I’ve relied on acupuncture for years to manage the symptoms of an autoimmune disease. But at a recent appointment with my acupuncturist, Dr. Aliya Visram of Restore Integrative Health, I noticed her skin looked amazing. She breezily said she had been treating herself with cosmetic acupuncture. I practically lept off of the table. I was in.
I am of the mind that getting older is a privilege. But I do want to keep my skin looking its best so that means religious use of sunscreen. However, I’ve been amassing deep creases in my forehead from the sleepless nights of having a baby. I’m not down with Botox or injectables and I’m too cheap/lazy to cycle through a myriad of products that may or not work. Since I already knew the benefits of acupuncture, I felt totally comfortable with the idea of Dr. Visram sticking a few needles in my face. While cosmetic acupuncture isn’t actually new–it has been practiced for centuries–it’s having a moment right now, driven by wellness merging with beauty and the desire for a more natural route to better skin.
At my first treatment, she asked me to make a series of facial expressions to see what was causing these particular lines. Turns out, I raise my eyebrows, like, a lot, and the muscles in my forehead had just given up. She popped in 15 needles, which were a special ultra thin Japanese type designed for the face. The needles going in were painless, even by acupuncture standards. She dimmed the lights, I closed my eyes and immediately fell into a deep relaxed state for 20 minutes.
Right after the needles were removed, my forehead looked smooooooooth. Like, airbrushed smooth. It felt as is someone had taped my face taut, in a pleasant way. Dr. Visram explained that cosmetic acupuncture helps to stimulate collagen production by creating micro traumas. Needles can be inserted into actual wrinkles or scars, or to sagging areas and stay in for about 20 minutes. This precision is what sets cosmetic acupuncture apart from microneedling, which rapidly and randomly pricks the skin.
Unlike Botox or fillers, acupuncture doesn’t provide a quick fix. Its benefits are compounded over time: increased collagen stimulation, brighter complexion, reduced scarring and even stress reduction, what with all that Qi freely flowing. The recommended treatment plan for cosmetic acupuncture is similar to treating any other part of the body: appointments are frequent at first to kick-start things, then move into maintenance. Two treatments per week for the first five weeks is ideal, every 4-8 weeks from there.
I noticed improvements after five appointments over the course of three weeks. Keeping my face as free from creases as possible also comes with some homework. I must stop myself from scrunching up my forehead like an accordion (I found some handy stickers that help), cautions Dr. Visram. Her other piece of advice is to use a facial roller every night to help keep the muscles in a smooth, relaxed state. Dr. Visram and I both noticed how well my skin is responding to treatments. Even if I am genuinely surprised by the results, I can’t let it show: it might undo all of Dr Visram’s hard work.