The Acupuncture Facelift

I’ve been getting a lot of calls lately from people interested in the recently hyped “Acupuncture Facelift.” Does it work? Is it really a facelift? How often do I need to come in?

First things first, if your goal is to find a non-invasive therapy that can help you look 10 years younger this is probably not the alternative you’ve been searching for. While facial rejuvenation through acupuncture can absolutely decrease fine lines and wrinkles, increase muscle tone and even out areas of pigmentation, it is not a facelift (and in my opinion you should proceed with caution if anyone tells you differently).

In order to understand how acupuncture can help you turn back the hands of time, I think it’s important to first understand how our skin changes as we age. Lets start with collagen.

Collagen is a protein fiber that is responsible for binding most of the tissue in our bodies. It gives elasticity to our skin, joints and ligaments, protects our arteries and moistens our eyes. It is the closest thing that we have to the fountain of youth. About 70% of the collagen in our bodies is found in the skin and as we age its production declines. This is because collagen is largely related to the hormones estrogen and testosterone.

Hormone levels can start to decline as early as our late 20’s taking with it an abundance of our skin’s moisture. For men, the loss of testosterone happens gradually, allowing for progressive onset of the realization that our youth is fleeting. Women however experience a rapid decrease in estrogen following menopause. For many these abrupt changes in our skin’s elasticity leave us shell-shocked, as we immediately start looking for alternatives to replace what was lost.

It is also important to understand that collagen is a very large molecule, therefore it cannot, and I repeat, CANNOT be absorbed through the skin. The skin is a barrier and meant as the first line of defense for our bodies. I’m sorry ladies but I’m going to have to say it- those creams that you are spending a fortune on, the ones that have collagen in them, the ones that promise to improve the condition of your skin…can’t and don’t work. While they may give you additional hydration, they are incapable of rebuilding elasticity as the collagen molecules are left sitting on the skin’s surface until they are swept away the next time you wash your face.

Smoking, prolonged sun exposure, poor hydration and stress are all collagen killers. Smoking is, in my opinion, the worst thing you can do for your skin. Not only does it damage the collagen that your already have, it decreases vitamin c (which is essential for collagen production) and causes blood vessel constriction which impedes circulation to the tissues and deprives you of your healthy glow. Stress produces cortisol which can directly inhibit collagen production and unprotected sun exposure can cause damage to the dermis of the skin (the area where collagen is most abundant) causing an increase in collagen destruction. As collagen declines, our skin becomes thinner and discoloration from sun damage very often becomes visible (also known as liver or sun spots).

So what can we do?  My answer is always the same… rebuilding collagen has to happen from the inside out.  A combination of diet, exercise, a generous dose of sunblock every morning and regular trips to your acupuncturist are your best chance to keep old man time at a comfortable distance.

So, now on to the good news!

Acupuncture for facial rejuvenation was actually born out of treatments for Bells Palsey (a condition which affects the facial nerve and causes rapid paralysis of one side of the face). Acupuncture needles stimulated manually or through the use of very mild micro-currents proved to be an effective therapy for increasing facial tone by causing repeat muscle contraction and increased tissue perfusion. Applying the same principles yield similar results to musculature that has lost tone due to age.

While acupuncture for facial rejuvenation delivers less dramatic results than invasive therapies, it is an ideal alternative for those who desire natural looking results without the side effects of surgery.  Facial rejuvenation works under the same constructs as treatments for all other ailments. Inserting tiny needles subcutaneously can help stimulate collagen production locally by bringing additional circulation to the needling site. As needles are seen as foreign to the body, our protective mechanisms work quickly to “heal” the tissue that has been affected by the treatment. This can leave you with a more youthful appearance on your first visit!

Additionally, acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine focus on much more than symptom management.  We want to improve your complexion and in order to do so we strengthen your entire system to not only leave you looking, but also feeling better. Regular treatments coupled with herbal therapies aim to rebuild your body and restore some of the vital substances lost during the aging process. We can work  toward regulating hormone levels and to some degree, replenish what you have lost, naturally.

Any good age-defying regimen wouldn’t be complete without a healthy daily dose of collagen building vitamins and minerals! Increasing your intake of Omega 3’s (salmon, mackerel, tuna and flax-seed) to prevent collagen destruction, Garlic (which is high in lipoic acid and taurine, necessary to rebuild damaged collagen), Vitamin C (essential for collagen synthesis), zinc and copper (sesame seeds, cashews) will give your body the building blocks it needs to help keep your skin glowing for years to come.