Cosmetic Acupuncture

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Cosmetic Acupuncture


Something I am asked about fairly often – particularly more recently – is cosmetic acupuncture. This is an umbrella term for the use of acupuncture to treat things like scarring, acne, or anything to do with the physical appearance. Recently the term is particularly used for cosmetic acupuncture treatments targeting the face. Are you not pretty enough?* Read on!

Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles into particular points on the body and it’s been around for a really, really long time (like a few thousand years). Some of those points are on the face and can be used for problems close to the acupuncture point, so in that sense cosmetic acupuncture has been around for ages. Likewise in Chinese herbal medicine there are formulas for things like acne, hair loss or dry skin; and they’ve been around a long time too. In it’s modern usage the term cosmetic acupuncture has been around since about the 1990s.

One of the causes for some of the common signs of aging like wrinkles is the reduction of collagen in our skin as we age. Collagen is a protein found in the connective tissues and helps support the skin and keep it supple. Acupuncture may increase the production of collagen by stimulating a local wound response from the puncturing.

Acupuncture also aims to increase blood flow to the area, which could help to reduce dryness or discolouring.

Cosmetic acupuncture may improve the muscle tone in the facial muscles, reducing any “droopiness” like saggy cheeks and chin.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) cosmetic acupuncture aims to improve the flow of qi (energy) and Blood to the face, while also nourishing other aspects of the organ systems, like:

  • The Kidneys: In TCM the Kidneys are the main organs responsible for the aging process, so anything attempting to reduce the signs of aging will address this.
  • The Stomach: The Stomach meridian runs over the cheeks, so Stomach points are local to the area. The Stomach is also quite often implicated in cases of acne.
  • The Lung: The Lung in TCM is associated with the skin and also hair.

Now, is there much in the way of evidence for cosmetic acupuncture? Not a lot, honestly. This could be for a few reasons. One might be that cosmetic acupuncture is a relatively new discipline, so not many studies have been performed. Another may be that cosmetic acupuncture isn’t looking to prove an effective treatment for “illness” as such, so there is less incentive. But after looking around, I can tell you what there is:

  1. A preliminary study that showed cosmetic acupuncture increased moisture and oil content in the face. Unfortunately it’s poorly reported and only features 2 subjects, so you can’t take much from it.

Donoyama, N., Kojima, A., Suoh, S. & Ohkoshi, N. 2012, ‘Cosmetic acupuncture to enhance facial skin appearance: a preliminary study’, Acupuncture in Medicine, vol. 30, no. 2, p. 152.

  1. A pilot study that showed cosmetic acupuncture improved facial elasticity. Again, it’s a small sample size and this time there’s no control group, so they lose a few marks for that.

Yun, Y., Sehyun, K., Kim, M., KyuSeok, K., Jeong-Su, P. & Choi, I. 2013, ‘Effect of Facial Cosmetic Acupuncture on Facial Elasticity: An Open-Label, Single-Arm Pilot Study’, Evidence – Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2013, p. 5.

  1. A case study involving chronic Bell’s palsy (facial paralysis) showing acupuncture improving muscle strength, function and appearance. It’s only a case study rather than a clinical trial but it lends credence to the theory of acupuncture doing more than just stimulating collagen production.

Wong, C.L. & Wong, V.C.N. 2008, ‘Effect of Acupuncture in a Patient with 7-Year-History of Bell’s Palsy’, Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, vol. 14, no. 7, pp. 847-53.

Taken together, these three articles show some promising results, but more high quality studies are needed. There’s also a whole bunch of anecdotal evidence – google “cosmetic acupuncture” and you’ll see every life-style blogger has probably had a go and the response is generally very positive.

Cosmetic acupuncture has few adverse effects (mild bruising occasionally) and is usually quite relaxing and enjoyable. If you’d like to know more feel free to get in touch!



*See what I did there? This is how I amuse myself. That’s from “Not pretty enough”, by Kasey Chambers.**

**Obviously, acupuncture won’t make you pretty. It’s just that Kasey didn’t sing a song about having too many fine wrinkles.

Cosmetic Acupuncture

Cosmetic Acupuncture

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