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The beauty of cosmetic facial acupuncture

Updated: Dec 31, 2021


Cosmetic facial acupuncture: what is your face telling you?

The lines on our faces tell our story. Our history. The lines between my eyebrows denote that I can find life frustrating. It is also a sign that I lie on my side, at night.


Those lines can be minor. Or, they may be deeper. You may not wish to have that story anymore and you can decide many different methods to reduce them.


Today's blog is going to look at cosmetic facial acupuncture for wrinkles, how it works and how it treats them.


I will also look at:

As always, I hope you find this useful. If you ever have questions then please get in touch. I love to hear from you.


Love Andrea


 

What causes wrinkles?

Wrinkles are a normal and natural life of our skin. They can signpost the life you have led and the emotions you have experienced.


But what causes wrinkles from a biomedical perspective? By knowing the process, by which our skin ages we can both decrease the causes but also understand why cosmetic facial acupuncture can really be helpful for your skin health.


1. Chronological ageing: as a person ages fibroblasts, which create collagen, naturally decline. This loss of collagen creates laxity and wrinkles begin to form.


2. Photo-ageing: UV radiation exposure can create reactive oxygen species (ROS). An excess of ROS causes oxidative damage to cells, which resultantly contribute to collagen breakdown.


This is why I always use a sun screen protection at the end of your treatment. I also urge you to wear it everyday.


3. Hormonal deficiency: with a decrease in oestrogen (which also occurs with age) there are a number of simultaneous actions including decreased collagen synthesis, skin thickness, skin hydration and epidermal barrier function


4. Environmental factors: smoking is also shown to affect collagen production


It is also important, in acupuncture, to treat the whole person. So, even though emotions are not noted, in biomedicine as a cause of wrinkles, we will see below why face-reading explores this and what it tells us.


 

What happens to the skin as we age?

As I talk about above, changes to the skin are a normal and natural part of ageing. As we age, hormones, exposure to the sun and other extrinsic factors all impact the changes to our skin.


So, what happens to the skin as we age? The skin is made up of three layers. The epidermis, the most external layer, the dermis which is the mid-level and where lots of the structures exist which impact our skin and finally the subcutaneous tissue.


As we age the following starts to happen to these layers:


The epidermis starts to thin which creates

  • slower repair function

  • decreased vitamin D production

  • reduced number of Langerhans cells

it also starts to dry with a reduction in sebaceous and sweat glands and fewer melanocytes which mean paler skin and reduced tolerance to sun


The dermis

  • starts to thin which creates sagging and wrinkling due to collagen fibre loss

  • reduced sweat gland activity which creates a tendency to overheat

  • reduced blood supply which leads to slower healing and reduced ability to lose heat

  • fewer hair follicles

The subcutaneous tissue

  • changes to hair and fat due to reduction in sex hormone levels


 

How does acupuncture regard wrinkles?

Of course, in Chinese medicine which dates back 4000 years they didn't open up bodies. They observed only what they could see. They observed what they saw as causes of skin pathologies.


These were:

  • Emotions: see below for a broader discussion on what each wrinkle would tell us however emotions were also a cause of e.g. acne, redness, swelling

  • Food: bitter foods can cause dryness; damp-heat can cause acne

  • Exercise: overwork or over exercise can create a deficiency of Qi and Blood. This may cause dryness

  • Climates: e.g. dryness can consume body fluids and lead to cracked skin

 

These excerpts are taken from the amazing book Face Reading in Chinese Medicine, by Lillian Bridges. She wrote


"The oldest and first use of face reading in China was to diagnose illness. The ancient practitioners of Chinese Medicine evaluated numerous small signs on the face to determine the health and current functioning of the internal organs. Facial diagnosis was considered a form of prognostication as physicians could use the facial signs and markers to predict future illnesses and prevent them, or at least modify the outcome"

Face reading was not just about the lines on your face. It was about the dark circles under your eyes. It was the colours around your mouth. It was the double chin.




Cosmetic facial acupuncture for wrinkles: what do the wrinkles mean in face reading?


Sorrow/grief: when sadness lines go over the cheekbone and down they become sorrow lines. Sorrow is a milder form of grief. But when the sorrow goes deeper, it evolves into grief and the lines start moving down into the lower cheek area


Lost love: lines that radiate from the inner corner of the eyes underneath the eye. They represent the sadness that comes from leaving pieces of yourself behind in your past. It is the regret of not being who you used to be


Pain: these lines radiate diagonally down from outside the outer corner of the eye towards the nose. They are a sign of physical or emotional pain


Joy: these are the lines that go up on the outside corner of the eyes


Irritation, annoyance, impatience: shows in the two vertical lines between the eyebrows. This is a liver area and lines here show that the liver is expressing anger in only small ways because it is either too full of anger that is repressed or the liver is so tired that it is overreactive and responds to outside stimuli by being impatient, irritable, frustrated and/or annoyed.


Scepticism: these are lines that are above the eyebrows, usually on the outer end but sometimes above the entire eyebrow. It shows that the eyebrows are lifted frequently and is used as a distancing expression and gives a person time to evaluate the information presented


Purpose: They are the ones that come down from the alae of the nose down towards the mouth. they say that you have a life purpose and show how far along you are in actually living it out in the world


Fear: these vertical lines show up on the chin and are quite difficult to mark unless fear is chronic or temporarily severe. They show up more often as people either get sick or when they age because the kidneys become weaker


Bitterness: these are the lines on the bottom of the mouth. Lines here indicate someone who has followed all the rules and hasn’t been rewarded


Over-nurturing: these are the vertical lines on the upper lip. It shows that the stomach energy has been overused caring for others


Disappointment: these are the lines on the sides of the mouth. Interestingly, one of the biggest causes is smiling when you don’t want to, so please don’t! These lines are also caused by expectations, which are dangerous to happiness


 

Can cosmetic facial acupuncture treat wrinkles?

I use a comprehensive range of modalities, within my facial acupuncture treatments, which are specifically designed to help with wrinkles.


These include:

You can read more about each of these below.

 

My beautiful patients above have agreed for me to show their faces. This is a treatment for the frown line and nasolabial fold (patient on left) and frown lines (patient on right).


Acupuncture has been shown to initiate a process called purinergic signalling.


Purinergic signalling plays a crucial component in a variety of conditions including

  • migraines and headaches

  • immune dysfunction and inflammation

  • cancer

  • autism

  • Alzheimer’s

  • cardiovascular disease,

  • endocrine function

  • embryological development

  • and gastrointestinal disorders

But it has also been demonstrated that it is involved in the pathology of the skin. In the Journal of Investigative Dermatology they summarised


knowledge of the roles of purinergic receptors in healthy skin and [......]the involvement of purinergic receptors in the pathology of skin, including hair growth, wound healing, pain, inflammation, allergic dermatitis, and both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer

In this summary, we can see the following with regards to wrinkles, because of an increase in fibroblasts and therefore collagen:


Wound healing: three phases occur in wound healing; inflammation, tissue formation, and tissue remodelling. This process of regeneration and repair involves clotting, inflammation, granulation tissue formation, epithelialization, neovascularization, collagen synthesis, and wound contraction


Dermal fibroblasts: It was shown that upon exposure to ATP, dermal fibroblasts contract. Adenosine increased the proliferation of human skin fibroblasts in primary cultures and has been used as a topical application to reduce wrinkles, perhaps by promoting collagen production by dermal fibroblast.

 

I have talked about guasha as a traditional Chinese medicine method here. Of course, on the face, we are not trying to scrape too vigorously, so that we leave marks. But the principle of its usefulness applies. We are trying to stimulate blood circulation and help to clear metabolic waste congestion in the tissues and muscles. It also releases tension and relaxes facial muscles.


Similarly, cupping is also used to break down areas of congestion and move toxins from out of the body. When you squeeze the cup onto an area of your face, a gentle suction is created. Again, we are not trying to mark the skin.


This suction draws blood flow towards the surface of your skin, which in turn increases blood flow, encouraging the formation of new blood vessels.


The suction also creates a controlled mini trauma in the skin, which prompts a natural healing process in the skin. More oxygenated blood flows to the area, collagen and fibroblast production is stimulated, and the skin cells are encouraged to reproduce.


Cupping therapy will also allow you to relax your facial muscles; moving any stagnant energy and emotions that are stuck in different organs.



 

I also use modern techniques in my facial acupuncture practice. This includes LED light therapy. I use a Celluma Pro in my treatments which has a specific cycle for wrinkles. The red light cycle increases:


Celluma LED light therapy used in facial acupuncture

  • Fibroblast cells: produce collagen and elastin fibres

  • Keratinocytes: provide structural strength to skin, hair and nails. They are or responsible for skin clarity, tone and texture

LED light therapy: which cells are activated?

 

In keeping with traditional Chinese medicine, these are examples of skin creams I may use in your treatment.


Sha Ji Shui Gao: a cream designed to alleviate inflamed skin, hydrate and smooth fine lines and wrinkles. It is suitable for normal, dry, dehydrated and mature skin. Ingredients include:

  • Sea Buckthorn strengthens, conditions and smooths

  • Organic Safflower Seed and Apricot Oils soften

  • Bisabolol, Allantoin and ProVitamin B5 actively ease inflamed skin.


Rose Otto Rejuvenating Cream: designed to hydrate, soften, brighten and smooth fine lines and wrinkles. It is suitable for normal, dry, mature, dull or pigmented skin. Ingredients include:

  • Antioxidant Bakuchiol acts as a natural retinol alternative to help even skin tone and enhance the complexion

  • Rose Otto and organic Rosehip Oil balance skin oils

  • Hyaluronic Acid intensely hydrates and soothes.

 

I may also use micro-needling or derma rolling for wrinkles. This is only done after 3 or 4 treatments so that we can evaluate your skin's reaction to needles. These tiny, but sharp needles create a similar reaction to acupuncture needles, however, there are some differences.

  • Micro-needling allows me to create multiple punctures on the surface of the skin, which allows me to cover the whole of your face relatively quickly.

  • The needles on derma rollers are 1mm long. Acupuncture needles can be 4mm in length. Obviously, this means that depending on the thickness of the epidermis a derma roller may not be as effective at reaching that area.

I have undertaken additional training and an advanced level of insurance to make me a safe practitioner in the use of micro-needling. Please always check that your chosen practitioner has the same level of training.

 

Lastly, one of the key components of any acupuncture treatment is the use of Yang Sheng.


Yang Sheng can be translated as:


Yang - nurture/nourish/take care of

Sheng - life


Based on my Chinese medicine diagnosis I will offer you ways in which to nourish yourself between appointments. Below is an example of a diagnosis based on dark circles under the eyes.


This would include:

  • Facial acupuncture (of course)

  • Rest

  • Sleep

  • Hydration

  • Water

Yang Sheng for Kidneys

 

What are the side effects of cosmetic facial acupuncture?

With facial acupuncture, there is absolutely no downtime. You can leave your appointment with me and continue your day.


That being said some possible side effects of facial acupuncture can include:

  • Bruising because whilst I endeavour to avoid blood vessels, this cannot always be possible

  • Minor flaking or dryness of the skin, with scab formation in rare cases.

  • Hyperpigmentation can occur very rarely and usually resolves after a month.

  • If you have a history of cold sores, this could possibly flare up after treatment. Our treatments are designed to support your immune system but this is still a possible risk.

There are however some contra-indications that would mean I cannot treat you with facial acupuncture. These include:

  • Diabetes

  • Kidney disease

  • Skin cancer

  • Cancer

  • Keloid scarring

  • Autoimmune disorders

  • Pregnancy / chestfeeding

  • Blood disorders

  • The effects of Botox and fillers will be reduced by increased cellular activity and areas of the face involved should be avoided. A minimum wait of 6 weeks should be given after such procedures.

 

What are your other options for reducing wrinkles?

Facial acupuncture is not the quickest at reducing wrinkles. But it is the most delicate. The most natural. It uses many methods (not just needles) to work with your skin and its natural components. Getting facial acupuncture is not just about treating your wrinkles. It is about treating you as a whole person.


So, I will also work with your other signs and symptoms. So you never know you will come in for a wrinkle treatment and find, for example, you sleep better. Or your anxiety is better. Or your hot flushes are better.


For a full guide of treatments you can get for wrinkle reduction here is a useful guide. I have however collated four of the most popular wrinkle treatments and compared to facial acupuncture against:

  • What happens in the treatment

  • Frequency of treatment

  • Cost of treatment

  • Downtime


It is not for me to decide the best treatment for you. If you want instant results, then facial acupuncture is not the treatment for you. But if you want a natural treatment with no downtime and very minimal side effects then it may just be the option you are looking for.


 

Glossary

Collagen: this is the scaffolding for your skin. It provides skin with plumpness, elasticity and strength. With age, the ability to replenish collagen naturally decreases by about 1.0%-1.5% per year. When we look at wrinkles this is a key component we need to build.


Langerhans cells: these cells reside in the epidermis as a dense network of immune system sentinels.


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