By: Melissa Cugliari
Modern medicine is constantly evolving, particularly in the area of anti-aging and skincare. There is no question that many of these techniques can mitigate the signs of aging and band-aid dermatological woes – fine lines and wrinkles can be softened and even prevented, sagging skin lifted, breakouts cleared, etc. But the question remains: how do more natural, holistic beauty techniques compare to these modern offerings? And more specifically: is cosmetic facial acupuncture better than botox? My answer: a resounding yes.
Our skin is our barrier between internal and external environments; it is a reflection of both our internal health and the surrounding environmental conditions. Much of the aging process has to do with exposure to the elements – what we put on our skin, UV and other forms of light, for example -- and equally as important, our internal health. Fine lines and wrinkles are a part of the skin’s aging process, but can be mitigated by addressing external stimulus + topical skincare and internal health.
Facial fine lines and wrinkles are largely caused by the repeated movements of the muscles of expression. The skin is creased repeatedly over a lifetime when we frown, smile, or move our faces in any other way. Botox is used to prevent this muscle movement. Botox is an injectable substance produced from the bacterium clostridium botulinum which causes muscle paralysis. When strategically injected into the face, botox renders the underlying musculature temporarily paralyzed; without muscle movement,we can prevent fine lines and wrinkles and soften existing ones. In general, botox injections take up to 14 days to take effect and can last anywhere from 3-6 months, meaning that consumers will need to be re-injected 2+ times per year to maintain the effects.
Facial Cosmetic Acupuncture
Acupuncture is an ancient healing technique used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to rebalance the body, mind and spirit. With the insertion of very fine, solid needles into precise points on the body, circulation and energy flow can be adjusted in order to heal imbalance, promote optimal health and increase longevity.
Acupuncture for facial rejuvenation has been used for millennia to treat the skin of the Empresses, Emperor’s concubines, and other members of the Royal Court in China with accounts dating back as far as 960AD. The procedure involves body acupuncture as described above, along with the insertion of even finer needles over the face to stimulate skin healing, relax or tonify underlying strained musculature and increase circulation to the face. Because each person has unique skin and internal health, each protocol is unique – no two individuals will have the same treatment. When done properly, the treatment is painless and very relaxing; needles are retained for approximately 30 minutes, and patients notice a more revitalized appearance immediately after treatment. Over the following few days, the appearance of the skin will continue to improve, as well as general health.
When acupuncture is used over the face in conjunction with points over the body, there is benefit not only to the face directly, but also to the entire system – which translates to a more rejuvenated, youthful complexion from within. In my practice, I take a thorough history for each patient, which allows me to address underlying conditions that could be showing up in the face; this may include digestive concerns, fatigue, immune issues, to name a few.
Depending on the needs and current skin condition of the individual, cosmetic acupuncture will be done 1-2x per week for a series of 6-10 treatments, with maintenance treatments done monthly thereafter. Facial cosmetic acupuncture should be avoided over areas of the face that have been injected with botox or filler within two weeks. Patients of all ages can benefit from these treatments; depending on age and the state of the skin, it may take longer to see improvement.
Each technique works differently to achieve the common goal of more youthful complexion. Botox keeps your skin smooth by paralyzing underlying musculature while facial acupuncture improves complexion by triggering micro-trauma to the skin, resulting in firmer skin, reduction in wrinkles and tightening of jowls due to an increase in blood flow and production of collagen + elastin. It is typical for acupuncture patients to report other benefits, including more restful sleep (which is key for anti-aging!), improved digestion and energy levels, and a sense of overall improved wellness.
Botox is a temporary solution using a substance that has not been studied long-term for indications like fine lines and wrinkles of the face. Because you are injecting a paralytic agent into the body, you will see a change to your skin but there are several potential adverse effects, some of which are quite severe. There is also risk of undesired, unnatural results -- asymmetries or loss of movement. Acupuncture, on the other hand, has been used for hundreds of years and has very few potential adverse effects when done by an experienced practitioner. There is no risk of a ‘bad’ result because it promotes the body’s own ability to heal and stay radiant instead of changing how the body works. This leads to more natural results and graceful skin aging.
Lastly, to treat the face without treating underlying concerns is counter-productive. Results will be shorter-lived and the root causes of dull, aging skin will not be addressed. Because of this, cosmetic acupuncture is a superior alternative to botox in my opinion.
That being said, it is important to weigh the pros and cons and select the treatment that suits you best. As always, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to aging and skincare, and it is important above all to do what works best for you.