Curious about facial acupuncture and whether it will actually do anything to your skin? We break down the whole procedure here.
When you think of acupuncture, usually visions of laying on your stomach while a skilled acupuncturist inserts tiny pins into your back comes to mind. For many, having those same needles pricked into your face sounds straight up terrifying, but don’t run away in horror so quickly! Facial acupuncture is an ancient practice, and it’s believed to have some serious benefits.
Wondering how it works, what it feels like, and what it can potentially do for skin quality, we hit up Julie Von, a holistic doctor based in Manhattan who’s well versed in acupuncture, and Gregory Lane, a San Diego-based doctor of acupuncture and Chinese medicine at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine.
What Does Facial Acupuncture Feel Like?
We know what you’re thinking: You’re going to stick a needle… where?! Ouch! Here’s the thing, though. The needles used in facial acupuncture (also referred to as cosmetic acupuncture) are exceptionally small. As in half the thickness of a single strand of hair. They’re also coated with silicone to allow them to effortless glide into skin without resistance.
Von says, “Most who practice facial acupuncture are well trained and have a gentle touch. Often you will be resting on a table during the session with relaxing music and often times heat therapy (like a heat lamp).”
The needles are inserted at specific points for max effect, and then are left in for the duration of your session. Many who’ve had facial acupuncture say that it’s essentially painless and, surprisingly, quite relaxing!
The ultimate goal is to improve your skin’s texture and radiance, and to reduce acne and signs of aging. This is a customized procedure, and body acupuncture is often incorporated, as well, in order to reduce overall stress and promote a balanced mind and body. Consider it a mix between a massage and a facial in terms of benefit.
How Does Facial Acupuncture Treat Acne?
Von says that by zeroing in on what’s causing your acne, the specialist can effectively treat the underlying causes with acupuncture. “You can expect to be assessed on areas of your face that you feel are problematic, as well as be asked questions that inquire into your general health and wellness,” she notes.
Lane agrees. “The treatment of acne with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine is predicated on determining the correct pattern that the patient presents with. There are five distinct patterns that we look at when we determine our method of treatment, and a combination of these specific patterns may be clinically present when evaluating a patient. It is imperative that the correct diagnosis is achieved before treatment may be performed,” he says.
But how does it work, exactly?
“Acupuncture points are selected on the face, as well as some body points on the hands and feet—typically below the elbows and knees according again to our pattern differentiation. Some of the strategies that we use with acupuncture and herbal medicine are cooling lung and stomach heat, clearing heat out of the blood, clearing or draining heat toxins, draining damp toxins, and promoting blood circulation,” explains Lane.
“Courses of treatment will vary depending upon the severity, chronicity, age and vitality of the patient. In some severe cases, treatments may be indicated daily for five to 10 days, then break for four to five days and repeat as needed, while other patients may receive weekly or bi-weekly treatments for several weeks. Environmental factors and dietary considerations should also be considered when treating patients with acne.”
Ultimately, the acupuncture rebalances the disharmony of your skin and body by increasing blood flow, improving digestion and general body function, balancing hormones, and detoxing.
How Does It Treat Fine Lines and Aging?
Facial acupuncture is also a potential treatment for fine lines and wrinkles.
“The needles are inserted gently into the facial regions at specific points so as to improve blood circulation stimulate collagen production when treating wrinkles or lines,” explains Lane.
In that sense, it’s sort of like a more relaxing, less painful, and longer micro-needling session. The primary difference between the two is that micro-needling purposefully causes trauma to the skin via a ton of tiny needles that penetrate over and over again, while acupuncture doesn’t cause trauma. (Note: It’s the healing from this micro trauma that makes micro-needling effective.)
Another interesting thing to note is that because acupuncture affects your entire body and wellbeing, even if the needling is just isolated to the face, your general mood and spirit will be improved. Von says, “Acupuncture is wonderful for treating stress in general. A healthy body, and managing overall stress, is a great strategy to prevent wrinkles.”
Post Facial Acupuncture Session
So… what happens after you get facial acupuncture? Well, unlike some facials, you don’t have to worry about camping out in your home for a few days following a session because your face is red or peeling. In fact, you can resume your go-to skin care routine and even wear makeup right away.
You should drink lots of fluids to better flush out your system, and it’s best to avoid diuretics like caffeine and alcohol. Essentially, you should nourish your body, load up on skin-loving products, and take it easy if you can. Many people see results within a week or two, with real clarity and noticeable improvement within two months with regular treatments. Of course, this timeline varies from person to person, and it’s best to talk to your acupuncturist about the best plan for your skin.
At this point, the evidence we have for facial acupuncture as a treatment for acne or aging is anecdotal and preliminary. It is an ancient practice and many people believe in its power, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that there’s no hard science to back it up (yet). Our advice to you is to experiment with facial acupuncture if it’s something that sounds promising, or if you’re simply curious about how it might feel or work for your skin. If you do schedule an appointment, we’d love to hear about experiences!