“If your body can look fit, so can your face,” says Dr. Naeemah Ruffin, assistant clinical professor at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, and founder of Bellantz Skincare.
Ruffin had a corporate job for 16 years, then, at age 37, she went on a medical mission trip to Africa. “It changed my life,” she says. “I went back to my corporate world and said, ‘How can I continue like this?’” She decided to go into medicine, and completed her surgical residency and chief residency training at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, then completed a mini-fellow- ship in dermatology/pathology at Bako Diagnostics.
But things didn’t turn out quite the way she had expected. “Medicine had become very corporatized and I felt like I was back in the same situation,” she says. “It was hard to help people.”
One day, when Ruffin was 48, she looked in the mirror and had an aha moment. “I just looked so tired,” she says. “I began a journey to start looking the way I feel inside. I asked myself, ‘How can I age gracefully?’” Ruffin’s grandmother had practiced a facial rejuvenation regimen. “It seemed like society had moved toward fillers and injections, but facial muscles seemed like low-hanging fruit. Everything involves the facial muscles: Botox paralyzes them, plastic surgeons cut them. I started exercising them and a few months later, my husband said, ‘You look different!’” Ruffin fine-tuned her Face Enhancing Fitness Program and once she started to work with clients, the results were incredible.
She explains that the face muscles are the only ones in the body directly attached to the skin. If you exercise the muscle and it gets toned, the skin does, too. Ruffin offers six-, 12-, 20-week core programs, for 45 minutes per week, and expects her students to practice 10 to 15 minutes per day.
Zoom has brought in clients who have a heightened awareness of how they look on camera. And Covid has changed a lot of people’s values, she says. Many have re-evaluated Botox and fillers. “Over time, your facial muscles atrophy, being that you’re not using them. Facial muscles are intricately linked to the brain. When you have Botox, you don’t show your thoughts and feelings.”
In 2021, Ruffin launched Bellantz, an age-defying skincare line based on natural plant extracts. A breast cancer survivor, she recognizes the importance of what you put on and in your body. “I want men and women to feel and look beautiful holistically,” she says. “But this is not a one and done practice, it’s over a lifetime"