Saving face


Forget about expensive face creams and Botox injections. SANDRA O’CONNELLattempts to rediscover her youth by enrolling in a four-day facial rejuvenation clinic in Turkey

SO THERE we were, me and the nice woman from the Guardian, with our hands on Marja Putkisto’s bottom. The idea was to witness how she – creator of a form of deep-stretch exercises called Method Putkisto and a household name in her native Finland – walked.

Our ambulation was all wrong, apparently. Just placing one foot in front of the other isn’t nearly enough. Putkisto’s version involved engaging the deepest muscles in her buttocks. Our instruction was to grope around until we could feel them in action.

For a split second it occurred to me that we were on Naked Camera, or the YouTube generation’s equivalent. Certainly, to the residents of the hotel looking down on our waterside exercise session, we must have looked a kinky bunch.

In fact there was nothing kinkier about it than the search for eternal youth – and, for a bunch of middle-aged women at least, what could be more natural than that?

We were in Turkey for Putkistor’s four-day facial rejuvenation clinic. The aim was to achieve a natural facelift, but somehow the focus had headed south, with a quick detour into ensuring our gluteus maximus didn’t become what she termed a gluteus blobius.

There is certainly nothing blobby about Putkisto. Whatever angle you approach from, she looks fab. At 50 years of age she is the best advertisement for her own techniques. The photographs on her own website don’t do her justice – in the flesh she looks 30.

But, as she has spent 25 years in the fitness industry, you’d expect her body to be well honed. It was the eight years of research she put into developing her facial exercise programme we were here to find out about.

The genesis of her idea was this: women spend billions each year on anti-ageing creams for their faces that, deep down, they know don’t really work. But to keep their bodies in shape they turn to exercise, which, they know equally intuitively, does. So why not develop an exercise programme for the face? That is precisely what Putkisto has done.

Which is why, as the sun bounced off the wild Lycian coast, we sat on beanbags scrutinising her for fine lines, a bunch of sceptical hacks who arrived announcing that our faces just weren’t something we thought all that much about. We lied, obviously. I doubt Putkisto ever had a more rapt audience.

So, ladies, given the constraints of time and space, do you want to hear about the gorgeous Deniz Feneri Lighthouse hotel we stayed in? The charming nearby town of Kas? Or do you want to know how to keep your face wrinkle free? Thought so.

First up are the eyes. Other than from sun damage, which is avoided with sun block, wrinkles apparently only occur around our eyes because we don’t use the muscles surrounding them sufficiently.

The answer to how to prevent this is a series of strengthening exercises designed to get you looking into the corner of your eyes, followed by tapping techniques to help tone up the area from your cheekbone to your brow. After that it’s a series of very gentle massages designed to redistribute the sagging contents of your face (“like wool under silk”), to plump up your cheeks and eradicate the bunny lines beside your nose manually.

From there it’s on to the mouth, rolling your lips round your teeth, positioning the bottom lip over the top and then smiling, to stop it drooping at the sides.

Turkey neck, caused by the collapse of the muscles designed to hold the scaffolding in front in place, is dealt with by further grimacing, stretching and even vocal vibrations.

Once that’s all sorted the course moves on to posture. The trick here is to prevent the neck from rounding its way down, millimetre by millimetre, to a dowager’s hump.

Posture is key because youthfulness has nothing to do with beauty, according to Putkisto, who says it’s all about freedom of movement.

Her primary message is that we don’t lose our ability to move freely with age. Rather we throw it away by gradually decreasing the number of movements we use in our daily lives, until we’re left shuffling and immobile. Our faces atrophy in just the same way, and no amount of Botox can prevent that. Only exercise.

Does the Method Putkisto facial exercise programme work? Ask me after 10 years of gurning and grimacing. Is it a great few days away? Absolutely.