Exercise Five - Scalp Exercise
This exercise for the scalp muscles is an effective one for lifting the eyebrows and giving a general lift to the whole upper face. But it is an exceptionally hard exercise for most women to learn and to do correctly. Men seem to have an easier time learning it. This page is going to be long because the scalp exercise (SE) will entail a lot of explanation.
The learning process would be straightforward if the scalp muscles at the back of the head were easy to control. They are not. These muscles, the occipitalis muscles, are technically voluntary but people usually have lost control of them. When they are not used they get small (they atrophy), almost to the point of disappearing. The task now is to regain control of them, to tone them up, and to make them stronger. I think the following suggestions will lessen the difficulty in gaining control of these stubborn occipitalis muscles.
First, a bit of trivia. Twice as many men compared to women can wiggle their ears. This has significance. If a man or a woman can wiggle the ears, it means that there is contraction of the muscles at the back of the head. These are the muscles that must be alternately contracted with the muscles at the front of the head during the scalp exercise.
The Learning Process
Step number one in the learning process: Stand in front of the mirror and raise your eyebrows (contract the frontalis muscles). Step number two: Try to pull back your ears (contract the occipitalis muscles). There will be only a small, almost imperceptible, movement at first when you are trying to pull back your ears. The contraction of the muscles at the front of the head will be easy. These muscles are fully voluntary; the muscles at the back of the head will require a lot of work.
Try to visualize the muscles at the back of the head by looking at the drawing of the scalp muscles. Now place your fingers over the two muscular slips of the occipitalis muscle at the back of the head and try to detect contraction when you move the scalp.
Here's a strategy for gaining control of the occipitalis muscles that many people have found helpful: Lie on a bed with the back of your head resting on a pillow. Now as you attempt to pull your ears back you will feel even the slightest contraction of these muscles. The pillow acts as a monitor giving you sensory biofeedback. This biofeedback will eventually enable you to gain complete control of the occipitalis muscles.
Once even a little control is established, full control will be close behind. The first steps in the learning process of muscle control are the hardest. But after some initial small gains, huge progress will be made in just a few days. Don’t get discouraged. Some people learn how to control the scalp muscles fast; others take a little (or even a lot) longer, but everybody who persists eventually gets it.
For more technical information on the impossible occipitalis read this page - Evaluation of the Occipitalis Muscles.
Lines on the forehead
I'm sure the big question many of you will have is this: Will the scalp exercise form horizontal and vertical lines in the forehead? The SE will not form these lines; in fact, it will probably get rid of the lines that already may be there. But just my pronouncement on this will not be enough to allay your fears. I want to give you convincing physiological reasons - reasons that I hope will make sense.
When you look at people who have deep horizontal lines etched into their foreheads, you will notice that their scalp muscles are almost immobile. Look at President Bush or Olympia Snowe, the former senator from Maine. Their frontalis muscles are set in stone: they are in a permanent state of contraction. The medical name for this static muscle condition is contracture. This fixed position of groups of facial muscles is responsible for many of the deep expression lines that form on people's faces.
When you do the scalp exercise correctly, your frontalis and occipitalis muscles will become pliable. You will no longer have that fixed rigid appearance on your forehead. It is that fixed rigidity that contributes to the formation of deep lines.
By doing the scalp exercise correctly, I mean getting the full alternate contraction of both the frontalis and occipitalis muscles. When you finally gain control of the occipitals, you will get an additional benefit. A strong, toned-up occipitalis pulls up and back on the upper face, smoothing out any horizontal or vertical lines that may have been in the forehead. This will also give you higher eyebrows. Low eyebrows and drooping hooded eyelids are one of the first signs of aging. These signs of age will be postponed or even reversed when you develop the occipitalis muscles.
Nonie, who has been doing facial exercise for a long time, wrote some paragraphs explaining why facial exercise in general, and the scalp exercise in particular, do not contribute to line formation. Please read Nonie's view. I like what she wrote and the way she wrote it.
How Many Reps?
I don't worry about repetitions. I do about five minutes - sometimes more, sometimes less. Many facial exercise programs tell you to do five or ten reps of a certain exercise. "A few minutes a day and your face will be rejuvenated." Don't believe it. You'll have to determine for yourself what works and feels comfortable, but don't opt for the easy way out. Doing a few delicate moves won't get the job done.
A Positive Side Effect
The scalp exercise if it's done correctly and often will make your hair look more luxuriant. This side effect won't be evident for many months though. It takes a lot of time for the hair follicles to respond to any type of program because they have to go through the various stages of the hair cycle. So how long is "a lot of time"? I hope six or eight months does not sound too depressing. If you want faster results, I'm sure you'll find products advertised on the Internet that will guarantee "satisfaction" in just weeks.
The Advanced Orbicularis Oculi Exercise
In the description for exercise one - muscles under the eyes - I said there was also an advanced form of this exercise. The advanced form is not easy but once mastered it is more effective than the basic exercise. It is effective not just for toning up the muscle around the eyes but for actually building up these expressive muscles.
Contract the occipitalis muscles at the back of the head, and keep them contracted while doing perhaps twenty to thirty reps of winking one eye and then the other. You'll feel the orbicularis oculi muscles working hard as you do this advanced exercise. This means that they are getting stronger. Two sets of twenty reps is sufficient.
Please read the tips on doing the scalp exercise in the sidebar, especially the one about lubricating your forehead before doing the exercise.
Continue to - Exercise Six
The frontalis muscle at the front of the head and the occipitalis muscle at the back of the head are antagonistic muscles. When one contracts, the other relaxes automatically. It's not necessary to consciously relax one muscle when the other contracts.
The occipitalis muscle, as you can see in the drawing, is bisected by the fibrous membrane called the galea. After you've gained control of this muscle, you can feel it contract strongly.
To check whether you're doing the exercise correctly, place your fingers firmly over these two muscular slips. Now pull your ears back (move your scalp backward). If you feel the muscles bunch up under your fingers, you're doing the exercise right.
After you do the scalp exercise for several minutes - fifty to one hundred repetitions - you'll feel a slight pain in the occipitalis muscles. Bodybuilders call this pain associated with muscle contraction the "burn." The slight pain will disappear as soon as you stop doing the exercise. The burn is an indication that you really are contracting this muscle
Before you do the scalp exercise, it's a good idea to rub some mineral oil on the skin of the forehead. The molecules of this product are too large to clog up your pores, so this is an excellent, cheap lubricant. As I keep repeating throughout this website, It's always important to keep the skin over the muscles you're working lubricated either with water or with mineral oil.
But some knowledgeable people have told me that mineral oil is a product of the oil industry and could be harmful to the skin. Do some research to find out if this is true. Please don't accept my opinions and suggestions uncritically.
As you can see from my photo, I have no vertical or horizontal lines on my forehead. I started doing the scalp exercise because of a hair loss problem when I was 19. I'm now ancient. My hair grew back after 8 months on the exercise. But I got the additional benefit of maintaining a wrinkle-free forehead as I got older.
(This photo was taken with the sun in my face - the harshest kind of lighting. No Photoshop. No horizontal lines.)
Many women and men who I encouraged to do the scalp exercise (mainly for hair loss) have experienced this same beneficial side effect. I have seen one 60-year-old woman in Chicago lose the horizontal lines in her forehead after only a few months of doing the scalp exercise, but this was a dramatic case. It usually takes longer.
All the exercises that I've shown you will take discipline, persistence, and work. Most people, men and women, will not be up to the challenge, but that's OK. There are many things in life that are much more important than keeping the facial muscles in shape.
Still there is a lot to be said for looking good and to continue to look good as you age. I think regular exercise, a healthy diet, and decent health habits are a better way to accomplish this than elective cosmetic surgery.
Skin Cells Thrive on Exercise
As the facial muscles get stronger and more toned-up, the skin becomes revitalized. Exercising well-developed muscles brings increased nutrient-rich oxygenated blood flow into the skin covering these muscles. It also speeds up lymphatic drainage. This rids the area of metabolic waste products, thus possibly reducing facial puffiness, dark spots in the skin, and dark circles around the eyes.
Eyebrows and Age
As people get older - 40 years of age and beyond - the eyebrows start to drop. This downward slide is caused by lack of tone in the scalp muscles, namely, the frontalis muscles at the front of the head and the occipitalis muscles at the back of the head.
The scalp exercise will shorten the loose scalp muscles, making them firm. This, in turn, will gently pull up and back on the scalp and brow area, keeping the upper face looking young.
Wrinkles and Creases
There's a difference between wrinkles and creases but it's hard to define. Creases appear in the skin over various facial muscle formations. They give character to older faces.
Wrinkles are more superficial and more numerous. These can be caused by bad health habits like smoking and drinking, or bad facial posture like holding your expression in a certain static way. The most powerful cause of wrinkles, though, is prolonged unprotected sun exposure.
Facial exercise done correctly and good health habits can partially eliminate wrinkles. But as one reaches really old age, the battle is probably lost.