I was blown away reading Audrey’s December article on her experience of receiving Botox injections for the first time. Hers is the first article I’d seen giving the not-so-good side of what happens when Botox (Botulism Type A) works too well at paralyzing the nerves that activate muscles. The part about drooling really frightened me… Elective drooling. Elective nerve paralysis. But then again, I’m afraid of big needles.
There is great irony to this as I’m an acupuncturist.
But first, back about 6 years ago…
At age 39, I looked in the bathroom mirror one day, and audibly
gasped. I leaned in closer to the mirror. What HAPPENED?! It is
summertime, I have a little color on my face, so why am I so…dull? I see
nothing but a grayish pallor staring back at me. Why is the area under
my eyes so dark? Why am I so…blotchy?! There was no uniformity to my
skin color. It was as if various areas of my face had given up on trying
to look ruddy.
Then I moved to another room, flooded in natural light, and looked at
a different mirror. I still looked gray, blotchy, but had a slight tan
on top of it. I refuse to wear foundation. It’s just not me. Besides,
I’d have to wash it off sometime, right? Conclusion: Maybe I’m getting
old. That is such a cop out answer, by the way. I’m sorry, at age 39 at
that moment, I was NOT old. I eat well, I have healthy fats in my diet
which should nourish the skin. I work out. I get acupuncture because I’m
an acupuncturist. I take Chinese herbs, because I have access to the
best and most established medicine on the planet.
I even asked my dermatologist for suggestions but was not sold on any
of the choices. Every procedure involved either injecting something
foreign into my skin, or chemical removal of part of the skin. And the
area under the eyes would involve something more. This would take time
and lots of money to reshape the condition my face was in. My gut
churned enough to say this was never going to happen. And each procedure
carried risks. Some of them were rather serious, like an allergic
reaction to dermal fillers which would leave skin bumps for 6 months.
And you’d still have that dull skin, but plumper. That seemed like a band-aid, and not a solution to the problem.
So why does a healthy 39-year-young woman look like she’s just emerged from 6 months underground?
Answer: At age 28, the epidermal skin layer sloughs off about every
28 days. At age 40, it slows to every 40 days. But it doesn’t stop
sloughing, it just slows down. And new skin builds slower. This is why
bluish veins start to show through, why the gray / blue color takes
over. A new question: How to make this happen faster?
A few years later at dinner with my acupuncture colleagues we
discussed that we’d all been tinkering with what now has the name
Cosmetic Acupuncture and is also known in some circles as Facial
Rejuvenation. This was applying the proven techniques of Traditional
Chinese Medicine to a new application: getting rid of wrinkles. Some of
us had seen better results than others: we needed a consistent protocol.
We concluded through a few people’s research that most preferred the
protocol taught and created by Dr. Martha Lucas of Colorado called Mei
Zen. It means “Beautiful Person” in Chinese. Dr. Lucas employed her own
proprietary protocol, favoring many acupuncture points, and only
superficial placement of the needles, rather than deep into the skin.
I booked the next seminar that she had. I went to Day One of her
seminar on about 2 hours of sleep thanks to my neighbors having a party
the preceding evening. I looked rough and felt worse. After discussing
the specifics of her proprietary protocol, and the logic behind it, how
to tailor it to each patient (one needs to diagnose each patient for his
or her specific health presentation, based on assessing the patient’s
pulse, and looking at his or her tongue, which is how acupuncture
diagnosis has been practiced for over 5,000 years), Dr. Lucas had us
practice the Mei Zen protocol on one-another. I found the facial points
sensitive, similar to the “zing” one gets after having wasabi with
sushi, but once the needles were out, I sat up, looked in the mirror and
gasped. But this time, I gasped because my face felt tight, tingly, and
I had a GLOW all over it, a healthy shine, and I swear my eyes looked
less dark underneath and the tiny crinkles in the corners of my eyes
were less prevalent. I was hooked. The clock started turning back on
I tell my patients that getting acupuncture once is like working out
once. The benefits build exponentially over time. And this is why in
cosmetic acupuncture it is done for 5 weeks or more to start the body
producing more collagen and elastin on its own. One or two treatment
will look nice, but for more lasting effects, ten sessions are
recommended within 5 weeks. If a patient is needle-sensitive or
schedule-challenged, then we extend cosmetic acupuncture to once a week
for 10 weeks. Two maintenance sessions are recommended quarterly or
semiannually to continue positive effects of the treatment. In a healthy
person, results should last 3 to 5 years. This is one comprehensive
procedure, not the cost of multiple procedures (Botox, Juvederm,
Restalyne) which also require new injections every 3 to 6 months. In the
end, the cost works out to be less than the chemical alternatives due
to its comprehensive nature and the fact that it’s not repeated in full
as often. Ten cosmetic acupuncture treatments cost about $1200, or $120
Results-wise, cosmetic acupuncture offers a few great features: there
is no down-time after having this procedure. Aside from some minor
temporary redness, no one can tell any type of treatment was performed..
I have met women who could not go out in public for ten days after
having a dermal filler due to severe bruising. Cosmetic acupuncture will
occasionally bruise a small spot that concealer will cover nicely. This
is because acupuncture needles are significantly thinner that a typical
needle. Twenty hair-thin acupuncture needles can fit on the head of one
Rather than using Botox or Dysport for the forehead, a dermal filler
(Juvederm or Restalyne) for the laugh lines, and a chemical peel for the
skin to slough off a thick layer, cosmetic acupuncture is a one-step
solution encompassing the entire face. One important concept in
Traditional Chinese Medicine is that building overall functionality of
the body prevents or delays the break-down of health later. When
applying this concept to Cosmetic Acupuncture, this means firming up the
jaw line before it starts to fall into jowls. This is tightening
wrinkles before they form, or unwinding them after they have formed.
Because this procedure also addresses functionality of the body,
patients report sleeping better, digesting better, having less stress,
and resolving mild depression or anxiety. All of these factors result in
the production of healthier skin. Better health equates to better skin.