Acupuncture to reduce fine lines and boost elasticity? Sign us up.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, our bodies are governed by energies or life forces called “Qi.” When these are out of balance, various ailments ensue. One millennia-honored tradition of restoring the body’s balance is through acupuncture, or the process of pricking various points of the body with tiny needles to generate blood flow and redistribute energy. Historically, acupuncture has been used to address a wide range of ailments from hypertension to chronic pain, and, more recently, even infertility issues. But one procedure is particularly thrilling for beauty enthusiasts: acupuncture of the cosmetic variety to make the skin look younger, brighter, and smoother.
“People know about acupuncture, but they don’t know it can be done for beauty as well,” says Dr. Candy Drilon-Dalman, medical doctor and founder of integrative wellness center, Centro Holistico. Dr. Drilon-Dalman explains that similar to the rest of the body, beauty problems are also caused by imbalances in qi. “If you have specific concerns, we put [needles] in those areas [called Ashi points] to help nourish [them] or dispel energy if there’s an overproduction.” Those “concerns” could be anything from wrinkles to hair loss.
Vogue Philippines tested out the procedure. Here’s everything to know about cosmetic acupuncture including its benefits, what to expect, and whether or not it actually hurts.
What are the benefits of cosmetic acupuncture?
Cosmetic acupuncture, or facial acupuncture, can target several beauty concerns including fine lines, wrinkles, dark circles, and low collagen production. “If you don’t have enough qi flow in your face, you don’t produce enough collagen,” Dr. Drilon-Dalman explains, adding, “With cosmetic acupuncture you bring that back.” She compares it with microneedling, which also uses the same philosophy of utilizing tiny pricks. The micro-traumas inflicted by both procedures target the lymphatic and circulatory systems and put the body in repair mode (i.e., facilitating collagen production). That, in turn, improves elasticity and minimizes the appearance of lines. And since it also stimulates blood flow to the face, patients leave the session looking more vibrant or having what Dr. Drilon-Dalman refers to as the “pinkish glow.”
Pimples and acne can also be targeted by acupuncture. “The pimple is actually the accumulation of too much heat or too much Yang energy. So we have to dispel it,” she says. Another concern patients come in for is hair loss, which is addressed by adding extra needle points in the head to stimulate hair growth. If you don’t have any severe beauty concerns like deep lines or overzealous oil glands, acupuncture can still be a good preventative measure according to Dr. Drilon-Dalman, who says it’s helpful for those who want to “grow old gracefully.”
Another benefit of cosmetic acupuncture isn’t beauty-related, but it’s one many clients come in for: reducing stress and anxiety. “That’s one of the things that acupuncture really does, it helps you with relaxation,” Dr. Drilon-Dalman tells us, adding that many patients fall into better sleep after.
It could also benefit your mental health. “The points for cosmetic acupuncture are similar to the points that can help with mental health [for] stress,” explains Dr. Drilon-Dalman. These points, located in the ear, are the same ones in the Ear AcuDetox, which requires special training from the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA).
What can you expect during the procedure?
“If [patients] are super afraid of needles, I tell them [to] not do cosmetic first because [they’re] gonna feel everything,” Dr. Drilon-Dalman says with a laugh, adding she always asks patients first just how needle-averse they are. Though she stresses that the facial needles are much thinner than what’s used for the rest of the body, they are still “very, very sharp.”
As someone who is “super afraid” of needles, I can attest to actually feeling the pricks. The forehead punctures weren’t painful—they were similar to the pressure and pricks during a regular facial. But the points around the eyes, the ones that target dark spots and fine lines, felt especially sore since the skin around the eyes is extra thin and sensitive. (I involuntarily shed a couple of tears, the doctor had to wipe them away.)
Since I also have congestion issues, the pricks on the points around the nose also stung a bit and felt deeper than the rest of the needle placements which felt more like surface-level punctures. Otherwise, some points just felt heavy. There were also points in the ears that stung, but the pain quickly subsided and I barely remembered the 20-some needles stuck on my face throughout the rest of the 30-minute session, which lulled me into sleep.
“Usually, first-time patients still feel the pricks because there are a lot of blockages in their channels,” the doctor explains, adding that with each session the pain should subside. It’s best to consult with a doctor before a session so they’re aware of what points may cause discomfort and aches.
How many sessions do you need?
As with most procedures, the answer to how many sessions are required is “it depends.” “Initially, we advise doing it at least once a week. For most patients we start seeing results after the fourth session,” Dr. Drilon-Dalman says, adding that the number will depend on the severity of the beauty concerns. “If your wrinkles are really deep, we need at least 12 sessions.” After all sessions are done, she recommends a treatment every month or every other month as maintenance.
She reminds clients that cosmetic acupuncture is more of a long-term solution than a quick fix. “It’s not like Botox where you see instant results. It will take time for your body to heal itself,” she says. She does reiterate that cosmetic acupuncture can be done to support Botox and other beauty procedures, even prolonging its effects.
As to when you’re supposed to come in for a session, just don’t do it before heavy physical activity since you may end up too relaxed, and keep from wetting your face for two hours after the treatment.
In between sessions, she recommends taking probiotics and multivitamins to keep the gut healthy. Skincare is also crucial. “The less preservatives and sulfate there [are] in your skincare the better.” Finally, Vitamin D is also key. “If you don’t like going under the sun, might as well take the supplement,” Dr. Drilon-Dalman says, but either way, she beckons, “use sunscreen.”
For those with illnesses and skin conditions, it’s best to let your physician know about your plans to get acupuncture. Tell your acupuncturist if you’re on blood thinners.