It’s easy to make fun of vintage beauty regimens – any beauty fiend who’s watched George Cukor’s 1939 classic The Women is mesmerized by the beauty salon scenes, where Park Avenue’s finest wives are put through their paces. But there’s one salon fixture who’s kept a cult following amongst beauty professionals who make it their business to ferret out the most secret of beauty secrets.
Marjorie Craig Crowley (1912-2003) spent the early years of her physical training career at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, where she taught rehabilitation exercises to patients injured by illness, accidents, or surgery. Hired into Fifth Avenue’s salon culture, Miss Craig (as she was called by her clients) spent several years at the now-defunct Richard Hudnuts Salon before joining Elizabeth Arden as the head of their exercise programs. You could say she was an early personal trainer. And you know those scenes in The Women? Elizabeth Arden complained that the salon was an exact copy of hers, though she didn’t specify whether the treatments were the same…
At the time, most anti-aging advice and was based on the idea that wrinkles were caused by facial activity, so treatments were designed to “iron out” the evidence. But Miss Craig’s physical therapy background taught her that muscle tone is at least as important in the aging process as gravity, if not more so. She believed that it was our habitual facial expressions that strengthened some muscles and left others to atrophy that caused the visible sagging of the face.
So Miss Craig developed exercises to work on opposing muscles, to restore tone and balance to the face. And after thirty-five years of developing and testing her methods, she put her regimen in a book: Miss Craig’s Face-Saving Exercises; A 6-Day Plan Which Teaches You How to Naturally Lift the Sagging Muscles of the Face.
The same people who enjoy making fun of old beauty regimens love to make fun of facial exercises – after all, you have to make these crazy faces, and “women doing ugly things to look pretty” is comedic gold in general. But Miss Craig put herself out there, modelling the exercises (and modelling some good evidence that they work in her own surgery-free visage). And she didn’t shy away from incorporating anatomical knowledge either:
Miss Craig (and her designer) created a layout that showed you exactly what muscle you were working on and why, and her humor and candor regarding the process shows through her working explanations of each exercise.
Each of the thirty exercises in Miss Craig’s program include these detailed explanations, as well as a step-by-step of the process on the facing page. The design is simple, yet conveys so much information.
Facial exercise as an anti-aging technique is an idea that comes and goes. It’s also a thing that can’t be bottled and sold in gazillions of different forms, so you won’t be reading about it in magazines every month. And if it delays aging so you’re not running in a panic to the dermatologist’s or surgeon’s office, you won’t be hearing about it from them, either.
But among natural skin care experts, facial exercises are part of a no-surgery plan to keep the face you have looking good while you go through life – naturally. Even as newer plans and face-saving exercise gurus come along, Miss Craig’s Face-Saving Exercises retains its status as a cult favorite, and for good reason: its straightforward design, in-depth information, and humor keep it relevant. For anyone into natural skin care who’s avoiding “procedures”, it’s worth seeking out a copy. For as Miss Craig says herself, “You will discover that you are the magician that can bring about changes in your face – and just doing what comes naturally is a way to grow older with grace and dignity.”