As I’m approaching my late 20s, I’ve noticed a need to up my skincare routine. In general, I’ve always tried to invest in quality skincare and take good care of my skin (I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gone to bed with makeup on). However, postpartum hormonal breakouts and a slight decrease in my dewy glow of days past have me looking into ways to support my skin as best as I can. Personally, I’m interested in staying on as natural a route as possible, and after cosmetic acupuncture popped on my radar, I was immediately interested.
Cosmetic acupuncture isn’t new, it’s been used in a cosmetic context for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine. And it’s just what it sounds like: a treatment placing needles into skin, which correspond with various meridians to move qi energy.
To find out more, I scheduled my first appointments and tapped acupuncturist, Brooke Taylor, founder of The Road Acupuncture, for the low-down and to ask what does cosmetic acupuncture actually do, how much does it cost, is facial acupuncture better than botox, and how long does it last—yes, I had so many questions.
Taylor told me that facial acupuncture treatments can target excess fluid and puffiness, breakouts, dull skin, boost collagen production, cell turnover, minimize fine lines, sculpt and boost facial definition, increase circulation and elastin to firm and tone, and promote detoxification. I mean, how can you say no.
Read on for my experience with cosmetic acupuncture, and check out my before and after picture at the end! You’ll be amazed at the difference.
About Brooke Taylor and her journey into TCM and acupuncture.
The first time I received acupuncture, I was having trouble sleeping. I could fall asleep, but I’d soon wake up from stress and overthinking. After my first session, to my surprise, I slept great from then on. I was hooked.
I received acupuncture regularly while living in Australia and began to learn more about Chinese medicine and the philosophy of treating to maintain health, not just going to the doctor once sick. I had my own health crisis during this time and re-evaluated what I wanted to do with my life. Once I said the words out loud “I want to be an acupuncturist,” the rest fell into place—moving to Austin, going to school for the four-year master’s program, passing the medical boards, and finally opening my own practice.
This was a big midlife shift, going from living abroad as a global brand manager for a skincare line to a solo Chinese medicine practitioner.
But I never looked back and I feel blessed to be healthy now, doing what I love—combining my experience in skin care with acupuncture and Chinese medicine to help others age well.
So what is cosmetic acupuncture?
Chinese medicine sees skin care issues as a combination of internal and external problems. I look for the root cause and treat both. The skin is assessed holistically (we ask lots of questions about sleep, stress, digestion, nutrition), needles are placed not only on the face, but on the body, to support the TCM systems affecting the skin like the lungs, stomach, spleen, large intestine, and so on. Most people take a lovely ‘acu nap’ once the needles are in place—this is the best state for healing, taking us into more rest and digestion, out of fight or flight.
In my clinic, I also combine this ancient modality (along with gua sha and facial cupping) with modern therapies of LED light therapy, a unique microcurrent treatment with biofeedback, and the very popular facial sculpting technique by Yakov Gershkovich to release facial tension and tone. It’s quite comprehensive!
Our tool kit also includes working with herbs, nutrition (eating seasonally and for your constitution), face massage/tuina or gua sha and facial cupping, transforming stagnant emotions, breathwork, qigong, and more.
How does it go deeper than other traditional cosmetic procedures?
Cosmetic acupuncture takes the individual’s constitution, lifestyle, nutrition, and current health including emotional state into consideration to bring about a more youthful appearance. It is optimal to treat the skin as part of the whole.
Some wrinkles are a normal part of aging! It’s been heartening to see more women embracing a few lines as acceptable. That being said, it can affect us deeply when some aspect of the face seems to age faster than our years. I’m not judging anyone who gets treatments like botox or fillers, I’m just out to let them know there is another option, an effective one that addresses their health inside and out, head to toe.
Does cosmetic acupuncture work?
Definitely! Research shows the mechanisms that acupuncture conveys in the face, creating meaningful results. How fast depends on your health, the condition of your skin, your age, and how often I see you. A series is usually recommended, but most people see a noticeable improvement in one treatment—they see what’s possible. People are usually pleasantly surprised.
My space is zen, the table is super comfy, the products I’ve chosen add to the overall experience, and people can usually relax and enjoy the process. I’m always happy to talk someone through the process on the phone prior to an appointment, and I walk them through what’s going on during the first treatment.
Does facial acupuncture hurt?
You might feel a few of the needles, this is not necessarily a bad thing, especially on the body. Most report a bit of a dull sensation or heavy feeling, but the facial needles are tiny and not painful like a tiny momentary pinch or tap.
How many cosmetic acupuncture treatments do you need?
The results are cumulative—how long it lasts depends on your status, but you can go further and further between appointments if you are maintaining your health and skin according to recommendations. Some people visit once a week, some, once a month—you just don’t want to go back to square one, we need to build on your results. I have patients from teens to 70s, the more work we have to do to reach their goals, the more often they see me initially, and we start spacing out more and more for maintenance. Or they might be like me and go often because they love the zen feeling as they float out of the space, and that’s okay, too.
How much does cosmetic acupuncture cost?
Some do a simplified version with needles to the body and face that might start at $80 or $90, while others like myself implement complementary modalities for a more comprehensive treatment. Definitely do your homework to find out their skill set, experience, and philosophy. A more holistic treatment with an experienced practitioner can be a few hundred dollars, usually, practitioners have advanced studies and certifications beyond the regular license for acupuncture. You do get what you pay for in most cases! For The Road’s pricing, follow this link.
My first appointment with Taylor came on the heels of a post-period breakout and dark circles courtesy of a few nights of rough sleep (thanks to my baby’s molars coming in). My skin was ready for some help. My main concerns were skin congestion that was leading to breakouts, general tone, and fine line and scarring reduction.
I stepped into Taylor’s studio and immediately was taken by the cool, laid-back atmosphere. Think zen apothecary meets industrial and minimal herbal shop. Taylor herself is stylish and talks with the quiet relaxed tones you want to listen to all day (she has some amazing stories to share!).
You can for sure find someone who just pops needles in, but Taylor makes it a holistic and whole body experience (and consequently, one of the best facials of my life).
We sat down for a chat over my diet, health, and lifestyle. After our chat, we headed to the table. I snuggled in and she carefully placed a few needles in my legs, arms, and hands before moving to my face. After a meditative facial cleanse, and some lymphatic opening and draining massage, she applied the needles, one at a time, throughout my face and head.
The needles feel like the lightest tiniest prick, so delicate that they barely registered. Taylor placed an led light panel (check out the benefits here) over my face and I drifted into the happiest nap. After about 20 to 30 minutes, she followed with a microcurrent treatment, skincare, and an amazing massage (Taylor uses the Facial Sculpting Technique by Yakov Gershkovich).
MY TAKE AWAY + AFTER PIC
I didn’t expect immediate results. I’m used to the slow process of healing that comes with holistic wellness and getting to the root of issues rather than a quick fix. However, after one session, I noticed a marked difference in my skin’s radiance, tone, and evenness. My lips and cheeks looked fuller, and the fine lines around my eyes were reduced too. The experience was one of the most relaxing facials I’ve ever had which surprised me. No “beauty is pain” around here.
I had some scarring from my recent breakout, as well as a little scratch on my nose, and they were both healed when I woke up the next day—definitely the quickest that that has ever happened. In her recommendations, Taylor advised I incorporate gua sha at home to help move some lymph congestion that had built up around my jaw and neck, which long-term, would help with the congestion I was seeing on my skin.
Since Taylor customizes every appointment for her clients, my second session included some of the same things, but she varied the skincare used and added facial cupping. The results were amplified and now I’m hooked.
Before and After:
Check out that firmed up under-eye area, less redness, and great tone—especially in the cheek! Counting down the days till my next appointment.
(photos were taken in the same lighting and are sans filter)