Wanting skin as smooth as a baby’s is natural enough, but there is more to keeping your skin young-looking – and young-feeling – than smothering it in all the lotions, powders, and potions that cosmetics manufacturers say are essential to skin care.

To a large extent, clear, smooth skin is healthy skin, and what’s good for your skin is good for the rest of your body: a balanced diet heavy in fruits and vegetables; regular exercise; fresh air; minimum time in the sun; no smoking; and moderate to no drinking.

You can also help maintain the tone and smoothness of your skin by making this ten-minute massage and acupressure routine part of your day. “In four to six weeks, your skin will begin to feel smoother and it will look more radiant,” says Michael Reed Gach, director of the Acupressure Institute in Berkeley, California. “And if you continue exercises such as these over the long term, it will keep your skin looking healthy and slow the onset of lines and wrinkles.”

Facial massage reduces tension in the muscles, tension that can eventually etch lines in your face. By increasing blood circulation, massage brings oxygen and essential nutrients to the skin tissue and helps carry away waste products from cells. Without this system of removal and replacement, tissues become brittle, leaving skin prone to folds and wrinkles.

Acupressure, an ancient healing art used by the Chinese for at least several thousand years, involves applying gentle to firm finger pressure on key acupuncture points. This stimulates the flow of chi, the body’s vital life energy. The event, sustained movement of chi over channels – meridians – is known to maintain the health of tissues throughout the body.

The following routine addresses six “problem areas” on the face, places where frown fines, creases, wrinkles, and sagging skin most often occur. When doing the exercises, remember to (1) breathe deeply, (2) keep your whole body relaxed, including all the muscles in the face, and (3) apply firm pressure, but not to the point of discomfort.

START-UP EXERCISES

Benefits: Relaxes the face and stimulates circulation.

Smile for Better Circulation Hold the heels of your hands firmly on the outer comers of your eyes. Rest the palms and fingers on the sides of your head. Tilt your chin downward slightly. Smile. Take five slow, deep breaths. Then relax your arms on your lap, letting your face relax, too.

Wipe Away Tension Put your hands over your face, with the heels of your hands on your chin. Keep your hands in this position for a moment, then slowly and gently draw them out toward your ears. Imagine that they are wiping the tension away from your face.

SMOOTH FOREHEAD

Benefits. Rejuvenates muscle tissue in the forehead that, if weak, can cause vertical and horizontal lines.

MASSAGING THE FOREHEAD

Make a fist with your hand. With the palm of your hand facing you, place die flat surface of your fist on your forehead. Gently massage in a circular motion, covering die entire forehead Switch hands periodically.

STROKING THE FOREHEAD

With one hand after the other, stroke your forehead from the bridge of your nose to your hairline. Be sure to mold your hands to the shape of your forehead.

PRESSING THE HAIRLINE

Place the index, middle, and ring fingers of both hands on the center of the hairline. Be sure to direct firm pressure into the tiny indentations on your forehead; each crevice is an acupressure point. Close your eyes and breathe deeply as you thoroughly cover the points on your forehead, as shown, relaxing your mind.

ELEGANT EYES

Benefits. Increases the flow of energy around the eyes, tones muscles, and reduces lines and drooping skin.

PINCHING THE EYEBROWS

Pinch along your eyebrows from the inside out to the temples with your thumbs and index fingers.

ORBITING THE EYES

Place your thumbs out in front of you so that the pads are facing the sky. Then place your thumbs under die upper ridge of your eye socket so the pads fit underneath the ridge. Press firmly without causing pain. Begin at die tear duct and move to die outer edge of your eye socket. Use your index and middle fingers to continue orbiting around the lower ridge underneath your eye. You should lift your fingers off the skin between positions so as not to pull the delicate skin in this area.

STROKING THE EYES

Massage gently in circles around your eyes with your middle fingers. Then stroke firmly from the bridge of your nose out over your eyebrows. Stop and press on your temples, and then glide lightly under the eyes, being careful not to pull the skin.

SOFT CHEEKS

Benefits. Prevents pouches and lines from forming.

PRESSING THE FACIAL BEAUTY POINT

Use your index fingers to press firmly beside your nose across the base of your cheekbones toward your ears. Press the points at the bottom of your cheekbone, pausing at the facial beauty point where there is the deepest hollow. Let your head rest on your fingertip. Repeat this three times. Stop at the most sensitive points and hold them for twenty to thirty seconds.

YOUTHFUL MOUTH

Benefits. Stimulates circulation and helps to prevent little wrinkles from developing around your mouth.

CIRCLING THE MOUTH

Make small, circular movements over your chin and around your mouth with the index and middle fingers of both hands. At the same time, exercise the muscles around your mouth by forming a large O and holding your lips tightly over your teeth. Then exercise the muscles further by making the sounds of “aah,” “ooh,” “ee.”

FIRM CHIN AND JAWLINE

Benefits Tones the skin and muscles in the jawline, reducing and preventing sagging in this area. Prevents sunken look, lines, and double chin from forming.

HOOKING THE JAW

Bend your index fingers and position your thumbs so their pads are facing die sky. Hook your thumbs onto your jawline under the chin. Use the top knuckle of your index finger to press into the top of the jawbone while the jaw rests on your thumbs. Move out toward your ears, making small rotations with the knuckles of your index fingers. Be sure your thumbs are hooked firmly under the jawbone to stimulate the points located in this area. Repeat twice.

LIFTING THE CHIN

The tongue plays a large role in firming up the area under the jaw. Press your tongue firmly against the roof of your mouth. Place the flat of your hand (knuckle side up) underneath the chin area, holding firmly for a count of ten. Then slowly release. Repeat this tongue exercise, but this time pat the area under the chin briskly with your hand. Then hold for a count of ten. Repeat this entire exercise one more time.

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