DECODED: Sanford Bennett face exercises

Are you here looking for info on how to do Sanford Bennett’s face exercises? Good, because that’s what you’re going to find in this article.

I felt the need to put this guide together after trying to find the very same information on the internet. However, the only things that came up were websites where people have created their own facial exercises “inspired by” Sanford Bennett’s face exercises. Upon closer examination, these exercises bear no resemblance to the ones he wrote about in his two books, Exercising in bed (published in 1907) and Old age—its cause and prevention (published in 1912).

I went on to read both of these books which were fascinating but also a bit hard to follow. Especially the second book which felt like wandering around in a maze. The exercises are not grouped together and the pictures are not near the explanations. Not only that, a lot of the information is repetitive.

So I’ve done my best to decode these facial exercises by grouping the explanations and pictures together. Some of the explanations are verbatim and others are summarized. They will be in order starting from the top of the face and working down to the neck. I have also added my own comments and suggestions as needed.

Sanford Bennett

Sanford Bennett (1841 to 1926) called himself “the man who grew young at seventy” and his before and after pictures seem to back that up. I believe he was a visionary and I encourage you to learn more about him by reading his books (linked at the end of this article).

Sanford Bennett before and after

Sanford Bennett before and after

He developed his face exercises based on a pamphlet that was used by Ninon de L’Enclos (1620 to 1705). She was known as the woman who never grew old. Here’s her portrait at age 70.

Ninon de L'Enclos age 70

Ninon de L’Enclos, the woman who never grew old

General directions

  • All these exercises are meant to be done lying down.
  • Don’t be too vigorous with friction and massage because you might chafe the skin and/or make the muscles sore.
  • Two methods for facial rejuvenation are discussed: facial massage and rubbing out wrinkles. I believe the facial massage is meant to be done dry, while rubbing out wrinkles is meant to be done using a little oil or skin cream for lubrication. Therefore I think it makes more sense to do the facial massage first, followed by rubbing out wrinkles.
  • The exercises should be performed once a day. Bennett said his full body and face exercise routine took about an hour. Just doing the face exercises should take a lot less time.

Facial massage

The skin, like any piece of leather, is improved by friction using dry palms and fingers. It will remove fine lines and wrinkles.

You may temporarily create new lines because vigorous massage may rapidly remove underlying fat deposits. New fat will form again quickly and the face will resume its former condition with some slight improvement also.

Facial massage is performed by contracting the muscles while massaging with the hands in place on the skin.

Bennett also claims that friction with dry palms and fingers will whiten the throat and brighten the sides and bridge of the nose.

Here are diagrams of the facial muscles that will be worked.

facial muscles

Exercising the temples

Firm rubbing of the temple muscles with the palm of the hand will develop the sunken muscles. Frequent friction towards the corner of the eyes will smooth the temples and remove crows feet. Do this for several minutes.

Alternate this process by striking rapidly with the tips of the fingers. This percussion action carries blood to the part being treated and will help promote the growth of tissue.

In time the shrunken muscles will be increased, even to the plumpness of youth, and the crows feet will disappear.

Sanford Bennett temple exercise

Sanford Bennett temple exercise

Exercising the cheeks

The first book contained two cheek exercises. During the five years between the first and second book, Bennett devised simpler and more effective cheek exercises. Those are the ones I’m presenting here.

If you would like to read about the original cheek exercises, please refer to page 217 of Exercising in bed (linked at the end).

Cheeks (first exercise)
Contract or bunch up the cheek muscles. Press your palm firmly on the cheek and rub firmly, deliberately and well towards the temples or corners of the eyes.

Start with 10 to 15 movements and increase as you see fit. You can do one side at a time or both sides at once.

This exercise strengthens the large circular muscle around the eye and will prevent sagginess. It will also develop the cheek muscles which will make the hollows disappear.

Sanford Bennett cheek exercise

Sanford Bennett cheek exercise

Cheeks (second exercise)
Draw up both corners of the mouth in the position of an exaggerated smile. This will bunch up the supporting muscles on the upper part of the cheekbones immediately below the corners of the eyes.

Now drop the chin to its utmost extent. This will place further tension on the cheek supporting muscles. In this position, open and close the jaws and steadily rub with the palms of the hands.

This will enlarge the muscles, giving support to the overlying skin and tissue which will give the cheeks the rounded appearance of youth. Over time there will also be an increase in color and a more youthful appearance.

No further instructions were given so I’m suggesting opening and closing the jaws 10 to 15 times.

Exercising the mouth

This works the circular muscle surrounding the mouth to prevent or correct drooping and sagging. Insert your little fingers into your mouth and alternately pull and relax.

While not stated, the mouth should be tensed during the exercise.

Duration is not specified so I’m assuming you start with 10 to 15 reps and work up as you see fit.

Sanford Bennett mouth exercise

Sanford Bennett mouth exercise

Exercising the chin

Rest the chin on the palm of your hands and contract the muscles (set the teeth firmly). Press firmly and rub the underlying muscles vigorously. This is the same method described for the muscles surrounding the eye but requiring more pressure.

The position of the hands should be continually shifted for the most rapid muscle growth.

Duration is not specified so I’m suggesting remaining in each position for about 10 seconds.

Sanford Bennett chin exercise

Sanford Bennett chin exercise

Exercising the jaws

Deep massage with the heel of the hands along the edge of the jawbone (with the teeth firmly set) will result in a rounder, more youthful appearance.

No further instructions are given but I think it’s implied that your hands should be repositioned until the entire jawbone is massaged.

Duration is not specified so I’m suggesting remaining in each position for about 10 seconds.

Sanford Bennett jaw exercise

Sanford Bennett jaw exercise

Exercising the throat

Three exercises are shown for the throat/neck area.

Throat (first exercise)
Lie on your side with your head on a pillow. Place your thumb on the throat under the chin (or at about the center of the muscle which extends from the adam’s apple to the chin). If you lie on your right side, use your right thumb, and vice versa.

Bring the head forward, chin to chest, then back again, while keeping pressure with the thumb. Start with 10 reps and work up to 50.

Repeat on the other side.

Sanford Bennett throat exercise 1

Sanford Bennett throat exercise 1

Throat (second exercise)

Lie on your side with your head on a pillow. Turn the chin as far as possible toward the upper shoulder. This will contract the sides of the neck. Drop your head back on the pillow and relax. Start with 5 reps and work up to 50 or more.

Repeat on the other side.

Sanford Bennett throat exercise 2

Sanford Bennett throat exercise 2

Throat (third exercise)

Lie on your back with a pillow under the shoulders for greater stretch.

Throw the head back as far as possible and bring it forward toward the chest. Begin with 5 reps and work up to 100.

Helps to reduce a double chin and is also good for the abdominals.

Sanford Bennett throat exercise 3

Sanford Bennett throat exercise 3

Exercising the neck

For developing and strengthening the neck, lie on your back with a pillow under your head. Clasp the back of your head with your hands.

Raise your head off the pillow then press it backwards while using resistance from your arms. Start with 5 reps and work up to 25.

Sanford Bennett neck exercise

Sanford Bennett neck exercise

Rubbing out wrinkles

In commencing the friction treatment and to keep the skin in place while you rub, stretch the skin with the first and second fingers of one hand and rub with the other, or the palm of the hand.

The points needing the most attention will be the corners of the eyes, mouth, temples and immediately in front of the ears. To prevent chafing some lubricant (oil or face cream) must be applied at the points you’re rubbing.

To tighten wrinkles, after using friction, spread raw egg white over the wrinkles with a shaving brush. Let sit to dry for five minutes. As it dries, the skin tightens up. Rinse off with pure, warm water.

Egg white is a powerful astringent that should remain on the skin for a short time as it may cause the skin to shrivel. Therefore, this method should be used with caution.

The frequency for the egg white treatment is not stated so I’m suggesting it only be done once or twice a week.

Afterwards wash the face with soap, dry off and apply a thin layer of vaseline. Rub in and wipe off the excess, which will leave the skin soft, smooth and not shiny.

I believe this step is optional.

For more information

Exercising in bed

Old age—its cause and prevention

I welcome your questions, comments and suggestions. I would love to hear about your experience with Sanford Bennett face exercises.