I tried facial acupuncture—and every bit of jaw and forehead tension melted away


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Photo: Phoebe Cheong Photography

I’ve been noticing myself getting increasingly braver when it comes to trying out skin-care treatments. Last year alone, I zapped, lasered, and micro-needled my face to better absorb my own plasma. Then, at the tail end of the year, I heard about facial acupuncture—yet another way to achieve luminosity—and despite my fear of needles (that aren’t attached to a micro-needling device), I decided to give it a go.

Facial cosmetic acupuncture (FCA) is just what it sounds like: The traditional treatment of placing needles into skin, which correspond with various meridians and release chi energy…only done on your face for beautifying reasons. There’s science to back it up, too. According to one study on the efficacy, facial cosmetic acupuncture resulted in boosted elasticity among the 27 participants who received 5 treatments; other studies have found that multiple FCA treatment improve skin texture, fend off fine lines, and provide an all-over refreshed glow.

“It’s the ultimate multitasker,” says Shari Auth, DACM, LAc, LMT co-founder of WTHN, a New York City acupuncture studio. “Facial acupuncture is anti-aging, relaxes the muscles of the face, and boosts collagen to reduce wrinkles. It also increases circulation and boosts elastin to firm and tone the face, and promotes detoxification to leave you with a clearer, more even complexion.” Okay, okay, you’ve got my attention. But what is it like to experience? I was about to find out. Keep on scrolling for my firsthand account.

What it’s like to get facial acupuncture

When I walked into WTHN, the airy studio that’s essentially the Drybar of acupuncture for those in NYC, I was taken to a treatment table and instructed to lie down. Unlike the facial treatments I’m used to, my skin wasn’t cleansed or slathered with anything—instead, my acupuncturist got right to it.

She put the super-thin needles into various points on my face, one at a time (after placing a few in my legs and feet for enhanced relaxation). I was definitely afraid of what it was going to feel like before the first one ever pricked my cheek, but in actuality, I barely felt it happen. The only spot that sort of made me wince was a slight prick on the skin underneath my eyes, which is the thinnest on the body—but it wasn’t anything drastic. Once I was situated with 12 needles all over my face, I could relax (even though a selfie confirmed that yes, I did look like Hellraiser).

According to Auth, the idea is that the needles create micro-tears in the skin that are meant to boost circulation and restore blood flow to the face in a way that boosts radiance and provides an all over glow. Besides the beauty perks, Dr. Auth told me during the treatment that acupuncture on the face can also relieve tension, benefiting those who furrow their brow or clench their jaw  (ahem: yours truly). The acupuncture needles did, in fact, feel like they were puncturing an invisible cloud of heaviness within my facial muscles.

My acupuncturist also placed an LED light panel over my face as I let the needles sit for half an hour, which has separately been shown to stimulate your skin’s collagen. I laid there in collagen-producing bliss for about 30 minutes while listening to a sound-healing journey in a pair of headphones. Despite how it may have looked having a dozen needles sticking out from all directions all over my face, I was actually quite peaceful.

As for the results? After one session, I didn’t notice a marked difference in my skin’s radiance, per se, which was to be expected (many note it takes upwards of 5 treatments to see results). All that aside, I vividly remember rising from the bed, peering into the mirror, and feeling no tension in my face whatsoever.

Read up on why acupuncture is going mainstream. And this is how acupuncture can help with anxiety

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