Everything You Need to Know About Cosmetic Acupuncture
When it comes to needles puncturing the face, fillers and Botox may now form our main association. However, acupuncture has been used in a cosmetic context for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Credit: JACOB WACKERHAUSEN/GETTY IMAGES
While facial acupuncture can refer to the treatment of acupuncture points on the face for varying health and wellness concerns, cosmetic acupuncture specifically relates to acupuncture for aesthetic purposes.
Dr John Tsagaris, a renowned doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, is a pioneer in this area. His signature treatment, ‘beauty acupuncture’, integrates acupuncture with other elements you might come to expect in a high-tech facial, and the results are second to none.
“Beauty acupuncture noticeably regenerates the skin,” he tells me, while skilfully (and painlessly) inserting around 80 ultra-fine microneedles into my face. Through a micro-wound healing response, it addresses multiple factors of ageing – from smoothing lines, to enhancing the firmness and volume of skin. Unlike Botox, cosmetic acupuncture can influence the health of the skin, working on more than the superficial signs of premature ageing.
While it can be considered a natural alternative to other aesthetic interventions, cosmetic acupuncture also works nicely in tandem with injectables that limit muscle movements and lymph circulation. As Dr Tsagaris explained, acupuncture can increase oxygenation levels though microcirculation which can aid detoxification and help prevent facial puffiness.
While any cosmetic acupuncture treatment would – and should – be highly personalised, below are some of the key concerns that can be addressed with the highly specialised treatment.
View this post on Instagram
Cosmetic acupuncture for ageing concerns
My key takeaway from trying cosmetic acupuncture was how it helps to stimulate the fibroblast cells that lie deep within the dermis layer of the skin. Much like microneedling, but the tiny needles can go even deeper in cosmetic acupuncture. Dr Tsagaris explained that, “this promotes the production of new collagen and elastin” – the key building blocks of the skin that naturally deplete with age. He also outlined what this meant for specific concerns relating to ageing.
By remodelling the skin – encouraging that collagen and elastin production – cosmetic acupuncture can create firmer and more resilient skin around the eyes. "It also improves microcirculation that helps with puffiness and discolouration issues, " he explained.
When it comes to the forehead, acupuncture employs different techniques to address frown lines. “Depending on the depth of needles used in the area, we can affect the contractility state of the forehead muscles (which are causing the lines on the skin) making them more relaxed, and facilitate better hydration levels through microcirculation in the area.” In certain cases, Dr Tsagaris would also use a mild (and painless) electric current or a sonic device to enhance the relaxation muscle state. Alternatively, a traditional Gua Sha tool can help break down subcutaneous fascia in the area that constricts free movement, he said.
Nasolabial folds (or smile lines):
Given how it can enhance the firmness and volume of skin, “with special needling we address the loss of volume on the middle part of the face (cheeks) which are causing gravitational tendencies exaggerating the nasolabial folds,” the expert explained in reference to the two skin folds running from each side of the nose to the corners of the mouth. “With ageing, we do not only lose bone density and structural support but also we lose subcutaneous fat content and skin volume. Facial acupuncture enhances bone nutrient support and increases skin thickness.”
Lip lines and loss of volume:
There are some special techniques that can be used with cosmetic acupuncture to plump up the lips, naturally volumising the mouth muscles. “With ageing the lips start shrinking and become paler,” Dr Tsagaris explained, “so facial acupuncture can help restore their fullness and improve the appearance of fine lines around the mouth.”
Cosmetic acupuncture for acne and scarring
It is also used in the treatment of acne and breakouts, at any age. “Cosmetic acupuncture can significantly help with acne-prone skin by improving the detoxification skin process as well as improving the immunity of the skin against bacteria,” Dr Tsagaris said. He personally tends to do this in combination with blue LED light therapy, which can be a very successful in-clinic tool.
Of course, Traditional Chinese Medicine also takes a holistic approach here. “Identifying internal as well as topical causes of acne and other skin conditions,” is what’s important.
He notes that it can improve scarring from past breakouts, too, by way of remodelling and speeding up the skin’s healing process.
View this post on Instagram
Regardless of acne and ageing benefits (which may not be concerns of yours), I found cosmetic acupuncture to be a strangely relaxing restorative treatment that allows for holistic regeneration – both visible and not. As a beauty journalist trying all kinds of skin treatments, I was surprised to be so blown away by the results of an hour in Dr Tsagaris’ care. I left radiating with cheekbones higher than ever, my skin smoothed and energy soothed.
With his residency at one of London’s leading destination for aesthetics, the Harrods Wellness Clinic, Dr Tsagaris proves that the ancient practice of acupuncture can easily measure up against modern injectables, as as much as harmonising them. And, I imagine, it could be equally addictive.
BY BRIDGET MARCH
This article first appeared in Harper's Bazaar.