Meet Barbara, who was gracious enough to let me document her nine week journey through cosmetic acupuncture, guasha and facial cupping, along with skincare recommendations. Her results show what's possible with this ancient modality in modern times, for those seeking a natural alternative in skincare and facial rejuvenation. Scroll down for the process, her before and afters.
Barbara (left, shown post treatment series) was new to acupuncture in general, and shifted to a series of treatments for facial rejuvenation to explore what could be accomplished after we chatted about the possibilities.
Her original concern was her neck area - she was feeling a lack of a distinctive jaw line, a double chin of sorts. She was considering an injection called Kybella (average cost, $1200 to $1800 per treatment, and an average of about 3 treatments needed, totaling around $5400), available through a dermatologist, plastic surgeon or some medical spas. Kybella 'melts' fat in the area it is injected, to create a more youthful contour (essentially bursts fat cells with medication). Side effects are swelling in the neck area that takes a while to go down, possible numbness, and soreness. She met with a respected technician for the procedure. At the consultation, they informed her she was not a good candidate for Kybella as it was not technically fat creating her concern, and that if she followed through with it, she would be left with loose skin. I was pleased to hear they were quite transparent with her about her potential outcome. They noted for the results she wanted, surgery would be her best option. Barbara told them she was going to let her acupuncturist treat her instead, and they were very supportive of this alternative, encouraging her to let them know how it went.
At 65, Barbara's skin and constitution have some good markers for a positive outcome with my treatments. She didn't smoke, didn't have serious health issues that might affect her skin responding, and had good elasticity - she had been diligent with sunscreen.
Challenges were diet (not a fan of vegetables) and slightly sluggish digestion. Other than that, occasional cocktails. In and of itself, these are not always an issue, but if the body is not functioning at its optimal, we'll see the effects in issues like poor circulation, dull skin, and puffy eyes/dark circles among other things.
Another factor is also the body structure itself - the modern 'text neck'. And sometimes the neck appearance is hereditary, we just get blessed with the family chin.
You'll also notice a very common phenomenon when you look at her 'before' (LEFT). Most people have more profound lines or symptoms on one side of their face. This is more prevalent in those of us who sleep on one side all the time, or worse, our stomach (guilty here!). So while you will see marked improvement on her left side nasolabial fold (next to the nose), the right side is taking more effort to fill in, but it will continue to improve. This would improve more quickly with a change in habits, but this is hard to do! Most can see more wrinkles on the side exposed to sun while driving.
BEFORE: Of note, the area to the sides of the nose - the nasolabial folds or smile or laugh lines, deeper on her Right (Left side of screen); the folds by the sides of the mouth - aka "marionette lines" (often sorted with botox or fillers), and the pores in the nose to chin. The complexion itself is 'ruddy', and there's a loss of elasticity along the jawline. The eyes are slightly red. The cheeks are red from capillaries being visible and/or broken. There are a few lip lines, but I also tend to focus more on the patient's chief complaint, evolving to work on secondary issues as we go. Also note, she has a lovely sense of humor! Not many of us look brilliant with this much scrutiny and light!
It's important to keep expectations realistic. What are your markers for knowing this treatment is working for you? Barbara said she would like to be carded. Ha! Well, that's a great goal, but with a chat, we can narrow it down to what I know can be a good outcome, if she's compliant with a few other things.
I noted that the contours of her face and neck would shift through treatment. Over time, fluids sit in the wrong areas of the face, creating a stagnant appearance as well as puffiness that creeps in over time.She has visible capillaries in her cheeks, some broken. Other intervention is needed to treat broken capillaries, but weak ones can be treated. Fruits and vegetables are important for good micro-circulation, providing key vitamins and minerals that keep capillaries strong, minimize injury, and speed healing.
Facial acupuncture does come with a small risk of bruising, and full disclosure, Barbara did incur a small bruise a couple of times. Taking arnica prior to a course can assist in minimizing this in those with a tendency to bruise, facilitate rapid healing - otherwise apply topically if a small ding occurs.
So, the treatment!I mentioned digestion before. Having a slow digestive system shows in the face and skin in different ways - dullness, puffiness, redness (especially small intestine issues), congestion, breakouts, and uneven complexion. The main purpose of the lower tract is to excrete substances we no longer need. Ideally you should be moving your bowels once a day (at least). The digestive system and the skin is a whole other blog. Suffice it to say, I want bowels moving with ease to improve the overall complexion, to lessen the visible capillaries, and help facilitate my efforts to reduce puffiness. I prescribed an herbal formula - baby steps to getting other changes in lifestyle.
Because Barbara is in her mid sixties, I recommend starting treatment twice a week for two to four weeks, then once a week after up to twelve treatments. Not everyone can do twice a week, but at least once a week is important in order to build on results. If someone has skin that is not responsive to treatment or has layered challenges, they might need up to 20 treatments. Then just maintenance a few times a year, occasionally repeating a series for best results.
I also assessed that Barbara would benefit from the Kindred Polish Cleanse with fig seeds, spirulina, mango butter, clary sage and geranium oils, and willow bark for gentle exfoliation. Occasionally, she received their clay mask as well, for cleansing pores, and to further treat the cheeks. I'm a huge fan of the many benefits of clay.
Her most dramatic changes occurred about half way through. I started her on a regimen from Kindred Skincare. This is an oil cleanse and moisturizing system with key ingredients that will help calm redness and balance moisture. She stuck to it, even on vacation in the desert, and it's working like a charm!
LEFT: the halfway mark, things are happening! Notice how much more open her eye area is, her eyes are brighter, her color is changing, her nasolabial fold is dramatically reduced through lifting and shifting fluids, the marionette lines are reduced, and notice, the side of her neck is slimming.
Each treatment, I assessed her pulse and tongue, and applied needles to support her constitution - a few on the extremities, then on to the face.
After the oil cleanse and gentle steam towel removal, we moved on to acupuncture. Some points chosen to needle were classic acupuncture points, and others targeted specific concerns. Techniques varied in order to illicit the desired response - namely, we need Qi! Strategy evolved as her skin adapted to the treatments.
Acupuncture works for the face by creating a tiny micro-trauma at the needled site, calling on the skin to repair itself in that area. Hence why I apply very tiny needles to specific wrinkles or breakouts. This approach encourages collagen production in the skin, reduces discoloration as new circulation moves to the area, helps a breakout heal faster through anti-inflammatory responses, or increases elasticity by encouraging muscles to engage. The needles also work through the methodology of Chinese medicine and meridians. I can assess through facial mapping which areas need attention accordingly, as well as knowing certain points will assist in a specific outcome by their nature in TCM. Many treatments also included either gua sha with rose quartz, or facial cupping. While Barbara felt facial needles took an adjustment at first (she was new to acupuncture in general), she would settle in and relax. With occasional ongoing treatment moving forward, I'm able to continue work in other areas that will build on her outcome, such as relaxing and lengthening her neck and shoulders and nourishing sinews through treating the Gall Bladder (in TCM perspective). Lastly, Barbara has TMJ and clenches her teeth. Working to decrease this mechanism will also eventually change the outcome for her face, releasing more stress in the jaw. In the meantime, I've asked her be be aware of this habit and massage the jaw area often.
So has she been carded? Not yet! But other hallmarks of improvement have included friends noticing she appears 'less red' and a renewed confidence in her appearance. When one looks at the before and afters, it's impossible not to note the improvements.
Ok, so I wasn't carded when I went to the liquor store but for the first time in at least 10 years, a younger man hit on me! I'll take it! ~Barbara
Her result is a natural outcome - she still looks like herself, just a more glowing version! And her pocketbook is not lighter by thousands that surgery would have set her back, not to mention that recovery period.
BEFORE AND AFTER: The final result, a youthful glow, even skin, reduced pore size, bright eyes, more elasticity and collagen. Her skin became much more resilient to the treatments as we proceeded, becoming less red with cupping or manipulation. Also note: she did not lose weight with this treatment!
See a follow up blog to see how her results lasted! That little remained of the '11s'? Gone!
Call for a complimentary consultation to see if cosmetic acupuncture is right for you! Treatment options vary, with the comprehensive treatments like Barbara received that include skincare, cupping, gua sha and more, or more traditional treatment with a focus on the benefits of needles on their own. Packages are available, with a complimentary treatment wrapped into the price.