Peculiar anti-aging therapies have taken modern beauty markets by storm, and while many seem devised for shock value (the vampire facial, for example), others have cosmetological merit. One particular practice that has recently experienced a surge in popularity involves poking dozens of hair-thin, disposable needles into your face—in the name of beauty. Not quite as outlandish as bee venom cream or leech therapy, but not for the faint of heart.
Facial acupuncture, a holistic east-meets-west approach to anti-aging, marries the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine with western anti-aging modalities. It has been a tried and true cosmetic staple for over one thousand years—early records date back to the Song dynasty—and yet it only began to attract international attention in the last decade. Its newfound trendy status is owed to growing public interest in natural alternatives to Botox and invasive clinical procedures. Sweden, Australia, the U.K., Japan, and Hong Kong were among the first beauty markets to adopt and adapt the ancient therapy to suit discerning clientele.
Practitioners of acupuncture insist that it is a tremendously effective treatment for maintaining a youthful complexion without surgery or chemicals. Amanda Beisel, registered acupuncturist and owner of SKN Holistic Rejuvenation Clinic, was introduced to eastern medicine after living and working in Korea as an English teacher. “I was fascinated by the eastern approach to health and well-being,” she says. “Through my Traditional Chinese Medicine studies, I saw firsthand how effective acupuncture is in decreasing and preventing skin age.” Each session, typically about 45 minutes long, is individualized to address skin concerns and use acupuncture to enhance the overall well-being of the client. Needles are inserted into acupuncture points along meridians in the body, which activate an energy called qi—by removing blockages and balancing energy, skin conditions and overall wellness are improved, with no side effects and no necessary downtime for healing.
Beisel uses high-quality facial needles that rarely provoke trauma, nary a bruise, and are (relatively) painless when applied to the face. Compared to needles used for traditional Chinese acupuncture, the improvements are microscopic, but Beisel insists that the difference can be felt when entering the body: “The needles I use are from Germany. They glide like butter.”
On average, about 50 needles are inserted into the face. “I always place a handful into the arms and legs as well,” says Beisel. “Facial needles alone would draw too much energy to one area. You want to distribute the energy throughout the body.” With each prick, the skin experiences a micro-trauma. This disruption awakens local cells, stimulates collagen production, re-educates muscles, and promotes blood, oxygen, and energy circulation throughout the body. The result is a reduced appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, giving the skin a soft appearance and overall glow. Some facilities, including SKN, also create combination treatments for acne, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation.
Better yet, acupuncture also offers mental and emotional benefits. Personal health history plays a large role as certain acupuncture points are chosen based on a Chinese medicine diagnosis. It is not uncommon for clients to experience relief of insomnia, headaches, stress, depression, as well as increased energy levels and mental clarity after only one session.
For a treatment series, the recommended frequency is once or twice weekly for six to 12 appointments, with maintenance performed as needed. Part of this maintenance includes facials, which are often offered in combination with acupuncture sessions at spas and clinics. At Collective Skin Care, owner Kathryn Sawers and registered acupuncturist Dr. Mahsa Ahmadi work in tandem—Ahmadi provides acupuncture services, and Sawers, a registered esthetician, performs customized facials. They advise to supplement your needling with a facial every four to six weeks to maximize results. “Acupuncture preps the skin for a facial,” says Ahmadi. “Skin is much more receptive to nutrients.”
Depending upon your skin’s condition prior to a treatment series, the face may respond faster or slower. Unsurprisingly, visible results are amplified through regular sessions, but clients are also encouraged to engage in exercise, a healthy diet, and plenty of rest. “With every treatment I see changes, from the inside, out,” says Ahmadi. “It’s not a vanity thing, it’s an easy treatment with big impact.” A transformation that’s truly more than skin deep.