Originally published: September 19, 2022 by Sydney Wingfield on glamour.com
When it comes to beauty, getting poked in the face with needles is par for the course. Botox and filler have never been more popular or accessible, but facial acupuncture has also become a popular treatment for refreshing skin. Acupuncture has been around for centuries as a part of traditional Chinese medicine to treat anything from headaches to chronic pain and diseases. Inserting needles into various points on meridians throughout your body using acupuncture is thought to restore balance and a flow of energy in your body. Simply put: It’s resetting your body and face.
Facial acupuncture is ideal for anyone looking to give their face a little tune-up. “Facial acupuncture was originally used to help patients recover from a stroke or Bell’s palsy, or to treat those suffering from internal deficiencies that showed on the face,” Kanako Oshiumi, MSAc, LAc, an acupuncturist at Ora in New York City, says. Acupuncturists were able to treat the muscles on the face that were drooping or weakened, resulting in a more symmetrical and firmer appearance of the skin.
Over time acupuncturists began to offer facial acupuncture as a cosmetic treatment that could provide a variety of benefits by balancing internal systems. But what exactly does it do for your skin? We spoke with a few skin and acupuncture experts to answer all your questions.
What is facial acupuncture?
Facial or cosmetic acupuncture is a specific acupuncture treatment designed to affect and enhance the appearance of the skin and face. It has been practiced for thousands of years and has become more popular over the past decade. Celebrity esthetician Ildi Pekar says that, generally, most facial acupuncture treatments include full-body acupuncture that improves overall vitality and circulation while addressing additional underlying concerns that are not cosmetically relevant.
The process consists of inserting small needles into the face to create minimal micro-trauma that will stimulate increased blood flow and a collagen-building pathway. Dr. Simran Sethi of RenewMD says that it is important to note that this is the same principle microneedling uses, but in microneedling, about a hundredfold more micro-channels are created to make the results more dramatic than just facial acupuncture.
“Treatments [are designed to] address you as a unique individual patient, and a targeted facial acupuncture treatment can be tailored based on your needs and desires,” Pekar says. Acupuncture is a very balancing treatment and can help relax muscles of the face that are overengaged, tighten muscles that are lax or have lost tone, improve the complexion and overall glow and appearance of the skin, and stimulate collagen and elastin production, which can help to minimize wrinkles.
What are the benefits of facial acupuncture?
Facial acupuncture goes to the root of addressing the skin’s health. Oshiumi says facial acupuncture works by promoting the skin’s natural circulation and collagen production and regeneration to reveal more nourished, vibrant, and youthful skin. Nearly anyone can benefit from receiving facial acupuncture—it’s a great treatment to use as preventive care for people of all ages.
According to Pekar, facial acupuncture can help lift sagging skin, like jowls and eyelids, and relax wrinkles—especially wrinkles made from emotions like anger and frustration, she says. She also says that it can help diminish those “11” lines between your eyebrows, forehead wrinkles, crow’s-feet, and the nasolabial groove lines around the mouth. This type of treatment works well to soften and sometimes eliminate dynamic wrinkles (those that appear with movement but disappear at rest) and to soften static wrinkles (those that appear at rest).
Collagen is produced when the top layer of the skin has micro-traumas (what happens when you receive acupuncture). This then signals to the dermis to repair and boost collagen production, which plumps the area and increases elasticity. “Facial acupuncture also increases circulation and nourishes the skin for cellular regeneration, which brightens and evens out complexion,” Oshiumi says. Your lymphatic system is also stimulated during facial acupuncture, which promotes a healthy glow as skin is decongested.
Like most treatments, the benefits of facial acupuncture will last longer and become more apparent over multiple sessions. Since it’s gentler than more invasive treatments like microneedling, it’s recommended to have it done more frequently.
How does it differ from regular acupuncture?
Body acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points throughout the body to balance the flow of energy, also known as qi. It is used to treat pain and for overall wellness. While there are more areas throughout your body to receive acupuncture than on your face, the two practices are pretty much the same.
While body acupuncture may be done solely for pain management or for wellness practices, facial acupuncture is commonly done as a cosmetic treatment. Pekar says, “You will receive a regular acupuncture body treatment, then a targeted facial treatment, which includes needles on the scalp and face and small needles directly into wrinkles.”
Oshiumi says that most acupuncturists will use a method popular in traditional Chinese medicine called face mapping to diagnose the root cause behind imbalances that show up as facial conditions in the face. Each area of the face corresponds to a different organ system of the body. If someone is not in balance, it will show up in various ways in the face. Think dark circles, hyperpigmentation, pimples, redness, dryness, etc.