Facial Acupuncture: An All-Encompassing Solution to Better Skin

© Tyler Olson/Shutterstock
© Tyler Olson/Shutterstock
Photo of Esme Benjamin
Wellness Editor24 October 2017

As a newbie to acupuncture I was really throwing myself in at the deep end with the facially focused version of the therapy, but compared to other treatments women undergo in the pursuit of beauty, facial acupuncture is actually non-invasive and pretty painless. Plus, thanks to its systemic approach to health, it has the potential to be far more effective than a trip to the dermatologist.

At Samantha Story’s West Village base, Take Care, the ambiance is a comforting combination of wave sounds and woody incense. In the low-lit treatment room, natural beauty products are arranged alongside delicate acupuncture needles and chunks of polished stone and crystal—the tools of her trade.

Chinese medicine, with its holistic view of wellbeing, is a natural fit for skin issues, which are almost always a symptom of a wider imbalance—be it hormonal or emanating from the gut.

“I like to think of it as integrative beauty—we’re taking everything into account,” Samantha says. “We’re looking at the root cause and what’s going on with the systems of the body. Even if it’s just dry skin and wanting more nourishing fluids—that doesn’t come just from the face, it comes from the body.”

© Samantha Story

With this in mind, my facial acupuncture session begins with an overall health assessment and the application of some purposefully placed needles elsewhere on the body. By the time Samantha has worked her way up to my face and scalp, I’ve grown used to the various zings and tingles that sometimes occur at insertion points. “The good thing is, any sensation you experience disappears within two breaths,” Samantha explains. Despite the fact that I’m not a fan of needles, acupuncture is a weirdly meditative experience.

Between deep, deliberate inhales and exhales, a cluster of whisker-thin needles are positioned around my eyes, my smile lines, my habitually clenched jaw, and my scalp—because facial muscles don’t just stop at the hairline. “I like to think of the face as a garden,” says Samantha. “You have to till the soil and get the fluids everywhere, or you’ll get cracks. If you’re not taking care of the garden it’s not gonna thrive.”

Besides helping to relax bound-up muscles and fascia, which in turn increases blood flow and lymphatic drainage, facial acupuncture works by causing tiny traumas to the skin. The body responds to the needles with fibroblasts—cells that release collagen to heal the wound, and in doing so rejuvenate the complexion.

Once the needles have been removed, Samantha applies a soothing balm and gently massages my face with a cool, smooth agate disk—another technique from Chinese medicine called gua sha. By gliding the stone over my tight jaw and the areas where fine wrinkles are beginning to set, circulation is increased and tightness caused by habitual expressions is reduced.

Samantha is a big proponent of facial massage like gua sha as a beauty practice. If regular yoga can keep your muscles long and supple into old age, it makes sense that a daily ritual of facial massage can be an effective technique for anti-aging. “There’s this saying in Chinese medicine—a moving hinge never rusts—and it’s the same thing with the body. Use it or lose it, you know?”

*Disclaimer: Facial acupuncture provided by Samantha Story. As always, all opinions expressed on Culture Trip are our own.

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