As far as beauty and wellness treatments go, sticking needles in one’s face is nothing new. But while microneedling has only become a must-have beauty treatment in recent years, the traditional Chinese medicinal practice of acupuncture has been around for millennia. Recently, acupuncture, and facial acupuncture more specifically, have become increasingly popular as a treatment for those who are looking to tend to chronic conditions, help the body heal — or even give their faces a little tune-up.
In TCM, or Traditional Chinese Medicine, there is the belief that the body contains meridians or energy channels through which life energy or Qi flows throughout the organs and limbs, carrying out the body’s daily operations. In this practice, it’s believed that complications in this flow of energy are what cause illness or pain. In turn, inserting thin needles into different points on these meridians is thought to bring balance to the flow of energy in the body, which is what we now call acupuncture. Think of it like your phone’s “restore factory settings” feature, but applied to your body or face.
But is facial acupuncture right for you? We spoke with two of Manhattan’s foremost licensed acupuncture practitioners, Stefanie DiLibero founder of downtown Manhattan’s Gotham Wellness and Juhi Singh, founder of the Juhi Center on the Upper East Side to find out more.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FACIAL ACUPUNCTURE AND COSMETIC ACUPUNCTURE?
If you’re going to commit to putting needles in your face, you need to know what type of service you’re looking for. DiLibero explains that facial acupuncture could simply refer to acupuncture that is done on the face but is not cosmetic in nature — say if you wanted to treat your allergies. “There are acupuncture points on the face that help with a variety of conditions both on and off the face, such as anxiety, jaw tension, headaches, allergies and stomach conditions,” she says. “Cosmetic acupuncture aims to treat the imbalance of physiological conditions that may have an effect on your appearance by using both body and facial acupuncture points.” For example, according to TCM, your chronic rosacea is probably aligned with other kinds of inflammation in your body, and that specific point on your face can be treated both externally and internally with needling.
HOW DOES THE TREATMENT WORK?
Much like when you fall down and cut your skin, your body has a natural healing process that causes the production of new tissue — and the same works with acupuncture. “By inserting needles into different points on the face, you are creating painless micro-traumas to the tissue, which in turn tricks the brain into stimulating the production of collagen and elastin that smooths the lines and wrinkles in that area,” says Singh. Some bonus benefits of poking your face with needles: according to DiLibero the process increases blood flow and stimulates an immune response that reduces inflammation and can activate any number of functional points that have various responses, like reducing jaw tension or relieving anxiety.
CAN COSMETIC ACUPUNCTURE HELP WITH SKIN AGGING?
According to Singh, yes. “By restoring blood flow and helping to increase collagen production at recognized and carefully selected points, the result is a tightening of the overall appearance of the skin.”
But it’s not a substitute for plastic surgery if you’r looking for dramatic results, DiLibero adds. “Needling helps to enhance the health and function of the skin and muscle tissue, so there will be less agging—but it’s not a facelift.”
ARE THERE ANY POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECTS?
“The most common side effect may be minimal bruising” says Singh, who adds that is something she rarely sees.