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September 11, 2022 — 12:01 PM
There’s a wide variety of services you can receive in the name of skin care—facials of all kinds, in-office procedures, and the list goes on. If you tend to lean toward more holistic facial practices, however, you might have heard of facial acupuncture.
While this practice may be new to you (and many people in the West), it is by no means a “new trend.” In fact, facial acupuncture has been around for centuries in ancient Chinese culture and serves as a staple of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). However, as it becomes more popular, clinical trials have started to examine the benefits of this age-old practice—including treating wrinkles.
What is facial acupuncture?
First, a little acupuncture 101: Acupuncture is an integrative medicine practice that involves pricking the skin or tissues with small, thin needles at certain anatomical points. Originating in ancient China, this practice has been used for thousands of years and gradually made its way to the west over time. If you want to dive deeper into the fascinating history of acupuncture, you can read all about it here.
Facial acupuncture is, as you can probably guess, acupuncture done on the face. Just like body-focused acupuncture, Eastern cultures have been practicing facial treatments for centuries. In recent years, however, there’s been a spike in popularity in the West.
Cynthia Gorman, M.S., L.Ac, an acupuncturist at New York City-based luxury acupuncture studio ORA, tells mbg about this rise: “In my opinion, facial acupuncture has gained tremendous popularity over the years simply because people are caring more about their skin health now than ever before.”
There’s a long list of potential benefits to facial acupuncture, which is why the intention varies from person to person. “Many people come in because they are either looking for a natural alternative to injectables,” Gorman explains, “Or they are looking for a way to supplement or extend the time between injectables to care for the health of their skin.” More on those benefits in a bit.
Can facial acupuncture ease fine lines and wrinkles?
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This ancient practice has been clinically studied in recent years with promising results. For example, one study looked at the efficacy of facial acupuncture in treating nasolabial folds and eye wrinkles in participants aged 20 to late 70s. This study concluded that facial acupuncture did, in fact, improve the appearance of nasolabial folds and eye wrinkles, “suggesting that this technique is a safe and effective method for the improvement of facial skin conditions,” researchers said.
Another study set out to determine if facial cosmetic acupuncture (FCA) could improve facial elasticity. The result? A significant improvement was shown among 27 women, ages 40 to 59. In this study, the participants completed five treatment sessions before measuring the results.
Experts suspect this practice can ease fine lines and wrinkles by triggering a few different mechanisms in the skin. “By supporting a release of tension in the underlying musculature, and by encouraging circulation, re-invigoration, and collagen production, acupuncture can help the appearance of fine lines,” holistic celebrity aesthetician Tammy Fender tells mbg.
Can facial acupuncture lead to a brighter complexion?
While this benefit may not be quite as well-known as healthy skin aging, acupuncture has the potential to brighten the complexion as well. Here’s how it works: “The needles create a vasodilation effect around the insertion site, increasing blood flow and circulation in the face,” Gorman explains. “This new blood flow contains red blood cells, white blood cells, oxygen, and other nutrients that naturally give the skin a beautiful glow and brighter complexion.”
What’s more, every time a needle is injected it creates a micro-trauma. “The body responds by speeding up a cellular turnover in these areas, turning a dull complexion into a brighter one,” she continues.
Other benefits of acupuncture.
It’s common for practitioners to administer facial and body acupuncture simultaneously. There are plenty of additional benefits to the latter that extend far beyond cosmetic and visual impact. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes acupuncture as an effective treatment for 28 conditions, including neck and back pain and some allergies.
Here are a few other benefits, previously shared by acupuncturist Snow Xia, L.Ac:
Acupuncture, on both the face and the body, is most beneficial when practiced regularly. “It definitely takes a commitment of attending regular acupuncture treatments, but it can be relaxing and beneficial,” medical esthetician and founder of JTAV Clinical Skincare Joie Tavernise explains. “The key to lasting, noticeable results when it comes to skin care is to create a consistent maintenance over time, and this is the same for facial acupuncture.”
Are there any side effects?
Light bruising may occur for some, as noted in clinical studies, but not everyone will experience this. Post-acupuncture, Gorman recommends using deeply hydrating ingredients and placing exfoliants to the side for a day or two while your skin heals. In addition, you’ll want to stay away from any rigorous exercise and alcohol for a day or two.
Who should avoid facial acupuncture?
Gorman recommends avoiding facial acupuncture for three weeks after receiving botox and four weeks after receiving filler. If you tend to feel anxious about needles, you may want to start with body acupuncture and work your way up to the face to ease into the process and get more comfortable.
Is one treatment enough?
As the clinical trials demonstrate, receiving multiple treatments within a shorter time frame will result in the greatest cosmetic benefit. After a few sessions (the exact number depends on your practitioners’ recommendation), you can then space out your sessions for maintenance.
Are the benefits long-lasting?
In Gorman’s experience, she says the results of acupuncture for facial wrinkles can be long-term. If your lines are expression-based (like wrinkles brought on by a furrowed brow), then a combination of healthy skin aging strategies will be best (think gua sha, collagen supplementation, etc.).
While facial acupuncture has been used for centuries and serves as a pillar of TCM, it has started to gain popularity in the West in recent years as well. Clinical trials demonstrate the efficacy of facial acupuncture for easing fine lines and wrinkles, reiterating what many acupuncture experts have known to be true for many years. There are plenty of other benefits to face and full-body acupuncture, serving as just another reason why it’s such a worthwhile investment for many. If you do make it to an acupuncture session, just be sure to follow these tips for aftercare.