Youthfulness Through Facial Fitness

Dr. Naeemah Ruffin had an unorthodox journey starting out as a CPA at Ernst & Young followed by an eleven-year stint at Amex. She left Amex as a General Manager running one of their business lines.  Although, she was grateful for her business and management experience, she did not feel this was her life’s purpose.   After a Medical Missions trip to Zambia, Africa, she decided to leave her corporate career at the age of thirty- seven to pursue medicine and public health.

She attended a dual DPM/MPH program at New York College of Podiatric Medicine and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.  Dr. Ruffin completed her surgical residency and chief residency training at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and completed a podiatric mini fellowship in dermatology and pathology at Bako Diagnostics. She is currently board-certified and is an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Mount Sinai Hospital.

The next phase of her journey began at the age of forty-eight when Naeemah looked in the mirror and didn’t quite recognize herself.  Her eyes looked tired, cheeks deflated, and face pulled down.  Although she had a great skincare regimen, a comprehensive exercise routine and a very healthy diet she couldn’t pinpoint what to do.   While Botox, fillers and cosmetic surgery were options, this was not the road she wanted to go down.  She wanted to age gracefully and naturally.

Being an explorer by nature, Naeemah began to read as much medical and scientific literature as possible to address her facial concerns.  She was fascinated by the studies she read about face exercises and how effective they were.  Naeemah started practicing and saw huge results after three months.  She then took it a step further and coached women in a focus group setting where they saw results after four months.

They were all thrilled with the noticeable improvement in how they looked.  The results she witnessed not only in herself but in her focus group of women reinforced her belief in addressing signs of facial aging naturally. As a result, she founded Bellantz, a business focused on empowering individuals how to achieve a more youthful facial appearance naturally through face exercise, skincare, and lifestyle coaching.

Facial muscles provide structure to the face and as early as twenty we start losing muscle mass.  I was surprised at how early the aging process starts.  The loss of muscle mass causes skin to loosen and so the need for toning and firming exercises becomes necessary.  The face muscles are attached directly to the skin.  The inclusion of these exercises in our skincare regime also provides brighter, toned skin.  We also gain an awareness and control over our expressions and facial habits.

Face exercises produce collagen, increase blood flow, and increase facial muscle mass to increase volume. Naeemah’s program involves twice per day for a total of fifteen minutes.  She suggests start practicing six to seven times per week in the beginning and then maintenance of three to five times per week.  A good practice is to do it in the morning and at night. Her clients notice a difference within as little as four to six weeks.

I asked Naeemah why the skin ages.  She said it is a combination of intrinsic (genes, aging) and extrinsic (sun, smoking, drinking, poor skincare).  It is the extrinsic factors that are the most damaging to the skin.  The notion of “well my mother had good skin…” do not apply.  Sun exposure contribute to 80% of skin aging. Further factors in the aging of the skin – after twenty years old, we lose one percent of collagen per year, which is expedited after menopause, due to lack of estrogen.

The best diet for the skin is one low in sugar.  Sugar destroys collagen.  Vitamin C, E, Green Tea, Omega 3 and Omega 6 are very useful.  Eat unprocessed food, fermented products, organic fruits and vegetables and take supplements like Vitamin C, E, Green Tea, Omega 3 and Omega 6.  The sun breaks down collagen and so does blue light (from the computer), so it is very important to use sunscreen (even in doors).

There are over sixty muscles in the face and neck.  When Naeemah works with her clients, they can opt to focus on a particular area of their face OR opt to exercise the entire face from the forehead down to the bottom of the neck (above the collar bone).  The face exercises work on horizontal forehead lines, the 11 lines in between the eyebrows, nasal folds, droopy cheeks, the jaw line, marionette lines around the lips, double chins and crepey skin.  They tighten the skin and can correct asymmetries of the face.

Naeemah works with her clients one on one and group classes can also be arranged.  Generally, clients sign up for a 6-week, 12-week or 20-week program depending upon the facial target areas.  One of the outcomes of this program is that people get to know their face.  They do the exercises in the mirror, and it is an opportunity to bond with their face.  In this bonding experience, they can also grow to love themselves in new and unexpected ways.  We exercise our bodies, and it makes total sense to exercise our face as well.  It provides balance and comprehensiveness to our self- care and beauty regime.


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