Episode 100! Facial Contouring




When you think of the names of women who have seemingly defied the aging process, who comes to mind? For me, it’s Helen Mirren, Cate Blanchett, and Judy Dench. These are just a few women who have decided to celebrate their natural beauty. We admire them for their confidence, talents, and sense of style.

In a culture that’s obsessed with youth, it can be difficult to embrace the aging process and be proud of the skin you’re in.

I’m frequently asked, “Is there something I can do to keep the tone and contour in my face without having cosmetic procedures?” 

Many are looking for alternatives to non-invasive approaches to maintain a more youthful look.

Today’s NEW podcast guest is Dr. Naeemah Ruffin, also known as “the face fitness doctor.”

Naeemah is is an Assistant Clinical Professor at Mt. Sinai Hospital and the CEO and founder of Bellantz, which specializes in personalized face fitness with expansive range of exercises tailored to tone the facial muscles to create a more youthful and symmetrical facial appearance. She also has Clinical Skincare line that’s formulated with plant-based natural and organic ingredients to repair, restore, and revitalize the skin.

In today’s conversation, we’ll talk about…

  • Specific facial exercises to lift and tighten certain areas of your face that have decreased muscle tone over time.
  • Evidence-based research that supports facial exercise as a natural facial rejuvenation
  • Facial expressions that are working for and against you

Get your finger dumbbells ready!


[0:00] Kathy Smith: Hi, I’m Kathy Smith, and welcome to On Health: The Art of Living, where I bring you the latest information on how to live a healthier, more vibrant, more passion-driven life. Today’s show: facial fitness. 

Okay, when you think of names of women who have seemingly defied the aging process, who comes to mind? For me, It’s Helen Mirren, Kate Blanchett, Judy Dench. These are just a few of the women who have decided to celebrate their natural beauty. 

So, we admire them for their confidence, talents, and sense of style. But in a culture that’s obsessed with youth, it can be difficult to embrace the aging process and be proud of the skin that you’re in. 

So, I’m frequently asked the question: is there something I can do to keep the tone and contour in my face? The same way I do with my body, but without having to have cosmetic procedures. So, many are looking for alternatives to non-invasive approaches to maintain that more youthful look. 

So, today’s guest is Dr. Naeemah Ruffin, who is also known as The Face Fitness Doctor. Now, Naeemah is an assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai Hospital. She’s the CEO and founder of Bellantz, which specializes in personalized face fitness with an expansive range of exercises tailored to tone the facial muscle and create that youthful and symmetrical face and that facial appearance. She also has a clinical skincare line that’s formulated with plant-based, natural, and organic ingredients to repair, to restore, and revitalize the skin. 

So, in today’s conversation – which I’m really excited about – we’re going to talk about specific facial exercises to lift and tighten certain areas of your face that maybe have decreased muscle tone over time. Now, there’s evidence-based research behind all of this that supports that facial exercise is a natural facial way of rejuvenating the muscles, in addition to correcting some facial symmetry. It might be interesting. I’m interested to hear some of the studies that are even done with people that have Bell’s Palsy. 

So, we’re going to talk also about facial expressions, and that grimacing, or that stress, or whatever you might be holding that could be causing and doing some things to your face that you don’t want. How do we break those habits? Easier said than done, right? 

Well, let me stop talking and welcome Naeemah to the show. She’s lovely, she’s out of New York, and can’t wait to get started. So, welcome, Naeemah. 

[2:41] Dr. Naeemah Ruffin: Thank you so much, Kathy. I’m so excited to be here to talk to you today about what I am very passionate about. 

Kathy Smith: Well, let’s start with that because that was going to be one of my first questions. I mean, I love your background. You’re very talented, you’ve studied in a lot of different disciplines. How did this passion for face fitness, skin, facial exercises – how did this come about, where did it come about, and when did it come about? 

Dr. Naeemah Ruffin: Great question. So, I would say, I think I’ve always had a passion for skincare. Even back when I was nine years old, I would, you know, stand in front of the bathroom while my mom was getting ready for work, and I would just watch her putting on all of her lotions and potions. At the time, I would dip into some of her products. So, eventually, my mom would say, “You know what?” She dragged me to the grocery store, and she said, “You need to pick out your own products because I’m tired of you digging into my Clinique!” 

So, I started with St. Ives. I’m not sure if you remember the St. Ives apricot facial scrub and mud mask. So, I would have my own skincare routine. You know, I couldn’t wait until I could have my own money to buy my own products. 

I tried so many different products over the years, but it was when I had turned 48. I remember looking in the mirror. I said to myself, “Wow, I just look so tired.” I couldn’t figure out… You know, even though I had gotten eight hours of sleep the night before, I couldn’t figure out why I looked tired, why my cheeks just looked so deflated. It was at that moment that I realized, “Wow, is this the aging process that just sort of sweeps over you, and then it’s like downhill from there?”

So, I just wasn’t satisfied with just sort of saying, “Well, that’s it! It’s the aging process,” and just sort of letting things go. So, what I did was I started to do some research around the aging process. 

Now, having spent four years in a surgical residency, I spent a lot of time on plastic surgery rotations, dermatology rotations. So, I know what the facial muscles look like. I know the procedures. One of the key themes throughout all of those types of procedures – whether it was Botox or surgery – was that it all involved the facial muscles. 

So, I’m saying to myself, “You know, it’s got to be more than just the skincare products because I’ve been using great skincare products since I was a pre-teen.” So, how is it that my skincare products have just sort of failed me in this process? 

So, when I started looking into he scientific and medical literature, that’s when I realized that there’s more to it than just the skin; it has a lot to do with the facial muscles. That, for me, was sort staring me right in the face – I mean, literally. It was the low-hanging fruit for an anti-aging routine. Really looking at the facial muscles and understanding they’re muscles just like the rest of the muscles in your body. We exercise those muscles because we see things looking loose and sort of wrinkly. So, we turn that around by hitting the gym and working out and doing all types of activities. Why couldn’t we do something like that with the face? So, that’s sort of what brought me to the epiphany of, “Wow, the facial muscles really play a large role in facial aging.” 

[6:24] Kathy Smith: So, give us a quick anatomy lesson about the facial muscles. How many, where they are, and which ones can you actually target – perhaps all of them – and which ones are more difficult to hit? 

Dr. Naeemah Ruffin: That’s a great question. So, there are over 50 muscles in the face and in the neck – and it varies. I say “over” because everyone’s different. Some people have a few muscles that are different than others or situated differently, but I like to say that there are over 50 muscles in the face and the neck. 

The muscles are different in the face than they are in the rest of the body, in that they’re attached directly to the structures of the skin. So, that is what makes working out the face so much more powerful than actually working out the rest of the body. Because, one, the facial muscles – because they’re attached directly to the skin, wherever the muscles go, the skin goes. So, there are various muscles in the cheeks, forehead, mouth area, and so forth. 

So, when you asked the question about which muscles are sort of easier to target versus others, that’s a great question because there are some muscles that are less complex than others. 

So, for example, the muscles that are less complex are the muscles around the eyes because those are pretty much a ring muscle, and they operate like this. The mouth is the same thing – also another ring muscle. So, those are easier to target. 

When you look at the face – the aging face – what shows the signs of aging first are the eyes. The eyes is usually when you can tell someone’s age. So, targeting the eyes – because the skin around the eyes is so thin and very superficial – you get to work that muscle and see results much faster. So, I usually say within four to six weeks you can see results around the eyes when targeting the upper eyelids, the lower eyelids, the bags, crows’ feet, etcetera. You know, some of those signs of aging. 

Now areas that tend to… Yes? 

[8:48] Kathy Smith: Just sticking with eyes, I remember in yoga – like 45 years ago when I was in Hawaii and taking yoga classes. I don’t know if we consider these facial exercises or not, but they would be this wide-eyes, and looking up, and looking sideways, and circling the eyeball around. Are those versions of facial exercises? 

Dr. Naeemah Ruffin: So, that’s a great question. Moving the eyeballs around, there are muscles within the eyeballs. So, they’re extraocular muscles. Those muscles are responsible for moving the eyeballs around. So, those muscles are good to strengthen as well, but I’m specifically targeting muscles where I understand where the origin and the insertion are, and working those muscles. Even working muscles that are attached to the upper eyelids and working the muscles along the forehead. Over time, the forehead muscles start to attenuate. They get longer because of gravity, and they start to push down. Then, you get the eyelids that start to droop, and so forth. 

So, I get the question a lot about, “Oh, I’ve heard of face yoga,” versus some of the other things. So, the exercises that I developed – the research that I have done and the evidence-based sort of scientific evidence that’s out there – are based on studies and work by oral and facial maxillary surgeons, dentists, and speech pathologists. So, a lot of the work that I’ve incorporated into what I do is understanding from a pure facial anatomy, physiology of the muscles, the biomechanics of the muscles, and then created exercises that stick with those anatomy and physiology principles. 

[10:52] Kathy Smith: Could you give us an example of one exercise for the eye? This is a two-pronged question, and you can answer whichever one you want first. I had heard that you can use your fingers as dumbbells, and that if you put them on your eyelid, and then gently (with not much pressure), use your eyelid to open and close using the little extra weight from your fingers. That could be an exercise to open up your eyes. True or false? 

Dr. Naeemah Ruffin: So, I don’t use… Well, I’ll tell you what’s true. You can use your fingers -your hands – as resistance, in a weight-bearing perspective. So, when you say sort of the dumbbells, you’re increasing the weight of dumbbells because you want to increase the resistance. So, I do use the fingers to create resistance. However, the exercise that you just showed me is not an exercise that I use to lift the eyelids. 

So, there are probably about six or seven different variations of an eye exercise, but the one that I usually start with, with individuals, is helping them isolate the eye muscles from the other muscles surrounding the face. Because one of the key things to exercising the face is first you have to identify the muscles. You have to feel that muscle. The second thing is isolating the muscle from the other muscles surrounding the muscles that you’re targeting. Then, third, being able move them in a way that creates tone in that muscle. 

So, those are the three steps that I use to help individuals understand how to move those facial muscles. Because the muscles in the face are different than the muscles in the rest of the body because, one, they are flat. So, they lie flat on the face versus, let’s say, you look at your biceps. Right? Your biceps, your triceps, and all of your leg muscles, they’re all in what they call fascicles. So, they’re in bundles; all of the fibers are in a bundle. 

So, the reason why exercising the face is different than exercising the rest of the body is that you can do push-ups, or you can take the dumbbell and do your bicep curls. You don’t really have to think much about it. You can just sort of do, just count, and you can kind of zone out a little bit. But when you exercise the face muscles, they are the only muscles in the body that are intricately linked to the brain. So, for example, if I say, “Kathy, you look gorgeous in that dress!” You just responded with a smile, and you didn’t have to think about it. So, that’s one pathway that the brain activates the facial muscles. It’s just an involuntary pathway – automatic. You didn’t have to think, “Okay, Naeemah just said I look very beautiful in my dress. Now, let me smile.” 

The other pathway – which is usually less developed in humans – is just exercising muscles independent of one another. So, that’s where you’ve got to build and strengthen the neuropathways between the brain and the facial muscles. So that, one, your brain can identify, “This is the muscle I’m using,” and then, “I’m going to move this muscle independent of all of the other muscles.” 

So, I’ll give you an example of how difficult that can be when you first start off. Which is one of the reasons why my first program starts at six weeks. Because evidence – neuroscience – basically states that it takes about six weeks to build habits, to form new neural pathways. So, at a minimum, it will take about six weeks to be able to move some of the more complex muscles, like the muscles in the cheeks. 

So, for example, what I would start with in terms of exercising the eyes, is I would say, I would love for you, Kathy, to open your eyes as wide as you can. Great. So, relax. One of the things that I notice – I’m not sure if you did – was, did you move your eyebrows up? Did you move your forehead? 

[15:30] Kathy Smith: Forehead. I noticed forehead. 

Dr. Naeemah Ruffin: Yes, exactly. 

Kathy Smith: Well, I started with eyes, but I wanted to make it bigger and bigger to impress you with how big I could get. I started to lift my forehead. 

Dr. Naeemah Ruffin: Exactly, exactly! So, I would say that’s great that you’ve identified and felt the muscles moving, but I just want you to move the eye muscles without the forehead muscles. So, it would look something like this. 

Kathy Smith: Wow, that was big! That was impressive! So, what you’re saying is… Because your eyes – and for the listeners; some people are watching, and some people are listening. But for the listeners, basically, Naeemah just, her eyes looked almost like they tripled in size – almost. They got very, very, very, very big. You can see the white all around. 

That’s something that, with practice, you’re saying… So, if the first time we do it, you’re just getting a little bit of motion. Then, it’s that practicing, just as you mentioned, in fitness, it’s not the one time with the bicep curl that makes the difference. It’s the consistency of it. 

[16:50] Dr. Naeemah Ruffin: Exactly. So, it’s opening the eyes without moving the forehead because if you want to really work on the eye muscles, you’ve got to just move the eye muscles. You cannot move the forehead muscles because you won’t see the results. 

So, it’s just like if I wanted to work on my quads, I can do squats, but if I’m also moving other muscles and getting in the way, the quads are not just going to get all of that exercise. Because the muscles in the face are so thin and very delicate, it takes all of working that muscle and those fibers together to actually create the results. That takes time. It takes time to be able to move the eyes without moving the forehead, without moving the cheek muscles. Then, over time, you get to then just focus on moving the eye muscles. Then, really working those muscles, too, for results. So that was the first step. 

[18:00] Kathy Smith: That’s the first step. So, we started eyes. I think you mentioned mouth was the other area that has this circular or ring-like muscle. 

Dr. Naeemah Ruffin: Yes, yes. Was there a specific question about that or…? 

Kathy Smith: I would imagine because… I would say that if we polled people – and I’m sure you know better than I with this. But just polling my friends, it’s usually eyes. It’s usually around the mouth, and then it’s cheekbones. Then, well, it goes jawline and neck. I’m sure everybody’s got their own little pet peeve about their face. 

Dr. Naeemah Ruffin: Yeah, the jowls are really big. I go back to the question where you said, “What areas are easier to work than others?” The areas that are easy to work are the eyes and the lips. The more complex area are the cheeks, the jowl area, the jawline, and the neck. Why? Because there are more muscles involved in those areas. Two, those areas tend to – especially the jowls area – you can’t get Botox in the jowl area. You have to just get the surgery. So, that’s where I work with individuals to help them identify those muscles and work those muscles out. 

The jawline area: the reason why that is also very complicated or more complex is that you have the neck muscles here. So, the neck muscles – especially the platysma muscle – originates right below the collar bone. It reaches up, and it grabs all along the jawline on top of the muscles that are already in that area. So, you’ve got to work the muscles of the neck and the muscles around the jawline. So, you sort of have a double whammy when you’re talking about that area. That’s why that area usually takes a little bit longer. It also is a bit more complex in terms of trying to understand and feel those muscles as well. 

The cheek area, you’ve got a lot of volume that you lose over time because of the fat. Over time, the fat volume just decreases. So, you’re left with a lot of just skin and muscle. So, working all of those muscles tends to be a bit more challenging. But that’s the beautiful of, I say, face exercise because, one, you cannot divorce the mind from working out your face. You have to concentrate. It is an exercise routine that requires you mostly to do it in the mirror so that you can actually become acquainted with the muscles, see how the muscles move independently of one another, and then actually watch the muscles start to increase in size – and therefore fill out the volume that was lost because of the fat. 

[21:12] Kathy Smith: Makes perfect sense. I do think that it is almost like a mindfulness exercise. I can imagine – and what I want to get into is how much time do you recommend doing something like this? How long is one of your sessions when you work with somebody? But, in general when working on your own, how much time per day? But I can also imagine that that five, ten minutes – whatever it is per day – is completely getting into your breath. This muscle isolation – which I love doing in my body. I love trying to isolate muscles. I like compound exercises, I like functional exercises where things work together, and then I like to find and just isolate a glut or a part of the hamstring. I find both are very beneficial, but it takes a lot of focus to do that. It really calms me down because there can’t be a lot of extraneous thoughts going on when you’re trying to do those isolations. I would imagine the same thing happens with facial fitness. 

Dr. Naeemah Ruffin: It does. You have described it accurately. 

What most people realize is that it does take a lot of focus and concentration. Sometimes, I will have my clients just close their eyes and visualize the muscle, and then move the muscle. Once they eliminate those sorts of visual distractions, they’re able to move the muscles and gain more control over them. It’s amazing. It does take less than 10 minutes a day. 

So, my base routine that I usually prescribe to my clients two times a day. Some very ambitious clients who want to see results much sooner, they will exercise anywhere between three and five times a day. When you think about it, if it’s less than 10 minutes a day, it’s really not that much of your time. 

It does require that mindfulness. You have to really think about the muscles that you’re moving. It cannot be a check-the-box, “Okay, I did my exercises – one, two, three – and now I’m off to doing something else.” You really have to be in the moment when you’re exercising your face. Because, as I mentioned, the muscles are flat. They’re organized in a very parallel fashion. So, this muscle fiber here is not attached to this muscle fiber. It’s one, two, three, four, five. Versus the cylindrical, where they’re all together. When they’re all together in that big bundle, they’re all touching one another. So, that’s where they can get that power and move very quickly. But with the facial muscles, they’re organized in that very, you know, single file… So, you have to wait and go slow so that you’re being very deliberate when you’re moving those muscles. 

So, it is a very intimate practice because it’s you look at yourself in the mirror, and really just becoming so intimately acquainted with your face, and really understanding how to move those facial muscles independent of one another so you can actually see results. 

[24:38] Kathy Smith: Could I take a moment right now before we jump into facial expressions and how our daily facial expressions impact the aging process and how we look? Before we jump into that, you wrote something in one of your blogs that I wanted to reiterate. 

What I love about your approach is it’s balanced. I think that we can all become very fixated on this aging process. I read an article once, not aging gracefully, but aging disgracefully because there’s something about being a badass and a person that’s living their life to the fullest and stepping into their power. To this other side: taking care of ourselves. The same thing’s true with our bodies. You walk the line. You want to be healthy; you want to be ready for all of the adventures in your forties, fifties, sixties, and beyond. You want to be strong. But the fixation with weight or whatever can also detract from your lifestyle, detract from your wellbeing. 

You wrote something – again, in your blog – and I’m just going to read it. It says, “A key component of understanding how to age gracefully is that true beauty is expressed from the inside out. True inner beauty is neither vein, false, or superficial, and cannot be measured by chronological age. It is ageless, fearless, and lives life without the fear of getting old. It is mature, authentic, self-accepting, and exists as your true self expressed outwardly.” 

So, I love that quote, and I love the fact that you are, in all the blogs and in everything that I’ve read that you’ve done, you’re really about this balancing of, “Let’s take care of ourselves. Let’s not get overly fixated. Let’s manage our expectations, and let’s also live life to the fullest.” 

[26:49] Dr. Naeemah Ruffin: Yeah. So, I’ll be 52 this year. So, I have come to that realization that there are sort of two forces out there in the public. There’s this obsession with youth, and then there’s this sort of quiet movement of accepting where you are but trying to figure out what’s the optimal way to get there, to love yourself, to embrace every season that you’re in – and living that to the fullest without getting caught up in this youth-obsessed movement. 

So, I have seen many women, friends of mine, acquaintances, who have gotten caught up in that movement. That drives them to make decisions that are not optimal for their lives. So, I, on the other hand, have looked at, you know, whether it was my grandmother, or whether it was some of the women that you quoted earlier who decided, “You know what? I love who I am. Aging is a process. It’s just like wine: it gets better with time. Therefore, I want to be able to get better with time.” 

So, what does that look like? So, I’ve had to navigate it for myself. Then, also help navigate it for the women that I work with because what does that really look like? To everyone, it’s very different. But at the core of it, it’s being healthy. Healthy mindset, healthy attitude towards aging, and doing everything that you can within your control to age naturally and gracefully. 

We’ve all seen the 80 or 90-year-old that looks as young as the girl. There’s this youthfulness about her that just emanates from the inside out. That’s the spirit that you want to capture because a lot of that, what’s inside when it’s beautiful and it’s accepting of yourself, it does become expressed. You, inevitably, will look younger without doing anything. So, there’s that part of ourselves that is powerful beyond measure. 

Then, there’s the outer part. You want to take care of your skin. You want to take care of every single muscle in your body, not just the muscles below the neck. So, it’s simply realizing, “Oh, I’ve got some more muscles that I need to work out. I can do that as well.” Because when I really put together the whole aging process and what really causes premature facial aging, a lot of it is the facial expressions. That we’ll talk about because that comes from the inside. Just doing the work on the muscles to counteract the gravity – because gravity is pulling down on every single muscle. Then, once you do the exercises for the face that counteract the gravity, you see much a difference. I mean, I cannot tell you how many women in their 50s, 60s, 70s have said like, “I’m aging backwards. I did not think it was possible! I thought I had to go that other route.” 

But when you work on yourself as opposed to someone working on you – the Botox, the fillers, and the cosmetic surgery. When you work on yourself, when you do the work – facial exercises are you doing the work – you become acquainted with your face. There’s a beauty and an acceptance that comes out of that work that you do for yourself, that you cannot capture in any other way. 

[30:39] Kathy Smith: Love that. I think the way that you presented it today, but also in your blogs, websites, interviews, I think it is exactly on point with how I feel about this journey. 

So, let’s switch gears to facial expressions. We know the obvious ones like squinting, grimacing, maybe anger, furrowing the brow. I know when my daughters were growing up and they’d be out in the sun, and they would furrow here, I’d go, “Oh, just watch that! Watch that or you might be, you know, having some issues.” 

I used to shoot outdoors. I did a TV show in the ‘80s called Alive and Well. I have to say that I would get in the show. It was shot… I’m just going to move a little closer here. I want to make sure the sound is being picked up. Sorry about that. I want to make sure the microphone is picking up the sound accurately. 

So, anyway, we would shoot outside. We shot in the marina in Los Angeles, and there would be the sun. Then, if you don’t have sun when you’re outdoors, they have these big lights in your face. It would just be this test – this struggle for me to not just frown or furrow because I am very sensitive. I have light eyes. My entire life, they’re very sensitive. I think it’s one of the things through my life; I’ve always worn hats, and I’ve always worn sunglasses when I’m outside because my eyes just can’t take all of that light. I end up squinting and furrowing. Mainly, not even for the facial expressions, it’s just uncomfortable. But I would imagine those are kind of the basics that people know about. 

What are some of the things we do with our face that we might not be thinking about? If we are doing it and it’s habitual, how do we break those habits? 

[32:44] Dr. Naeemah Ruffin: Yeah, that’s a great question. It’s a key part of my program: addressing the facial expressions that we have that actually age you. So, regardless of what the sun is doing and anything else, just those expressions alone – even if you have a young person make those expressions – they look beyond their years. 

So, typical expressions would just be if someone is talking to you about something and you want to express your interest, you want to express how engaged you are. That’s sort of listening and looking, and then you’re doing this. You’re wrinkling the forehead. This is literally unnecessary because you can… What I teach is how to show interest without making that expression. That expression is not normal; it’s actually learned behavior because we’ve seen other people do it, whether it was in our own family or what have you. But you can just open your eyes wider to show interest. “Wow, that’s so amazing!” versus, “Wow, that’s so amazing.” You know? There are two different ways that you can express those types of emotions and save your face in the process. 

So, I rarely move my forehead. Some people say, “You must have Botox in your forehead because you’re not moving your forehead.” 

I’m like, “No, I don’t because you can see I can move it. I just choose to use other muscles.” You know, using my eyes, making my eyes wider. That actually is showing the expression that I want, and I’m also working my eyes out because I’m using those eye muscles to open, and open, and open. So, that’s a form of exercise as well as showing interest. 

There’s the phone look, where we get our cell phones, and we just are like, you know, constantly. So, the neck starts to push forward, and the forehead, and you start to look so much older beyond your years. 

I had a client, she was in her 40s, and we started working together. I had her turn to the side on Zoom. I took some photos of her on Zoom, and then I shared the screen. I said, “Let’s look at how you look.” 

She said, “Wow, I look so old,” because literally, she was sort of hunched over like an old woman. 

Then I had her sit up straight, more her neck back. She said it felt very, very strange. I said, “But it looks very natural and normal.” I took some more pictures, showed her on Zoom. Literally, she looked so much younger – the years just fell off! 

So, I practice ballet. Ballet has a lot to do with posture. So, I gave her some posture exercises to strengthen her back and to help her be mindful. If you need to read something, why not bring the phone here, or the newspaper. We’ve all seen, you know, our fathers and grandfathers and men on the trains when they’re reading. They’re not reading like this; they’re usually reading the paper like this. So, it’s literally saving those back muscles, and keeping that posture the right way.

The head is very heavy. So, the more you move your head forward off of the spinal column, the more you’re going to end up with that sort of old, hunchback look. So, that’s something. 

[36:19] Kathy Smith: So, one thing I want to just interject here for people that couldn’t see what Naeemah was doing is the gentlemen on the train, instead of holding it down – whether it’s your tablet or your iPhone or the paper – it’s holding it more at eye-level. I understand. We talk posture a lot, so I understand posture. What I didn’t understand – and maybe you could clarify – is what does that have to do with our faces, our face and neck at this point? Because posture rules – I totally understand that. That banana shape doesn’t make you look younger; it makes you look older. But what impact does that have on your face or neck? 

Dr. Naeemah Ruffin: So, the neck, it has a big impact on the neck because all of those muscles are not being used to hold the head straight up. So, the neck, then, takes on a different posture. Then, the skin starts to sag in a very different way. 

So, what you’re doing is here. In an upright posture, my skin is affixed – straight. But as I start to move it forward, that makes – you can see – gravity starts to have more of an impact on the skin on the neck. So, that’s one thing. 

Also, just you’re thinking about something, you’re not happy about it, you keep that sort of scowl look on your face. Then, you go off to do something else, that scowl look is still there because you’re not aware of your facial expressions in space and time. It’s a mind-face connection that I help to restore because, you know, we all talk about the mind-body connection, and let’s connect the mind and the body. But we don’t talk about what is the mind-face connection. The mind-face connection is way stronger than the mind-body because those nerves are innervating, coming right off of the brain and the spinal column and innervating the facial muscles very quickly. So, therefore, you want to make sure that you are mindful of your facial muscles at every moment. So, that’s really helping to rebuild that. 

So, when we see someone who looks angry or looks upset, and we ask them, “Oh, you look upset. Is everything okay?”

They say, “Oh, I’m fine. Everything’s great.” 

They don’t look like everything is great. It’s because they’ve lost that connection between their facial muscles and what they’re really thinking and feeling inside. So, it’s bringing a greater awareness to that. 

[39:00] Kathy Smith: It’s created that groove. So, we’ve grooved that in. If you are constantly… Let’s exaggerate. Like, in a state of anger or your get angry and you’ve started to groove those facial expressions in, then that creates tension in those muscles, and I imagine more lines, more wrinkles, more whatever. What’s the saying about your face? You grow into your face? A positive person who’s smiling all of the time, has pretty good thoughts, has a pretty good handle on their stress, there’s a way that they will age as opposed to somebody who’s bitter, cantankerous, angry? That also gets, as I said… There’s a groove as if you’re playing a phonograph or something. Those grooves get deeper and deeper and deeper. All of sudden, they just will mold the outside that is more reflective of the inside. 

So, anyway, could be true – maybe not. 

Dr. Naeemah Ruffin: It is very true. It is absolutely very true because the facial expression that we’re talking about, over time, that’s what gets etched into your face. Then, you take on that persona. Even if you change how you’re feeling inside, what is appearing on the face has not changed because that connection has just been lost. So, what I do is try to help one build that connection back. Then, release the tension in those muscles so that we can reverse that they were going. So, all of the lines that are created, we get to smooth those out so that we can work on the appearance of looking younger. A lot of it is just reversing a lot of those premature – I say premature – signs of aging because they are not because of the aging process. They’re because of the habits that we’ve formed over time. 

[41:10] Kathy Smith: Well, we could talk forever about muscles and facial expressions. But I really find the work you’re doing just so helpful. It’s new, and people don’t understand it, and a lot of people think it’s gimmicky, or “I’m too old to be trying something like this. I don’t have the patience for it, perhaps, but I’m also passed the point where it would do any good.” 

Are there better candidates than others for this type of facial work? 

Dr. Naeemah Ruffin: I would say there’s no age limit because I have clients into their mid-70s, late-70s. They actually see results much faster than my clients in their 40s. So, if that says anything, the age is… 

You would never not start working out if you were 70. You know, your body. It’s the same thing. You wouldn’t not want to work out your face. 

But I would say the best candidates for a program like mine are individuals, one, who have a healthy self-esteem, who understand that exercising is a journey, and it is something that you embrace, and you see the results over time. 

Two, individuals who want to maintain a youthful appearance. Not looking like they’re 20, but a youthful appearance. A youthful appearance, really, is just skin that’s healthy, facial muscles that area toned, and facial expressions that reflect a positive outlook on life. That’s a youthful appearance. Just because you have a wrinkle or two doesn’t mean you don’t have a youthful appearance. So, it’s really, to me, understanding what youthful appearance means. I think individuals need to understand what that definition means because it doesn’t mean looking like you’re 20. That’s where I think a lot of individuals feel like, “If I don’t achieve that sort of plastic look, then I’m not going to look young.” That’s just simply not true. 

The other, I would say, is people who have discipline, people who have really good habits, and want to learn more about themselves. Because you inevitably will learn so much more about yourself. 

[43:54] Kathy Smith: It sounds like it! I’ve learned more about myself just in this interview. So, I appreciate that. 

Let’s just wrap up. I know you’re really busy. I appreciate the time that you’ve given us already, but I’d like to just mention skincare. I know you have your own skincare line. Before we talk about your skincare line – or I’ll refer people to your skincare line – can you just give me your top four of what people are doing at home? A woman who is 45 or older, at home… It could be any woman, but let’s just say more mature skin. What would be a four-step process for those of us who don’t like a lot of steps? What’s the four-step process that you would do through the day or through the week? I’m sure one of them is going to be exfoliating because we hear a lot about that. But could you just give us maybe a four-step weekly process that you would recommend? 

[44:54] Dr. Naeemah Ruffin: Sure. So, I would start with a really good cleanser because you want to keep your pores really clear. So, that is essential. Sometimes, you may want to do a double cleanse. A double cleanse is just where you’re taking off your makeup with a cleansing oil, and then you’re cleansing your face afterwards. That’s especially in the evening. 

The second, I would say, is having product. It could be a serum that has really high levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants are so important because, one, they protect our skin from free radical damage. Those free radicals can come from whether it’s sun-induced, or it could be the pollution outside. So, just not only having a serum that has a high level of antioxidants but also just making sure you have that in your diet as well. 

I would say having a really good moisturizer. A moisturizer that contains lots of lipids to help with the moisture balance. Then, I would do exfoliation. So, in terms of… You don’t necessarily have to exfoliate every day, but there would be… Since you only gave me four steps, I’m just sort of throwing in that explanation. But you want to make sure because as you get older, your skin doesn’t turn over as quickly. So, what you want to do is help accelerate that process so that you’re revealing fresh skin cells. So, exfoliation is very, very key. Whether you’re doing an exfoliating mask a few times a week. I use an exfoliating cleanser that’s very gentle and mild, but it helps my skin to stay in that constant state of wanting to turn over. So, you’re revealing that fresh, hydrated, smooth skin. 

[47:01] Kathy Smith: So, exfoliate, but don’t over-exfoliate, it sounds like. Since we’re talking about skincare and products, let’s switch over for just a second: tools. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about different tools. Let’s just see. They are for… There’s one called Gua Sha tool, which helps drain excess fluid. There are beauty rollers. There are microcurrent tools that give little pinch and little shocks to the face. Any of these tools worth purchasing? Do you think we can do most of what you’re describing today through using our own fingers, our own body, and our own awareness to tone our facial muscles? 

Dr. Naeemah Ruffin: So, I’m a fan of tools – the tools that are manual. So, like, you mentioned the Gua Sha. I love the Gua Sha. I recommend using it, especially around the jawline because you want to move a lot of that excess fluids in the tissue. It just feels really good. Also, just using it along the contours as well as around the forehead as well. So, those are great. I use it in the evening when I’m doing my evening ritual so that it just sort of seals everything in. 

[48:33] Kathy Smith: Can you explain it to our listeners if they don’t know what a Gua Sha tool is?

Dr. Naeemah Ruffin: So, a Gua Sha tool is made from jade stone. It’s sort of the shape of a heart. Actually, they come in a lot of different shapes. I use a particular shape that just has a heart shape, and it’s a little tail towards the end. It fits very nicely along the jawline. So, you can actually start in the center of the chin, and just move it along the jawline is either direction. Then, bring it down along the neck. It feels amazing. Also, you can start near the corner of the nose where your nostrils are, and then just move it out across your cheeks and towards the ears. So, that is also amazing. It’s great. I use that to help with horizontal wrinkles across the forehead. So, helping to smooth the wrinkles out as well. 

The jade roller is also another tool that I use. It has a roller on each end. It’s also made from jade stone. There’s a smaller roller on one end and a larger roller on the other end. So, just rolling. It’s a great tool to use at the end of the day. For the individuals that I work with who are trying to work on facial expressions and relaxing and releasing the tension, I recommend using that as well, especially in the evening. Before the day is over, just rolling out those muscles. 

I also, for many of my clients when they work out their face, it’s a great tool to use when their muscles feel a little fatigued in the face. Because eventually they do. Just like any other muscle in the body, when you’re working them out, you’re going to feel like, “Whoa!” I kind of describe the feeling as like when you were a kid and you laughed so hard, you said, “Oh, my face hurts, I laughed so hard!” It’s the same feeling. It’s like, “Wow, I just felt like I worked my face muscles.” So, I’ll have them use the jade roller to relax the muscles as well as help relieve the tension. 

I also do use light therapy. So, LED light therapy, which uses different wavelengths. So, I use that in my practice to help stimulate a lot of the cells in the face that help to reverse the signs of premature aging, like signs in the skin and wrinkles as well. 

[51:11] Kathy Smith: That was so much fun. It was such a pleasure having her on the show today. Naeemah is really quite incredible. It was such a pleasure meeting her and talking with her. 

So, what I learned, and my big takeaway is, when it comes to your body and your face having muscle, it’s all about the qualities that we equate with youth. 

I appreciate that Naeemah encourages aspirational yet really realistic expectations on looking younger, while also emphasizing the inner-self, which is just that approach. I really admire her for the way she’s doing this. 

So, as you begin to shed some of the beauty stereotypes and embrace the beauty of your current season wherever you are in your life – and understand your face, your skin – you’re going to develop a deeper compassion for your body. Really, I guess, what can I say? Love the face that’s smiling back at you in the mirror, because that feels good on a daily basis. We can just embrace who we are, and just keep moving forward, and doing good things for our health, for our skin, our muscles. At the same time, doing good in the world, and just finding out where that special place in our lives right now? Where is that passion that we have, that we can focus on our energy on just making this world a better place?

So, in doing that, I see Naeemah is doing that because she has found her passion, and she has her fitness program. It’s called Naeemah’s Face Enhancing Program. It’s a holistic and guided approach that addresses your facial expressions, your contour changes, and skin health. Everything we talked about on the show today! Plus, her skincare products are made from all potent, organic, plant extracts and botanicals, packed with antioxidants, and made without anything harmful or artificial. 

One thing that I talked about with Naeemah after the show ended is that she’s a cancer survivor. So, it became very, very important for her to develop products that were not only going to help your skin but were also going to be good for you and not cause any toxicities. 

You can find all of this information at her website. I’m going to spell it. It’s B-E-L-L-A-… I’m going to start over. B-E-L-L-A-N-T-Z dot com. Think “bella” N-T-Z. 

That’s very exciting – I’ve got some exciting news! Okay, are you ready for this one? This was a huge milestone for all of us over at Kathy Smith Lifestyles. This is our hundredth episode! So much of this has to do with you guys. This journey, we’ve taken this journey together. You’ve been with me through the different episodes. It’s all your motivation and kind words that have just kept this going for me. It kept me motivated. It kept me wanting to do more shows. There are many, many, many more to come. So, if you have any ideas, send them my way because I’m always looking for unique angles that we can cover on the show. 

Now, to celebrate the milestone, I’m going to give an ask right now. If you could leave me a review on Apple Podcasts, that would be great because our reviews really are a lifeline for people like myself who make podcasts. We kind of rely on you guys putting in a good word for us to keep the momentum going. So, anything you could do, greatly appreciate it. 

Now, you could always check out the archives if you’re looking for more episodes. So, let me give you some of the newer ones. I’m going to rattle these off a little bit. 

If you’re interested in explosive exercise movements that can elicit different responses in your body and support successful aging, remember type two muscles. We start to lose those earlier, and we lose those explosive muscles. You might want to check out the conversation with Pete McCall. That’s episode 99.

Or you can adjust a keto diet to the female body. Specifically, how to tailor the diet for your own body type. If you want to listen to Dr. Sara Gottfried, that was episode number 98. 

Or you might want to jump in and listen to Dr. David Perlmutter. David was the one that wrote The Brain Maker. His new book is called Drop Acid, and it’s about your uric acid levels, and how they might be playing with your metabolic health. 

So, with that in mind, lots to cover. Lots more to come. Love you guys. Until next time, to your health! Have a good one.