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Cosmetic Acupuncture: Has Botox Met Its Match?

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Cosmetic Acupuncture: Has Botox Met Its Match? about undefined
From chronic pain to allergies, acupuncture has become a go-to alternative treatment for millions these days. But I bet you’d never imagine it can also help with aging skin, smoothing out wrinkles and more.

This form of the treatment is called cosmetic acupuncture or facial acupuncture, and according to some folks it may improve your appearance as much as surgery or Botox. Keep reading and I’ll show you what I’ve found…

Beauty Trend Spotting

According to Acupuncture Today magazine,1 cosmetic acupuncture “has become a recognized and desired alternative or adjunct to well established beauty-enhancing procedures such as Botox, fillers, and surgery.”

Here’s how it works: after a regular full-body acupuncture treatment, the acupuncturist then starts on the face. A typical facial acupuncture treatment involves about 40 needles in the face and 12 needles on the body.

(Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt much. The slight pinprick doesn’t bother most people at all.)

These pinpricks are thought to stimulate your lymphatic and circulatory system, which deliver nutrients and oxygen to skin cells, essentially nourishing skin from the inside out. The improved nourishment evens out your complexion and promotes a healthy glow.

Facial acupuncturists2 say the real magic comes from the positive “microtraumas” that stimulate the production of collagen. The minor upset in your skin improves elasticity and minimizes those fine lines and wrinkles that creep into our aging faces.

Sounds Good, but Does it Work?

Proponents of the practice say after just one treatment you can expect skin brightening – as if you just enjoyed a good night’s sleep. But you probably won’t be surprised when I tell you that professional facial acupuncturists advise five to ten sessions to get noticeable results. (Prices vary wildly from $25 a session to upwards of $1,500, so do your homework.)

And by the way, is there any scientific proof for all this?

In one study5 conducted at Kyung Hee University Hospital, researchers found the majority of participants (women ages 40- 59) saw improvements in their skin after just five sessions of facial acupuncture.  The most common side effect was slight bruising at the needle site.

Researchers concluded that in this pilot study, facial cosmetic acupuncture “showed promising results as a therapy for facial elasticity” -- but further study was needed.

Another study6 published in The Journal Acupuncture suggests that more systematic research is needed to prove the effects. In a word – there isn’t a great deal of proof.

But if you’re like me and you’re already a big fan of acupuncture for relieving your pain, allergies and headaches, you might want to ask your practitioner. She probably won’t be familiar with facial acupuncture, but she might be able to give you a referral or make suggestions.

I discussed facial acupuncture with my acupuncturist. Although she doesn’t do it, she had heard of it and says it can help. The effects tend to be temporary so you might need to keep doing the treatments on a regular basis. This is not unusual with acupuncture.

Advocates of the procedure argue that it’s a great alternative to Botox, which temporarily paralyzes facial muscles. Botox can do your face some really nasty damage. Plus, if you can find a practitioner who combines regular acupuncture with this new specialty, you can get more bang for your buck.

Acupuncture is not recommended for people with bleeding disorders or uncontrolled type 2 diabetes.

Commonsense Takeaway

If the mere thought of having needles – however painless – inserted into your face or elsewhere makes you cringe, you are not alone! Fortunately, there are other less expensive and less invasive ways to stall wrinkles and fine lines. A well-balanced diet and a good skin care routine can make a big difference.

We recently published an article here that highlights some of the foods that contribute to wrinkles, including sugar, alcohol and refined foods. Provide your skin with the right array of nutrients and hydration and it will reward you by functioning at its optimal level.

When you’re healthy, skin glows from the inside out, despite a few wrinkles or fine lines!
  5. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013; 2013: 424313.

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