I have actually been trying out facial acupuncture myself with a professional acupuncturist! I have always wanted to find a natural alternative to other anti-ageing cosmetic treatments and in my opinion, facial acupuncture is working wonders for me. But so many of us may not know much about this treatment or whether it's right for us, so I worked with our lovely friends at Health Space Clinics to put together some answers to your FAQs.
Along with loads of other healthcare professionals, accredited acupuncturists are part of the Health Space Clinics practitioner team. Health Space has over 15 clinics across Sydney and is still growing so that you can access practitioners close to home. They offer all kinds of integrated health care services - everything from acupuncture to infrared sauna! I have actually been going to my local Chinese medicine acupuncturist but you can also try cosmetic acupuncture through these amazing Health Space Clinics!
What is facial acupuncture?
Cosmetic Acupuncture is the use of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture points and techniques to stimulate the muscles and skin of the face and body to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, discolouration, bags under the eyes and sagging skin to name a few.
How did it originate?
Cosmetic Acupuncture is not a new development with evidence of its practice being traced as far back as the Warring States and Han Dynasty in China. The Chinese interest in skin enhancing medicine encompassed both herbal preparations and acupuncture points located on the face. The Systematic Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion was one of the most influential books written on acupuncture and introduced the nine types of needles including one specifically for the skin. The text also explores facial complexion and hair quality as a reflection of internal disharmony.
The Ming dynasty (AD 1368-1644) saw further progression of cosmetic interest with the publication of Li Shi Zhen's Materia Medica which listed unique requirements for specific facial features as well as issues of complexion and wrinkles. The jade roller is also said to have originated during this period. Western interest in Chinese Medicine was sparked in the 1970's and knowledge of its benefits and scope of treatment has continued to expand. This has now encompassed the field of cosmetic acupuncture and facial enhancement.
How does it work? (How many needles are used, where do they go on the face, and how deep?)
Cosmetic acupuncture works by increasing blood circulation to the face as well as stimulating cells to produce more collagen. When the body lays down collagen in the areas of wrinkles it gives the effect of filling them in.
Needles are inserted into specific acupuncture points on the face to a depth of 1mm-5mm depending on the location. The use of needles in the deepest part of the wrinkle is also a popular technique to increase collagen production at the site. The number of needles varies depending on the patient's specific areas of concern and overall skin appearance and can range from 12 - 100 needles. The needles used in cosmetic treatment are extremely small and some, called intradermal needles, are inserted using tweezers.
What are the benefits?
The benefits of cosmetic acupuncture are improved circulation to the face, increased oxygenation of the tissues, removal of toxins and relaxation of the muscles. Acupuncture also helps to engage the parasympathetic nervous system which has an array of health benefits.
Who should get facial acupuncture?
Anyone is a candidate for facial acupuncture. Some of the best results are seen on reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Other conditions commonly seen are rosacea, dry skin, acne, scarring and dark circles beneath the eyes.
Does it hurt?
The techniques applied to the face are gentle given the delicate nature of the skin. You can expect to feel a dull ache from some of the acupoints, which in Traditional Chinese Medicine is referred to a 'de qi'.
How long does it take?
Each session allows an hour, needles are retained for between 25-40 minutes.
Are there any side effects?
A side effect can be bruising just like in traditional acupuncture. There are a lot of capillaries (the smallest blood vessels) in the face so we take extra care with even finer needles to avoid bruising but it sometimes can happen over the course of treatment. We minimise the effect by using a cold compress for a short period of time when we notice an area that may bruise. Another great side effect (or non-side effect) is no permanently surprised expressions!
Do I need to avoid any skin care products afterwards?
No but during a course of treatment, your practitioner may want to evaluate your skin products to see if some more natural things can be suggested.
How often should you get it? Is it a once-off or long-term treatment?
The goal is stimulate blood circulation in the face with acupuncture as it flushes out toxins from your skin. Better blood flow brings more oxygen and nutrients to your skin and helps your skin produce collagen, which can help reduce wrinkles. We suggest to get a good boost, clients should do 10 treatments over 5 weeks. Periodic maintenance treatments are suggested as well as proper hydration and clean eating.
Can I do facial acupuncture myself at home?
It is not advisable as bruising is more likely, possible damage to nerves surrounding the eye and the issue of clean and safe use and disposal of needles that are intended to be used one time.
Can I get body acupuncture as well for other skin concerns?
Yes! Many people don't know that acupuncture and herbal medicine use a diagnostic approach to understand skin concerns in an eastern framework that can change symptoms such as acne, psoriasis and eczema.
How is it different to dermal rolling?
Dermal rolling is similar to acupressure in that it stimulates blood flow by putting pressure on the surface. Practitioners of acupuncture may also use dermal rollers but they will use it with the knowledge of channel flow and location. Acupuncture is one step deeper as it is not just on the surface of the skin and can more powerfully stimulate blood flow in these channels.
Are there any celebrities who use facial acupuncture?
The term "acupuncture facelifts" comes to mind...reportedly used by Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cher!
But it doesn't stop there! I also spoke to Dr. Vivian Tam, creator of our bestselling Zilch tablets, who is also a cosmetic acupuncturist!
Apart from anti-ageing benefits, what else can cosmetic acupuncture be used for? Is it good for acne?
Yes, external needling works on the skin level itself, so if you have active acne, the needling increases bloodflow and movement to promote the healing process and reduce inflammation. Treatment can also be targeted at stubborn acne from the root cause, such as hormones. Acne scars can also be targeted through cosmetic acupuncture, which encourages the skin to renew and regenerate tissue by promoting collagen production.
Cosmetic acupuncture is also used to treat tense muscles in the face related to stress and anxiety, targeting facial muscles in the forehead and frown lines. It can also be used to treat other conditions such as Bell's palsy.
I also just wanted to mention that if you think facial acupuncture is not for you, then don't forget you can always try dermal rolling instead - it's actually based on ancient acupuncture techniques!
Sources: Health Space Clinics, Dr Vivian Tam - Cosmetic Acupuncture Melbourne.