I wouldn’t say I’m ever in a good place when I begin a Google search with the words “how to,” but “how to get a better jawline” has to be among my saddest repeat queries. It’s the kind of thing I Google not because I expect to find a genuinely helpful answer, but because I’m obsessed with the question itself, and Googling it is the only way I can think of to rid my brain of it. Not that that works, usually.
The last time I searched “how to get a better jawline” was a few weeks ago, after getting back my (beautiful, wonderful) wedding photographs, when I noticed that sometimes, when I smile, I seem to pull my chin back into my skull, creating a shadow or second chin. This wasn’t news to me, really, but I hate to be reminded — my jawline isn’t weak (I don’t think??), but it’s definitely not strong, either. Nobody would say it could cut glass, which is what I want. You know how Keira Knightley’s jaw is singularly capable of portraying her every emotion? That.
It was with this mentality — the kind that makes you bring a photo of a supernaturally beautiful movie star with entirely different hair from yours to the salon — that I turned to the internet, where I latched onto the first video result that popped up. Titled “how to get a good jawline and cheekbones,” the video is by a youngish man named Dylan Berg, who seems to be a personal trainer. (Attempts to contact Berg for this story went tragically unanswered.) In his video, which runs just under five minutes, an utterly emotionless Berg explains that achieved his admittedly very sharp jaw through a combination of facial exercises he’s here to share. Both exercises, he says simply, are proven by science to help sharpen one’s jawline when done consistently — 20–30 times a day, every day.
I urge you to watch the video for yourself, but if you can’t, suffice it to say that Berg’s exercises are to lift your chin up and drop it down again, and to jut out your chin as if pointing with it. “Now, some of you might be thinking, that’s the stupidest exercise I’ve ever seen in my life,” says Berg. (If you take a look at the comment section, you will find that most people agree.) Not so, he says. He presents his own face as proof.
First I laughed at this video. Then I watched it again. Then I started doing it. For a full week after watching, whenever I remembered, I jutted out my chin, lifting my lower lip in a Joker-esque grimace, and held it there while I counted to ten. I could feel it working, I thought. I would be Kristen Stewart by Christmas.
Then, as I tend to do with most of my impulsively adopted, internet-based practices, I grew tired of exercising my jaw. My wife kept catching me, which was embarrassing, and the back of my neck started to hurt, and I got this mental image of my own head inching forward along my neck until it fell off. Would an incredible, glass-cutting jaw be worth it, in these circumstances? I wasn’t sure.
Though there are many, many articles along the lines of Dylan Berg’s video to be found online, it was surprisingly difficult to find a physician willing to talk to me about the plausibility of my new facial aerobics program. Finally, help arrived in the form of Jordan Jacobs, a plastic surgeon and assistant professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Mount Sinai Downtown in New York. Jacobs was sympathetic to my plight, and told me that jawline/chin-related complaints are probably one of the top three issues his cosmetic patients come to him with. Unfortunately, he says, there is no peer-reviewed, scientific evidence to support the efficacy of facial aerobics like those endorsed by Dylan Berg, no matter what Dylan Berg says.
While he can see why we might think the face could be “toned” by exercise like the rest of the body, the comparison isn’t sound, says Jacobs. Most people’s dissatisfaction with their jawline comes as a result of aging, says Jacobs, and you can’t reverse aging by jutting out your chin. “The changes in the face that lead to signs of facial aging don’t have to do with the muscles,” he says. “They have to do with the skin, and they have to do with fat.” As we age, the fat in our faces loses volume and shifts downward, creating a more jowly effect. At the same time, our facial skin grows looser, and saggier. Both factors contribute to a less-sharp appearing line between jaw and neck, says Jacobs.
Something to look forward to, perhaps, but I am only 32, I tell Jacobs, defensively. He concedes that young, relatively lean people might be able to affect the appearance of their jaws with repeated exercise, but the process would be laborious, and never-ending. I could chew gum constantly, or I could use the Therabite, a jaw rehabilitation device typically used after cancer, stroke, or other facial traumas, and maybe I’d notice a difference, but at what cost? If I stopped, says Jacobs — as with any other discontinued exercise over time — whatever minimal musculature I gained would disappear.
There are nonsurgical ways to sharpen one’s jawline, of course, but those are things like fillers (which can more or less create the illusion of a sharper jaw by widening its volume and making the neck appear correspondingly smaller). Then there are implants, and liposuction, which is surgery, but requires only local anesthesia, says Jacobs. All things to consider. But the main thing I wanted, then, was to send Jacobs one of my wedding photos, and ask where my jawline fell on the spectrum, so he might reassure me, I guess, that he’s seen worse.
Instead I asked him if it often happens that people come into his office with a specific bodily grievance he’s unable to see for himself. “All the time,” he says. “A lot of my specialty is psychology, so if a patient is really seeing something that is perhaps not there, it’s my responsibility as a physician to say I don’t think I can help them,” he adds. I found this idea strangely moving — one of those instances in which you feel better not because your own problem has a solution, but because the problem is boring, and belongs to everyone.