, as in health, is the mental attitude. If you would be beautiful, avoid all thoughts of evil, all unkindliness, all malice, all worry and dislike; learn a broad tolerance of sin and weakness and a general love for all mankind. Realize that no one can injure you but yourself. Take this mental attitude and try to maintain it at all times. You may not wholly succeed, but you will not wholly fail, and then, as day after day you make the same effort to live upon a higher plane, your face will relax and its contour soften.”


  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I love Lillian’s advice from 1911 because it resonates with me as absolutely true. Our internal attitude is reflected on our facial expressions without us even knowing it. How many times has someone asked you, what is wrong when you haven’t mentioned a word about anything?

  2. Pamela Caldwell says:

    There’s also a great book called Facercize by Carol Maggio. Works for me.

  3. nan meyers says:

    Please run this again in MaryJanes Farm magazine!

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