What is facial or cosmetic acupuncture, and how does it work?
Cosmetic acupuncture, also known as acupuncture facial rejuvenation, is a safe, non-toxic, and holistic method of treating the skin. Specific protocols are used to reduce early to progressed signs of facial aging. These techniques don’t just limit themselves to one area of the face and are applicable to eye areas, neck, décolletage, mouth, forehead, and jaw areas.
It should be noted that acupuncture administered on points on the neck and face not only help to reduce signs of age but extend to many other health benefits. These include improving mood, helping with sleep and digestion, and balancing the nervous system.
The treatments are performed with the patient fully dressed while allowing access to the arms, legs, neck, and belly areas. Many points on the Stomach, Large Intestine, and Spleen meridians are chosen for women because of their ability to “raise the Qi” and “tonify Blood.” There is a saying in Traditional Chinese medicine that “women are ruled by Blood and men are ruled by Qi.” Generally, women tend to have more issues with aging skin due to this phenomenon, since the lowering of hormones due to aging can lead to dryness and poor circulation. The face develops fine lines, sagging, and discoloration. It is, incidentally, also the reason that women tend to develop more issues with frozen shoulder syndrome and tendinitis (Blood nourishes tendons and connective tissues).
Why choose facial rejuvenation over other more popular cosmetic procedures such as Botox and fillers?
Many women I have worked with have had Botox, dermal fillers, and other cosmetic procedures and have found the results to be good, but temporary, or else they do not wish to “overdo” it with these treatments. Other women simply want to try something more natural and beauty-enhancing.
Acupuncture needles used on the face are extremely fine, even thinner than the ones used on the body, and are specifically designed for facial skin, which is more than 70 percent thinner than body skin. They work by stimulating chemicals in the tissues surrounding the point and thereby induce many healing processes including stimulating collagen and enhancing lymphatic exchange at the needle site.
What are some of the cosmetic benefits of facial acupuncture?
The results of cosmetic acupuncture treatments reflect not only a change in external appearance but also an improvement in total body wellness. In terms of the face and skin, you may notice that cosmetic acupuncture helps reduce:
- Wrinkling of skin around the mouth
- Forehead furrows
- Frown lines
- Sagging necklines
- Deep laughter lines
- Sagging skin
- Drooping jawline
- Crows feet
- Drooping eyelids
- Eye puffiness
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Dark/age spots
- Redness or blotchy skin tone
Is cosmetic acupuncture a good alternative to Botox and dermal fillers?
An advantage to cosmetic acupuncture is that it is a gentle method that does not damage the deeper layers of the skin or dermis, whereas collagen and dermal fillers can potentially deconstruct the basement membrane that underlies the epidermis and actually distort the template of the face. A study published in the Journal of Biomechanics showed that paralyzing the muscle with Botox could lead to a breakdown of both the bone and muscle tissues, due to inhibiting the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Another study in Bone showed that repeated Botox injections do reduce muscle mass, and also weaken the structural integrity of trabecular bone. Trabecular bone is important for the tensile strength of bone to sustain compressive forces and is a component of the spongy, inner part of bone such as found in the spine, jaw, and limbs. The frontal and orbital bones around the eyes also contain directional trabecular bone, and this is the most popular site for Botox injection (furrowed eyebrows).
How can I determine if I am a good candidate for facial acupuncture?
A pre-assessment is performed to determine whether cosmetic acupuncture is the right procedure for you. This can be done in person, via Zoom, and even over the phone. We will discuss your goals for seeking treatment, previous cosmetic procedures with a dermatologist or skin care specialist, as well as your overall health history.
Unlike standard cosmetic procedures, the goal is not to “correct” skin damage but to reduce it and also to enhance those areas of natural beauty. At the initial interview, it is a good idea to identify one or two areas or issues (i.e., sagging jowls, mouth wrinkles, crows feet) for treatment.
How long does it take? How many sessions will I need to make a change? How long does treatment last?
It may take only 5 treatments to achieve your goal, or it can take up to 10 in more advanced or stubborn cases. A recommendation is always provided at the first, or sometimes after the second appointment if it is determined that an interval of time is needed to check on responsiveness after the initial session.
Results may last up to three years, however, this depends upon the degree of aging and wrinkling. In some cases, maintenance treatment once per month is recommended to sustain facial improvements. In other cases, a repeat of the entire series may be needed.
Can I focus on specific areas of my face and neck? Is this procedure for older women, or any age?
Most women seeking treatment are between 38 and 75, and the most common issues are eye drooping, sagging of jowls, and mouthlines. Skin health often corresponds to hormonal balance, and that is one reason that most women seek help around or near menopause. There are also many women who have too much sagging or dry skin due to an imbalance of estrogen.
The neck area is another one that is a “problem area” for many women as it can sometimes show more signs of aging than the face. It is important to stipulate that cosmetic acupuncture does change and improve the skin, but it also has limitations. Very deep lines and extreme sagging may become less noticeable, yet the results are not always dramatic.
On the other hand, I have seen some amazing improvements in women who I thought would not respond as well due to their poor complexion and deeper wrinkling. And also, in some cases, I will recommend specific nutritional enhancements through the use of herbs or foods, to improve the complexion and heal the skin.
Can any other health issues be addressed as well during a cosmetic acupuncture session?
Yes. I am happy to address multiple health issues or concerns at the same time. A full health history intake is taken for this very reason… since acupuncture is a holistic medicine many points overlap in functionality such that a point on the face can, for example, assist in alleviating back pain while also toning the small facial muscles.
Cosmetic acupuncture is rejuvenating and reinforcing, not just to the skin but also to the body, mind, and spirit. Treating points on the head and face really do “lift and raise the Yang,” thereby lifting the mood and easing anxiety, depression, and energy. Body points are always added to make sure the treatment does not leave the patient feeling spacey or dizzy. Most women report the after-effects of facial acupuncture as a light and buoyant feeling, with more energy and a positive mood. Does it get any better than that? Not only will you look better, but you will also feel better too!
Fortuna, Rafael et al. (2011, January). Changes in contractile properties of muscles receiving repeat injections of botulinum toxin (Botox). Journal of Biomechanics, 44(1), 39-44. doi.org/10.1016/j.jbiomech.2010.08.020
Warner, Sarah E. et. al. (2006, February). Botox-induced muscle paralysis rapidly degrades bone. Bone, 38(2), 257-264. doi.org/10.1016/j.bone.2005.08.009
Wakefield, Mary E. (2012). Constitutional Facial Acupuncture. Issaquah, Washington: Elsevier.