Skin Sleuth: Can Acupuncture Make Your Skin Better?

February 10, 2020
Samantha Holender
By: Samantha Holender | by L'Oréal
Skin Sleuth: Can Acupuncture Make Your Skin Better?

In the name of glowing, youthful looking skin, we’ve stocked our skin-care fridges and justified our overflowing vanities. And while we’re all for purchasing products in the name of self-care, we were intrigued to find out that there might be a holy-grail treatment flying under our radar: acupuncture. As it turns out, dozens of tiny needles can work wonders on the appearance of your skin. And it’s not shocking why: “Flow is glow,” says board-certified diplomate of acupuncture and cosmetic face acupuncture specialist Mary Heaven, M.S. L.Ac. The glow-giving treatment can help improve the appearance of skin . To get more answers about the power of pressure points, we spoke with Heaven and doctor of acupuncture and Chinese medicine Dr. Jill Blakeway. Ahead, find out what they had to say about acupuncture and skin. 

What Is Acupuncture? 

At its core, acupuncture is a centuries-old East Asian medical practice that essentially supports the body’s natural self-healing mechanisms. Tiny, sterile needles, or acupuncture needles, are strategically placed at acupoints. “Acupoints are specialized tissue that is more electroconductive than the tissue around it. When the needle is placed and gently twisted, the connective tissue beneath the surface wraps around the needle, like spaghetti around a fork,” says Dr. Blakeway. She explains that when the acupuncture needles tap into the acupoint, it sends a signal into the body and prompts a self-healing response. 

Prior to receiving a treatment, acupuncturists make sure to have full consultations with their clients so they can treat the branch symptoms as well as the root problem. “For example, facial swelling may have its root in poor kidney function, leading to the accumulation of fluids in the face, so we would pick acupoints that benefit the kidney. We would also support this process by choosing points on the face that move fluids locally,” says Dr. Blakeway. This holistic approach is critical to restoring blood flow, opening up energy channels and improving full-body circulation. 

Heaven goes on to explain that at a base level, acupuncture works to regulate the autonomic nervous system. “The sympathetic state is stress, and the parasympathetic state is rest,” says Heaven. “Acupuncture takes the body out of the sympathetic state and perpetual stress and puts it in the parasympathetic state where it can be calm; that’s the only place we can heal from.”   

Can Acupuncture Help The Look of Your Skin? 

“Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely,” says Heaven, whose practice focuses on cosmetic facial acupuncture. While her treatments can help promote the skin’s healthy glow, , she emphasizes that the benefits of facial acupuncture are a result of dealing with the inherent stress in the body. “We're treating the entire body because the constitution [body] needs to be supported and whatever's going on in the face is a reflection of what's happening in the body,” she says. For example, if the body is in a chronic state of stress, the nervous system will decrease its production of fibroblasts, the fiber responsible for building collagen. Therefore, reducing stress levels can, in turn, reset the body’s nervous system and, as a result, the fibroblast production. 

Can Acupuncture Help With Anti-Aging? 

While stress is the inherent cause being treated, the acupuncture needles can also be used to target specific lines or wrinkles of concern. Heaven explains that acupuncture needles can create micro-traumas. These micro-traumas then signal the dermis layer that it’s time to repair the skin. “Why acupuncture is so effective when we have a wrinkle is because the wrinkle is a contraction of the muscle. When you do acupuncture, it relaxes the muscle and takes it out of the contracted state, whereas something like Botox paralyzes the muscle,” says Heaven. When working on the face, Heaven focuses her needles on motor points, which are specific areas where the muscle meets the nerve. “By utilizing these points on the face, the needle immediately wakes the muscle up and creates tone and lift,” says Heaven. 

Can Acupuncture Help With Acne? 

Acupuncture has tangible benefits for anti-aging, but it may also be beneficial for those struggling with hormonal acne. Given the systemic, constitutional approach to acupuncture, this treatment focuses on addressing inflammation, which is actually a build-up of heat. “We’re going to use acupuncture protocols that are targeted at getting the heat out of the body and removing obstructions and blockages contributing to the heat,” says Heaven. When assessing the causes of acne and deciding on a treatment plan, Heaven looks to the Chinese Medical System. The thought is that symptoms or acne manifesting in the face are a result of blockages elsewhere, like the gut. 

Can Acupuncture Help With Glow? 

The short answer: Yes. The long answer: It has to do with blood supply coming from our neck and the arterial blood supply. “We’re living in a stressed out society and when our neck and shoulders are tight, all that blood flow is obstructed from the face,” says Heaven. This obstruction, she says, can contribute to a dull complexion, sallowness, puffy cheeks and acne due to the lymphatic system having difficulty draining. To  improve flow, and consequently, glow, Heaven would proceed with facial acupuncture as well as gua sha, a technique that softens the muscles around the jaw

While you will see glowier and healthier looking skin after one treatment, the full effect of acupuncture requires multiple sessions. Heaven explains that her cosmetic acupuncture teacher, Shellie Goldstein, likes to compare acupuncture to working out. “It’s like taking your face to the gym … you’re going to build more tone every time. You know, you wouldn’t go to the gym once and be in the best shape of your life. Your facial muscles are no exception to that,” says Heaven. 

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