Everything You Want to Know About Facial Acupuncture

  • Written By:Jessie Quinn
  • Photography:Ben Ritter
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When we think of acupuncture, we might zero in on an image of someone with a bunch of tiny needles strategically placed on their back or other specific areas of the body. And, while the holistic ancient healing modality exists to support wellness and healing within the body, the body isn’t the only thing that can benefit from this practice. As it turns out, our complexions can, too — through a method called cosmetic acupuncture.

“Cosmetic acupuncture is a style of acupuncture that focuses on benefiting the appearance in a holistic way,” Dana Leigh Lyons, a doctor of Chinese Medicine, explains. “By ‘holistic,’ I mean that it benefits appearance but also benefits the whole body, mind, and spirit,” she adds, noting how this beauty treatment sets itself apart from others because it goes beyond the external appearance.

What Is Cosmetic Acupuncture?

Much like acupuncture, cosmetic acupuncture — also sometimes referred to as “facial acupuncture” — utilizes thin, filiform needles to achieve desired results. “Typically, a trained, licensed practitioner will place many tiny needles at specific acupuncture points as well as individual-specific spots needing care and attention,” Lyons explains. “Needles used on the face are typically much smaller than the ones used everywhere on the body and not much wider than a [strand of] hair in diameter,” she adds.

Once inserted into the complexion, the acupuncture needles can “help promote circulation, cell turnover, collagen production, firming, and toning,” says Lyons.

Cosmetic acupuncture is a style of acupuncture that focuses on benefiting the appearance in a holistic way.

- Dana Leigh Lyons

The Benefits

Cosmetic acupuncture treatments can boast a ton of great benefits, both physically and internally. As Lyons mentioned, getting an acupuncture facial can improve the skin’s circulation, boost cellular turnover, increase collagen production, as well as firm and tone the skin. It can also “facilitate lymph flow and drainage, combat blemishes and acne, break up any preexisting scar tissue, [and] prevent or delay the onset of lines, muscle loss, or loss of tone,” says Lyons. Overall, the skin can feel more rejuvenated with more elasticity and glow.

These skincare benefits of acupuncture are fantastic, but pricking your face with needles also has some benefits that “help the body and mind move toward homeostasis, or balance,” says Lyons. In addition to the visual perks, facial acupuncture can “reduce stress, anxiety, and depression,” along with promoting “fewer racing thoughts, increased ability to focus, reduced blood pressure, pain relief (including headaches or jaw tightness and pain), better sleep, better digestion, [and a] stronger immune system,” Lyons explains.

To achieve these benefits of cosmetic acupuncture, Lyons says a practitioner will likely prescribe “a course of treatments typically involving 1-2 treatments per week, plus time in between treatment for cell recovery and turnover.” Since the acupuncture needles help boost blood circulation and lymphatic drainage, Lyons says it’s common to see some immediate results (hello, glowing skin), while others increase over the course of regular treatments.

“The course of treatment varies depending on the individual, but usually spans a couple of months, followed by maintenance visits once a month or so,” Lyons explains. She notes that those with more advanced skin damage or more severe conditions (think: severe acne or rosacea) can require “longer courses of treatment in order to see desired results.”

What to Consider Before Acupuncture

If you’re all in for facial acupuncture, Lyons says to consider a few things before seeking treatment. “It’s a good idea to get clear on what results you’re seeking and expecting,” she notes, adding that the benefits of the treatment “are very real but tend to be more subtle than more invasive skin treatments and procedures.” Because of that, you can expect to seek treatment regularly “in order to see notable results.”

Another important thing to keep in mind is your calendar. If you have any important events coming up, Lyons says to schedule your acupuncture session accordingly. While practitioners do their best to avoid it, bruising can (rarely but sometimes) occur due to all of the tiny capillaries on the face, especially around the eye area. “For this reason, it’s best not to get cosmetic acupuncture right before an important event,” Lyons suggests. In the case of bruising, Lyons recommends dabbing on some topical arnica ointment, which can speed up the recovery process.

“Because acupuncture tends to have a relaxing effect, it’s also best to not receive treatment before a workout or physically demanding activity,” says Lyons. And, if you are dehydrated or hungry, she says to go in after you eat as receiving acupuncture on an empty stomach “may result in dizziness afterward.”

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