Acupuncture is one of the most popular forms of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and is used around the world as a pain management technique. As you may know already, it involves inserting multiple very thin needles in certain acupuncture points to effectively treat pain and also reduce stress. But can it help treat long-standing skin concerns? UK-based Dr John Tsagaris, a TCM doctor and skin expert, helps us dive into the world of cosmetic acupuncture and how the treatment benefits your skin.
What is cosmetic acupuncture?
This facial treatment brings together traditional medicine with modern-day technology to deliver visible skincare benefits. “Facial cosmetic acupuncture is a non-invasive and non-surgical treatment that treats underlying ageing factors that affect the skin and the body as a whole,” says Dr Tsagaris. “Most people that experience the treatment are in their mid-thirties and onwards to prevent and treat skin ageing and topical appearance issues. It focuses on the face to stimulate the skin regeneration process, improves the energy and blood circulation on the skin and regulates its immune responses. It is successfully used to treat skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis and pigmentation [among others].”
Dr Tsagaris explains how acupuncture works in tandem with other skin treatments to heal and rejuvenate skin. “Using different lengths of needles on the face and body, during this painless treatment, we activate the wound-healing response in the skin which triggers skin growth factors and prompts the skin to create collagen, to renew and firm the skin. The method naturally remodels the structure of the skin and stimulates healing mechanisms from within the dermis (the middle part of the skin), resulting in a noticeably invigorated, healthy, and youthful appearance.” In addition to the needles, traditional as well as modern tools are used to enhance the therapeutic outcome of the treatment. Facial acupressure, facial cupping, dermarollers, sonic frequency, and light therapy technology are employed. The treatment can also be complemented with other aesthetic procedures such as mesotherapy, hyaluronic acid fillers, dermaplaning and microdermabrasion.
Here’s what to expect
As is the case with any skin or body treatments, it’s best to know of all possible effects, good and bad, before you make your appointment. Acupuncture may make use of needles, but it is a virtually painless method. However, “some people may experience some discomfort, as with all needle-based treatments. Factors that may contribute to sensitivity include, lack of, or disturbed sleep, the time of the menstrual cycle as prior to period discomfort may be more noticeable, having alcohol the evening before as this will fluctuate glucose and serotonin levels, genetic tendencies as some people tolerate discomfort better than others. Also, it’s advisable to avoid any blood thinning medication or supplementation a day or two prior to the treatment to avoid localised bruising.”
This is what a standard cosmetic acupuncture appointment looks like, according to Dr Tsagaris, who treats his patients at The Wellness Clinic located at the iconic Harrods in Knightsbridge, London. “The session starts with an overall health Q&A assessment and the practitioner will use specific examination methods such as observing the tongue, pulse, body structure, and other diagnostic aspects of the patient. According to the individual case, the practitioner may use different therapeutic tools such as cupping, or electro-acupuncture, Gua Sha or other tools to enhance the treatment outcome. Most people feel minimal discomfort if any, during the insertion of needles, which disappears once the needles are in position. Shortly after the needle placing, the patient starts feeling very relaxed, with ‘heavy’ hands and legs and feels sleepy. The needles are usually retained between five to thirty minutes with occasional stimulation.”
He suggests that it’s worth understanding how acupuncture works to make sure you’re prepared for the needles to come your way. “Lack of understanding of the actual treatment can contribute to more discomfort. Some clients may not realise the number of needles involved or are not familiar with acupuncture at all. In case that the client experiences FCA for the first time, it is understandable that any anticipated discomfort may be expected. After the first treatment, clients do tend to tolerate the treatment much better than the first time as they know what to expect.”
This is what post-treatment care will look like
When needles are in question, bruising is possible, however, that does not necessarily mean that your skin has reacted negatively. “The practitioner needs to state that any potential bruise does not indicate a bad practice. How a face responds to a needle depends on the individual skin type and sensitivity and clear pre-treatment instructions such as, no consumption of alcohol, fish oils, Vitamin E or any blood-thinning supplement or medication that may increase the chance of bruising and post-treatment advice such as not to go to the gym straight after the treatment. Sometimes bruises do appear a day or so later from the treatment date. In case of a bruise a professional concealer and makeup would be sufficient to cover the discolouration, that is expected to fade in a few days.”
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