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An Ancient Treatment Updated for Modern Stress + Skin Health

by Sara Spruch Feiner

Acupuncture has been an important part of my life for the better part of the last decade—I’ve long believed in the power of Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, to help promote wellness, from migraine relief (the reason I go), to pain management, and stress management. But until recently, I’d never considered the placement of tiny needles as a cosmetic practice.

First things first, a quick refresher: according to the Acupuncture Society of New York, acupuncture is a procedure that involves “the manipulation of the body’s energy through the insertion of fine needles at specified points on the body with the goal of helping the body to heal and strengthen.”

I visited Stefani DiLibero, owner of Gotham Wellness, who offers a unique facial treatment called Aculectrics.This treatment combines acupuncture with high-tech skincare technologies like LED light and microcurrent with natural modalities including lymphatic drainage, and gua sha to top it off. Acupuncture is just one piece of the larger extraordinary, ancient practice of TCM and DiLibero’s use of varied modalities echoes this truth. Practices like gua sha (which is everywhere now), and lymphatic drainage work to move stagnation and drain excess fluid, helping achieve that coveted sculpted look. By boosting collagen and elastin production, microcurrent improves the body’s ability to heal itself, while LED enhances skin tissue repair. Meditation, which is incorporated into the treatment, helps you to totally chill out—even if needles make you antsy. 

Acupuncture for cosmetic purposes may be (re)gaining traction—but it turns out it’s nothing new. “Mentions of facial rejuvenation techniques through specific acupuncture points, dietary practices, herbs, and even face masks have existed in texts to varying degrees going back about 2,000 years,” DiLibero says. 

Of course, 2,000 years ago, we didn’t have Botox, so you might be wondering how Aculectrics compares to more modern dermatological technology. With Botox, you’ll get a relaxed, wrinkle-free forehead, but you won’t likely reap any of the benefits provided by a holistic cosmetic acupuncture treatment. Essentially, aculectrics, and acupuncture, work to balance the nervous system. According to dermatologist Dr. Josh Zeichner, though “there is very little published data on the use of facial acupuncture, and much of what we know comes from anecdotal reports, cosmetic acupuncture has been reported to enhance blood flow, increase collagen production, and even help treat acne,” he says.

According to DiLibero, most of her clients fall asleep during the treatment, or say they feel like they are “floating on a cloud.” I can report, that, if only by the nature of abandoning my phone and surrendering to DiLibero’s multitude of relaxing modalities, I too left feeling far chiller than my usual state. And since acupuncture, at its core, is about the ultimate interconnectedness of all of our body’s systems, DiLibero’s clients sometimes find that symptoms like insomnia, TMJ, and allergies are alleviated. Aculectrics would also make an excellent event-prep treatment, as DiLibero’s medley of natural modalities often leaves clients with a sculpted, lifted, ultra well-rested glow. “It is a natural, non-invasive treatment, so it's not equivalent to cosmetic surgery,” DiLibero explains—“it’s the difference between shutting down your body’s ability to function in certain areas (Botox) versus enhancing the way your body functions in all areas.

“Acupuncture is a whole body and mind treatment with points selected based on the patient’s needs and patterns of imbalance,” explains naturopathic doctor, Dr. Nadia Musavvir. Skin conditions, like so many other ailments of modern life, can be impacted by stress, and stress puts the body in a state of imbalance. There is a clear connection between stress and skin health, Dr. Musavvir explains: “Increases in cortisol (which occur when you’re stressed) lead to more inflammation which breaks down collagen.” Because acupuncture is designed to treat the body as a whole, it can be an important tool in treating stress-induced skin concerns. 

If you go into a cosmetic acupuncture appointment expecting the results of a facelift, then sure, you might be disappointed. But if you’re looking to achieve a better sense of physical wellness, bodily balance, zen, and a glow, you might just find the treatment to be an incredible self care experience. 

Written by Sara Spruch Feiner for Youth To The People