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Alternatives to injections are popular, especially with Charlotte’s Book readers: cosmetic acupuncture (despite the fact that it involves needles!) is a trendy non-injectable option. One of our readers asks:
“I’m thinking of getting cosmetic acupuncture, but I’m afraid to have acupuncture needles in my face. Can you explain how they really work?”
Shellie Goldstein, MS, LAc, currently practicing in both Manhattan and the Hamptons and widely regarded as one of the leading worldwide experts on cosmetic facial acupuncture, helped us answer this question. Here’s what she said:
“Collagen is one of the major proteins and building blocks of skin tissue, and over time it breaks down. When you insert an acupuncture needle into the surface of the skin at the area of the collagen loss, the acupuncture needle creates a mild trauma in the skin. The skin then sends in all the collagen-building and repair cells to repair the ‘trauma’. It’s as if you have hurt yourself or scraped yourself: the body’s natural ability to heal kicks in. That’s what happens with cosmetic acupuncture. So, by strategically placing the needles into different areas of collagen loss, you can actually create a wound in the skin and the body will naturally produce collagen to heal the wound.
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If you look at the face, there are many many meridians and acupuncture points. Generally, you can use the face as a diagnostic tool for what’s going on inside. For example, if you have a lot of issues around your mouth, you break out, collagen loss, redness, irritation, generally we would then look at digestion and stomach medicine. If you have a lot of wrinkling between your eyebrows, across your forehead and around your eyes, in Chinese medicine you’re going to look at this as liver issues.
In Chinese medicine, the liver is responsible for the way that muscles contract and for wrinkling. In Western medicine, it’s a continuous contracting of certain muscle groups that creates a fold in the skin.
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When you treat affected areas, for example, the wrinkled areas around the eyes, you are in essence treating the liver system which controls muscle contractions. Around the mouth, the spleen system in Chinese medicine is related to muscle development and tone. So, if you have collagen loss or sagging around the mouth area, you’re going to look at the tenacity of the muscles by addressing the spleen. Often, digestive problems will show up on the skin as either acne, redness, or irritation, and most people have redness, irritation and acne on their chin and on their cheeks, the major points that are related to digestion.
A typical cosmetic acupuncture session will have 20, maybe 10 or 15 points on the body and another 10 on the face, so 20 to 25 needles overall. As your treatment progresses and as different changes occur in the face and the body, then you change this. In my practice, we may also use a lot of microcurrent because you can place the acupuncture needles in the body, arms, legs, and torso, and then you can use microcurrent on the face to treat every single muscle of expression, so you don’t need to use a lot of needles.
If you’re just using acupuncture for cosmetic treatment, people usually start with around the mouth or around the eyes and work around with different treatments. If you put the needles in the body and you use microcurrent, you can treat all of the muscles of the face so your results are faster, better, and longer lasting.
Generally, you see a difference right away. The trick and the goal, however, is to have the results last for a long time and that’s why we do it in a series. It’s really like taking your face to the gym. They’re muscles, you’re working them, they’re building collagen.”