Disclaimer: While the content is created to provide insight into the world of natural beauty, Victoria Rose is not certified or licensed in holistic or medical studies. Therefore, the content does not substitute for professional guidance. Please seek a healthcare professional before implementing any of the advice and/or treatments mentioned.
As a holistic lifestyle junkie (antonym, much?) I’m obsessed with testing all of the wellness innovations possible and avoiding as many toxins as I can. While I didn’t have any fine lines when we started this process (I’ve had a skincare regimen since seventh grade), within a few treatments, I started experiencing a plethora of personal stress which caused my forehead to have a line across it. In addition, the skin on my forehead was constantly peeling due to seasonal changes (dry, fall weather) and a blood deficiency (not as scary as it sounds–more below).
Cosmetic acupuncture coincides with the the ancient practice of face mapping where the face is a direct reflection for the state of internal health. So, clean and positive diet and lifestyle choices are essential during and after the facial acupuncture protocol to achieve maximum results. I’m committed to aging gracefully and naturally, and I want to do everything I can to maintain a healthy external and internal world.
Acupuncture is one of my favorite treatments because it treats several of the issues that poor gut health and unbalanced hormones can cause, like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which I was previously able to heal using acupuncture. However, I’ve never tried cosmetic acupuncture and was exuberant when my friend Anne told me that she recently had become certified in cosmetic acupuncture as a supplement to her Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) training.
What does cosmetic acupuncture do?
Eastern medicine originated in China thousands of years ago and focuses on preventing and healing maladies through natural methods such as acupuncture, food therapy, massage, qi gong and tai chi and herbal formulas.
Acupuncture moves qi (pronounced “chee”), which is considered the body’s energy and life force, along different meridians throughout the body. Acupuncture needles can break up stagnant qi and improve the energy in the body, as well as relieve several symptoms of medical conditions.
Over time, muscles begin to sag due to pollution, stress and lack of use. Cosmetic acupuncture retrains the muscles in the face to be more active and work more effectively, resulting in improved skin elasticity. Treatments also improve blood and lymphatic circulation by creating micro traumas which signal skin cells to generate more collagen, induce a healthy glow, plump the skin, and diminish wrinkles.
The gua sha element of the protocol uses a massage tool to scrape the skin which breaks up fascial adhesions–connective tissue that has hardened–which increases blood flow and results in reduced inflammation and puffiness, decreased pain, and an increased sense of well-being.
In comparison to other anti-aging modalities, like Botox, one of the benefits of acupuncture is that most people experience no adverse side effects of bruising, scarring, nerve damage or recovery periods. I’ve received more than 50 acupuncture treatments for various ailments and have never experienced any negative side effects.
While each facial acupuncture protocol varies and is individualized per client, Anne incorporated several TCM treatments which took about 90 minutes each session. On average, similar protocols require at least 10-12 treatments; we had two sessions a week for six weeks. The reason for several treatments is because acupuncture has a compounding effect which make the results last longer than the results of the previous treatment. The additional procedures–cupping, dermarolling and gua sha–were to continue moving and supporting the elements of the face.
- Wash my face and completely remove all makeup.
- To prepare my face for a complete treatment, Anne placed needles in my feet, forearms, stomach, ears, and scalp. She used standard Korean stainless steel needles, slightly more than an inch long. Unlike many Western medicine treatments that only focus on the area of the body or face they want to treat, acupuncture treats the entire body, which is why the body needles are necessary to keep blood and qi flowing throughout the body and up to the regions of the face.
- Starting with my eyebrows and moving throughout my face, Anne inserted smaller needles and left them in for up to 20-30 minutes. The needles she used are called SEIRIN needles, which are lubricated with silicone, making for an easy insertion into the skin tissue. She also used super tiny intradermal needles, directly inserted into wrinkles and fine lines, which we used for my forehead.
- Anne placed a foil space blanket over my body to keep the heat in.
- While I was resting with the needles in, Anne removed the space blanket and did a moxa treatment over my stomach. Moxa is a dried plant that’s lit and used to warm and stimulate acupuncture points. Anne put salt in my navel to act as a conduit to the Kidneys (capitalized in TCM to denote the organ-meridian system) to move stagnant qi. The Kidneys, in TCM, are where the body’s reserve bank of energy resides. This particular step was important to treat because the tonifying effects of moxa supports the deeper aspects of the body, by keeping the “savings bank” of qi and blood running strongly and smoothly.
- Remove the needles.
- Anne applied a proprietary serum to my face and conducted the gua sha treatment. We used rose quartz scraping tools, instead of the traditional jade, because rose quartz is believed to represent unconditional love and open up the heart, which aligns with one of my personal goals for 2017. Additionally in TCM, the state of the Heart (capitalized in TCM to denote the organ-meridian system) system is said to manifest into the presentation of the face.
- Next, she applied more serum and slid glass cups across my face for about five minutes.
- Anne applied a third layer of serum and glided a dermaroller over my face.
- Finally, she cooled down my face and sealed in the serum using a jade roller.
Does it hurt? What does it feel like?
While pain is subjective, the needles slightly hurt me when they were inserted. I could feel the intradermal needles, but they weren’t sharp as the body needles, and were even less sharp than the SEIRIN needles. Regarding pain, each time receiving facial acupuncture was different. Right before and during my period, my body was extremely sensitive and the needles felt very sharp. During other treatments, I felt the needles but they weren’t as sharp. However, typically, the pain doesn’t last past the insertion. If a needle is uncomfortable, the acupuncturist can pull it out slightly or completely relocate it. There’s a lot of sensitive points on the face; eyebrows and near the nose were the most sensitive for me.
Cupping, gua sha, and jade rolling do not, and should not, hurt. With gua sha, depending where the blood was residing in my face, I felt some tender areas as Anne moved the stone, but it wasn’t painful and felt more like a massage, as did the cupping. While I only had less than five cupping spots the entire protocol, the cups can leave marks that look like hickeys but they will fade within a few days. They aren’t bruises, but a rather a sign that the stagnant blood and toxins have been moved from the deeper tissue to the surface, creating space for better blood flow. (here’s my favorite concealer to cover them)
The derma roller tool was a a 0.5 mm needle, which felt sharp on my face, especially on my forehead, but was more uncomfortable instead of painful.
Note: Most dermatologists employing a derma roller, or similar tool, use 1.0 or higher–do NOT use this strength or higher at home, you could greatly damage your skin if not done by a trained professional. I recommend starting with a 0.25 mm if you’ve never used a derma roller before.
What should I expect during the protocol?
During the treatment, reddening of the skin is a good thing; it means blood is flowing to the area, which is what is supposed to happen (a signal that the microtraumas are sending blood to heal the area). Based on my experience, the redness goes away within an hour after the treatments.
A few times that needles were inserted, I experienced some knee-jerk reactions. This happens because qi is moving throughout body and the body reflexively responds, similar to when a person is about to fall asleep, then suddenly jolts awake. I also had a lot of movement in my stomach once the needles were inserted there for the same reason. Anne commented that this is a signal from the body’s nervous system that it feels safe and able to properly “rest and digest.” One of the best parts of the protocol, and acupuncture in general, is that I felt deeply relaxed after each treatment, like I just woke up from the best nap of my life.
It took about six to seven treatments for the results to last past 24 hours and for other people to notice the positive changes in my face.
First treatment: After the first treatment my skin glowed, but it usually would fade by the next day.
Third treatment: A nasolabial line (a parenthesis line around my mouth) that I had from clenching my jaw was completely gone and did not and has not come back throughout the entire protocol and post-protocol.
Fourth treatment: I just started my period, so my skin was extra sensitive to the needling. I also had a histamine (referred to as “sha” in TCM) reaction on my forehead. The redness was the result of the microtrauma from the needles, which is a sign that the blood was properly responding and moving to the intended area. There was also a cupping mark immediately following. I woke up the following day and had a whitehead in the middle of the mark. Nothing like sucking the toxins out! (*insert barf emoji*)
Fifth treatment: I woke up the next morning and my entire face was very plumped, with a post-coitus-esque glow (sans the coitus). 😁
Seventh treatment: The glow did not fade and I noticed that my skin tone improved drastically, to the point that I felt that I didn’t need foundation, not even tinted moisturizer.
Eighth treatment: I felt like, “WOW!” My face looked so plumped and I’ve never seen my skin glow so much and be so even-toned. I didn’t have an uneven skin tone before (or did I?), but this is next level.
Ninth to twelfth treatments: My skin was tighter, plumped and glowing, which in turn boosted my mood.
Two weeks post-protocol: The results are still going strong!
Results are supposed to last for up to six months or longer depending on personal maintenance
Since the cosmetic acupuncture treatments are compounding and incorporate different parts of the body, it’s paramount to make clean, healthy and loving diet and lifestyle choices to receive the maximum effect of the protocol. Cosmetic acupuncture isn’t a good option for someone who wants a quick fix, such as with Botox, but is more focused on achieving overall skin wellness.
I’m at the far end of the health spectrum based on the level of care and time I dedicate to mind, body and spiritual wellness, so cosmetic acupuncture will continue to be the best option for my lifestyle. Because of this, Anne recommended that I do a follow up treatment once a season to keep up with the results and support the body’s adaptability to the weather. Because the process varies based on each person’s internal state of health, the results and amount of maintenance required will differ among each individual.
Since I wanted to test how well the treatments were going to work, I refrained from cupping, derma rolling and gua sha at home until the final week of the treatments. However, to elevate the cosmetic acupuncture, doing each of these adjunctive modalities a few times a week at home will continue to stimulate your face and increase the longevity of the results.
Due to the facial dryness I was experiencing from the drying furnace heat in buildings and my own underlying blood deficiency, I was advised to eat blood nourishing foods such as beets, bone broth, dark greens, and grass fed organic beef to complement the protocol from an internal angle. I also incorporated magnesium to help with my overall wellness.
During acupuncture it’s also important to make time for sleep to give time for recovery and to regenerate skin cells. Getting even seven hours of sleep is something I struggle with because I am always trying to do too many things at once. However, I did make an effort to get enough sleep a minimum of four nights a week (that’s a lot for me), which did help.
Unfortunately I did not practice my favorite stress-relieving activities such as journaling, meditating, praying, and yoga as much as I should have during this time period. I recommend incorporating time each day during your protocol to keep your body, face and mind relaxed so it won’t tighten, which can cause wrinkles.
Afraid of needles and pain?
As a former needle phobe, I habitually built up fear around potential pain from the needles, drastically more so than it ended up being in reality. By the time I started having acupuncture treatments two years ago, I had finally decided that my fear of needles was irrational. At my first acupuncture treatment, my desperation for pain relief for my locked jaw before a vacation outweighed any needle fears. Also, I soon realized that the needles go in quickly and that there’s only a sensation of recognition from the body and I’m not lying there in pain. Fortunately, the needle insertion became very easy for me because of this. However, if that’s not the same for you, there are a few techniques to employ that will be able to assuage your fears.
Clenching–a natural tendency people have when anticipating pain—makes it more difficult for the needles to be inserted, but can be stopped through a quick meditation. My favorite is to count backwards from 100 and breathe deeply on each number. Next, starting at your feet moving upwards towards the crown of your head, move over each body part and say, “my ______ is relaxed.” I like to imagine that body part being covered in warm, gold glitter; this part is optional, though.
Continuing to breathe deeply throughout the treatment is essential for keeping the body in a relaxed state.
To paraphrase Coco Chanel: Beauty care should start with the heart and soul, otherwise cosmetics won’t help. For me, utilizing natural treatments to increase my overall wellness, instead of procedures like Botox which temporarily paralyze the muscle and don’t increase skin health, conflict with my entire lifestyle and belief system. However, I completely respect everyone’s choice to use whichever beauty treatments they want to fulfill their own beauty and health requirements. Botox and cosmetic acupuncture may achieve similar results, but do completely different things, so check for a comparison article coming soon!
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