History of Facial Exercises

Grace Milder Culture Course - vintage ad published in 1916

Facial exercises have probably existed as long as people have considered youth being beautiful and attractive. Some claim Cleopatra herself started the trend.

This article concentrates on facial exercise programs that have been officially published, first in pamphlets and later in books and mail courses. You'll meet several colorful personalities who enjoyed their life to the fullest.

I'll continue all the way to the sixties.

Anything published later than that can be found from All Facial Exercise Progams article.

Paris, France - 1710

The French were the first. It was the year 1710 and the first facial exercises were published in a pamphlet. Jeanne Sauval was responsible of collecting them, but she was not giving away her own secrets.

The beauty routine belonged to madame Ninon de L'Enclos who had died 5 years earlier. Jeanne had been her personal attendant for almost 50 years. The pamphlet contained her whole beauty routine, including formulas for facial creams - and her facial exercises.

Anne "Ninon" de Lenclos - "The woman who never grew old"

Anne "Ninon" de Lenclos was a French author, courtesan and patron of arts.

Anne was born in Paris, 1620 and nicknamed "Ninon" at an early age by her father.

Her father had a good position in Touraine region. In 1632, when Ninon was 12 years old, her fathers luck turned and after a duel, he was exiled from France. 10 years later her mother diet and Nino was alone.

Ninon was determined to remain unmarried and independent, even though that was not proper behavior at her time. She had numerous lovers and eventually she did get into trouble because of her lifestyle. She was imprisoned in 1656, but soon released thanks to Christina, the queen of Sweden.

She was known for her beauty that lasted throughout the years. In France her name is pretty much a synonym for wit and beauty. In addition of her looks, she was also famous as an author - and she was writing about things that were not really accepted at that time. You can read more about her life from a book that was published 1903: Life, Letters and Epicurean Philosophy of Ninon De L'Enclos. The book contents are available online.

Here is what Louis de Rouvroy, duc de Saint-Simon once wrote of her:

"Ninon always had crowds of adorers but never more than one lover at a time, and when she tired of the present occupier, she said so frankly and took another. Yet such was the authority of this wanton, that no man dared fall out with his successful rival; he was only too happy to be allowed to visit as a familiar friend"

Ninon died 17th of October 1705 at the age of 84.

San Francisco, America - 1907

Mr. Sanford Bennett's book Exercising in Bed was published. It promises to reveal "the secret of health, strength, elasticity of body and longevity of life", through a full regime of exercises, including several exercises for the face.

A tiny fun fact is that at least one of Carolyn's Facial Fitness exercises is inspired by this book. History contains important lessons, doesn't it?

You can also read Exercising in Bed online. It has plenty of photos and even "before" and "after" clinical examination reports of Mr. Bennett. Funnily enough, the book is dedicated to his hunting buddy Al Fischer!

Sanford Bennett - "The man who grew young at seventy"

Sanford was born in 1841.

Sanford did not get lucky genes. As a child he was "a nervous, anaemic, frail shred of a child".

His father died at the age of 42. His mother's side of the family was not knows for their long lives either.

Sanford was an office worker and as years passed by, he became partially bald. He was also rheumatic and had plenty of minor ailments. At the age of 50 he was an old man in poor health, suffering from a number of chronic complaints and wrinkles.

Desperate to change his life, he devised a series of 35 exercises to be performed in bed before arising in the morning.

After following his exercises for years, he looked like a young man at 70. His face had become smooth and wrinkle-free. And as said, he had clinical examination reports to prove that.

In 1912 he wrote another book on the same topic: Old Age - Its Cause & Prevention, also available online.

Sanford Bennett died in an accident when he was in his eighties, around 1926.

The Golden Era of Facial Exercises
America & Great Britain - 1907 to 1937

Sanford Bennett started the glamorous golden era of facial exercises. Physical culture movement was rising and at the time facial exercises were considered the best scientific method to improve one's appearance. You cannot but laugh when you compare that to the position they have today.

This era is best pictured with the advertisements published in magazines.

On the right you can see an advertisement published in 1919.

The magazine where it appears is actually readable online: Everybody's Magazine, Volume 38

Better yet, original versions of Kathryn Murray System of Exercises For Facial Beauty book are still sold at Amazon, for a whopping price of $160.

The picture that starts this whole article is from this era too, of Grace Milder Culture Course. The year was 1916.

If you want more information and fun advertisement pictures, read Cosmetics and Skin: Facial Gymnastics article.

There is another real nice advertisement from 1937 in Modern Mechanic: How to Look Young As A Girl.

Here are some names for that era: Elizabeth Eve, Kathryn Murray, Susanna & Grace Mildred, Lillian Russell, Annette Kellerman, and Elinor Glyn.

Elinor Glyn - "Women's Erotic Fiction Pioneer"

Elinor was born in Jersey, Great Britain in 1864.

Her father died when she was only two months old and her mother returned to Ontario, Canada. Elinor moved to Hollywood on 1920 to work in the movie industry.

She too was an author like Ninon. She wrote scripts for silent movies, working for both MGM and Paramount Pictures. Still, she is probably most famous for pioneering mass-market women's erotic fiction. Although her works are tame by modern standards, she had great influence on early 20th century popular culture.

In Hollywood she was greatly admired for her wrinkle-free skin. As her family has run into debt, she had to write at least one novel per year to keep up their standard of living. In 1927 that book was "The Wrinkle Book", consisting of facial exercises.

Several of Elinor's books are available in Project Gutenberg, but unfortunately not The Wrinkle Book.

Wikipedia article on Elinor Glyn contains a lot more details about her life.

Elinor died in 1943.

After The Wars

The glam of the facial exercises was wiped off by the war. People were working hard and had less and less time. As cosmetic industry rose, people started looking for easier and faster solutions. That's about the situation today too.

Jack LaLanne - "the godfather of fitness"

Francois Henri "Jack" LaLanne was born in 1914.

He was an American fitness superhero - fitness, exercise and nutritional expert. He was also a motivational speaker and a big proponent of facial exercise.

He started promoting fitness decades before other like Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons. When he was 21 (in 1936), he opened one of the very first fitness gyms to California. Eventually his gyms were all over America.

In the fifties and all through to eighties he had his own television fitness show. Plenty of those episodes contain facial exercises.

The article of Jack LaLanne in Wikipedia contains a lot more information about him.

There is a whole bunch of Jack LaLanne videos featuring facial exercises in YouTube.

Take a look at this video of Jack demonstrating facial exercises at the age of nearly 90.

Look how "raw" those exercises were, yet he still got wonderful results. And look at all that energy, he was so full of life!

Jack LaLanne died in 2011 at the age of 96.

Influences On Modern Facial Exercise Programs

Jack La Lanne was a proponent of "old-style" facial exercises. Around the same time several programs started to incorporate resistance to the facial exercises.

Traditionally, the exercisers did not touch their face. If you try the exercises from Jack La Lanne video, you'll notice that they do stretch the facial muscles. But they are nowhere as effective as the newer programs which enhance the stretch by adding resistance.

As you notice from the All Facial Exercise Programs, there are several programs that appeared on fifties and sixties. But Carolyn Cleaves, the creator of the Carolyn's Facial Fitness, says that there were certain hall-mark programs that had a huge influence on her program.

As all the currently popular programs work on the same principles, I assume other programs have also been influenced by these facial exercise programs.

Face Culture by Dr. Frederic Rossiter (1956)

When the Face Culture was published in 1956, Dr. Rossiter was already an old man. He had published several books on health at the beginning of the century. He started doing facial exercises after he was 60 years old.

Face Lift By Exercise by Senta Maria Rungé (1961)

Senta Maria Runge was born in Europe. When the World War II ended, she was in her twenties and worried about the accelerated aging the war had caused. She created her facial exercise program to get back her youthful look. She moved to Hollywood and in 1959 she appeared in Vogue magazine and her method became popular. Her book was published soon after, in 1961.

In the early sixties, she started her own beauty salon in Hollywood. Eventually, the salon walls were covered with over 12.000 testimonials from her customers and TV-show viewers.

Senta Maria Rungé retired in 1989. Her daughter Christine Rungé still sells the book in her home page.

Cosmetrics by Romana De Vries (1979)

Romana De Vries was born in Czechoslovakia, but she too moved to America after the World War II. She is a registered nurse, but she got interested in muscle rejuvenation already at the age of 14 when she had a serious foot infection.

Romana too appeared in Hollywood TV shows in the sixties and she also had her own line of cosmetics. She kept teaching her method in her salon for decades.

Modern Facial Exercise Programs

The enthusiasm around facial exercise is still ongoing. Today, there are plenty of facial exercise programs to choose from. I have listed them to the All Facial Exercise Programs page.

Go back to Look-Younger-Naturally.com home page.


Amazon, original and reproduction vintage ads sold by Period Paper:

1916 Ad Kathryn Murray Facial Beauty Exercises Girlhood - Original Print Ad

1919 Ad Kathryn Murray Beauty Exercises Book Facial Muscles Skin Care Chicago - Original Print Ad

1916 Vintage Ad Grace Mildred Facial Exercises Beauty - Original Print Ad

Wikipedia: Pictures and details of Jack, Elinor, Sanford and Anne

Sandow & The Golden Age of Iron Men

Carolyns Facial Fitness article To Hell In High Heels

Bennett, Exercising in Bed

Cosmetics and Skin article Facial Gymnastics