Facial Acupuncture: Explaining the Benefits and Answering Common Questions
Facial acupuncture has suddenly started grabbing headlines in beauty and health magazines, while social media has for a few years now been awash with stories and pictures of A-list celebrities having their routine sessions. Often described as the natural alternative to Botox, facial acupuncture is in fact much more than just a cosmetic intervention for wrinkles and fine lines.
So, what is facial acupuncture, what can it be used for, and what can you expect from a session? Here I run through some common questions about facial acupuncture to explain how this type of treatment provides a natural and ethical alternative to the sometimes toxic and damaging products and approaches available out there, while also boosting our mood, health and wellbeing, leaving us feeling and looking perfectly balanced inside and out.
What is facial acupuncture really about?
Facial acupuncture is a specific type of acupuncture treatment which focuses on addressing issues that affect the skin, muscles and nerves in the face and neck. It is often used for conditions, including acne, rosacea, eczema, and other common concerns such as fine lines and wrinkles, dry or oily skin, dark circles or bags under the eyes, saggy skin, age spots, or discolouration. Problems with facial muscles and the jaw, including twitching and spasms, facial paralysis, TMJ pain, trigeminal neuralgia, or bruxism are also frequently targeted with facial acupuncture points.
Facial acupuncture works on two levels. The first level relates to our overall health and wellbeing. This is important because what we see on the face is often just a reflection of other underlying imbalances or issues. People often notice how their skin, including spots and breakouts, are worse at times of stress. Even anger, confusion, fear will make us frown or pull our facial muscles in a particular way, which over time may lead to damage, tension, and deepening of lines and wrinkles.
The second level is the localised effect of the acupuncture in specific areas of the face, which through the micro changes resulting from the needling, trigger a natural healing response in the body, thus boosting the flow of blood, nutrients and cells to the area.
What does the treatment involve?
Facial acupuncture involves the insertion of super-fine single use sterilised needles (finer than human hair!) into specific points around the body, including on the face. The location of the points and number of needles used will depend very much on the particular condition that is being treated. Because this type of treatment works on two levels – whole person and localised issues – it is important to first re-establish balance in the person’s entire system before moving on to working just on the face. As such, a full consultation is always the first step, so that the person’s day-to-day health and lifestyle factors can be considered alongside specific acupuncture diagnostic information gained from the strength and quality of patients’ pulses, breathing, tongue, voice, skin tone, and overall emotional energy.
With this information, a treatment plan will be put together. Usually this will involve first re-establishing overall balance through a body treatment that acts as a kind of detox. In some cases, it may be recommended the person has first a few more body acupuncture treatments to address underlying issues and to boost the effectiveness of the facial acupuncture as soon as the focus turns to the face. Once the background work has been done to rebalance and prepare the patient for the facial treatment, targeting the main concerns through facial acupuncture points safely and effectively becomes possible.
What happens during a session?
The session will start with making sure the skin is clean and any make-up removed from the areas that will be worked on. Once this is done, depending on the concern and point used, different needling techniques may be used, but generally the needle is gently placed in the acupuncture point and left in for 20-30 minutes. Each point has a specific indication such as clearing heat or redness, reducing swelling and fluid imbalances, cleansing skin and pores, or encouraging circulation and blood flow to build up strength or relieve tension. It is important to help the person feel energetically grounded and relaxed during the treatment, and this means using a couple of acupuncture points on the hands and feet too.
Micro-needling techniques may be used on the face alongside the relevant facial acupuncture points as a way to further trigger the body’s natural healing mechanisms in the specific area. Acupuncture creates a response in the body which occurs when our bodies are healing a small wound or cut, with blood cells flowing to the site to enable fresh nutrients and oxygen to repair and start rebuilding new tissue with collagen acting as a scaffolding. With the micro-needling, this effect is multiplied due to the proximity of each micro-skin trauma to the next.
Once the needles are removed, the area is immediately gently massaged to soothe the skin and the person is ready to go. It is important however after the treatment and for several hours, to try to avoid touching the face and putting on any products such as make-up which may clog up the skin. There are other routine post-treatment recommendations I always give to patients (whatever type of acupuncture they have!) and this includes avoiding alcohol, strenuous exercise or large meals on the day of treatment and making sure you stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
How will I feel during and after the treatment?
Whether it is face or body acupuncture, people are often worried that it is going to hurt. The reality is that even when people do notice a fleeting sensation, the overwhelming response to treatment is one of deep relaxation. There is often a certain degree of surprise (and relief!) when people realise that acupuncture is far from painful, leaving you instead with a deep sense of calm, balance and strength. It is important to remember also that an acupuncture needle is extremely fine, especially in comparison to the needles used for a vaccination or blood test, making the finest acupuncture needles even difficult to see with the naked eye.
After the treatment, people often find that they sleep very well, feel fresher and more in tune with themselves, clearer in their heads and less prone to wild fluctuations in their mood and energy. The skin itself may take a few sessions to really show marked changes, which is why it is important with this type of treatment to plan to have a course of five or ten weekly treatments, and, if possible, to have a top-up session every four to six weeks to maintain results.
Is facial acupuncture for me?
From lotions and potions, Botox right through to plastic surgery, we have become obsessed with perfecting our looks and in trying to find short-cuts to dealing with facial concerns. While often providing a quick fix, these approaches can be damaging to our health, wellbeing and the environment. Facial acupuncture offers a safe and natural alternative, which will help you rebalance your whole system, while giving you results that help you look fresh and revitalised without any nasty side-effects. One of the top reasons people choose to have facial acupuncture, is because they want to be well and go through the different stages of their lives looking as good as they can, yet with results sufficiently subtle that they still feel and look like themselves rather than artificially kept together. So, if you too want to try something that will help you look great whatever your age, and will leave you with health and balance written all over you, then facial acupuncture is definitely for you.
Lisa Lee, Lic.Ac. PhD, is a fully qualified Five Element acupuncturist who works from her clinic on Harley Street. She treats patients looking for help with a wide range of health and wellbeing issues and has specialist interests in fertility, anxiety, and cancer support. www.lisaleeacu.com