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Can cosmetic acupuncture reduce wrinkles?

Shirley says: Hi, I’ve read about the increasing popularity of cosmetic acupuncture. Can you please tell me about its possible side effects and whether it works to improve skin’s condition?

Left Brain Laments

This logical, less emotional Beauty Brain is usually unaffected by most of the nonsense propagated by the beauty industry. Fluff claims are relatively harmless and add fun to the cosmetic experience.

But certain subjects like dubious beauty supplements, unsupported chemical scares, the inherent superiority of expensive brands, and questionable cosmetic treatments really unhinge my undies. Cosmetic acupuncture is one such subject. I’ll try to maintain control but I can’t promise anything.

What is cosmetic acupuncture?

According to this New York Times article, cosmetic acupuncture is an anti-aging treatment which involves practitioners sticking needles in your face to reduce wrinkles and other signs of aging. It’s supposed to be an alternative to a face lift. But more likely it’s placebo poppycock.

Cosmetic acupuncture benefits

The site Chimedicineworks lists the following benefits of cosmetic acupuncture.

Promotes blood and lymph circulation; increased circulation dilates peripheral blood vessels for better distribution of oxygen and nutrients as well as cellular regeneration.

Rehydrates the skin’s external layers through stimulation of the secretion of the sweat and sebacious glands which encourages the regeneration of healthy skin cells.

Helps exfolliation, aids the proliferation of new skin cells, increases nutrition to the skin’s surface, improves the quality of the skin and promotes a healthy glow.

Allows healthy “breathing” of the skin, increasing the skin’s protective ability to ward off infections and clogged pores.

Increases oxygen consumption of the skin’s external layer speeding up the release of carbon dioxide and nitrogen at the cellular level, helping to keep skin deeply clean; contributes to reducing the accumulation of excess grease on the skin’s surface.

Stimulates the production of elastin and 4 collagen proteins in the skin to reduce and soften wrinkles.

Reduces and relaxes the tension in the nerves and muscles improving the integrity of the skin resulting in improved overall facial appearance.

All that from one kind of treatment? Wow. Now you might be wondering, is this stuff true? Let’s look at the claims and the science behind it.

Deconstruction of Cosmetic Acupuncture Claims

1. Promotes circulation – The wording of this claim is important. They merely say circulation is promoted not that it is increased. There is no proof that sticking needles in your skin increases circulation.

2. Rehydrates the skin’s external layers – While needles might stimulate the sweat and sebacious glands, there certainly aren’t enough inserted to have much effect on skin moisture levels. This is unproven nonsense.

3. Helps exfoliation – Big deal. You can say almost anything you do to skin will “help” exfoliation. The claims of increasing skin nutrition is complete bogus.

4. Allows healthy “breathing” of the skin – Another fluff claim that doesn’t mean anything. Washing your face allows skin to “breath”. What is the new benefit offered here?

5. Increases oxygen consumption of the skin’s external layer – The skin’s external layer is made up of dead cells that don’t use oxygen. It’s baffling to me how acupuncture would increase the consumption of oxygen by dead cells. Plus, there is no proof that this even happens. More nonsense.

6. Stimulates the production of elastin and 4 collagen proteins – This just isn’t true. Poking yourself with needles has not been demonstrated to increase elastin and collagen levels in skin.

7. Reduces and relaxes the tension in the nerves and muscles – Of all the claims this one is the most plausible. Acupuncture is a relaxing procedure that could have some effect on muscle tension and thus slightly change your appearance. But that hardly seems worth $150 per treatment.

Acupuncture is bunk

For years people have been trying to prove that acupuncture has some scientific validity. And study after study demonstrates there is no benefit beyond a placebo effect. According to Quackwatch.com, the National Council Against Health Fraud concluded:

  • Acupuncture is unproven
  • Its theory and practice are based on primitive and fanciful concepts of health and disease that bear no relationship to present scientific knowledge
  • Research during the past 20 years has not demonstrated that acupuncture is effective against any disease.
  • Perceived effects of acupuncture are probably due to a combination of expectation, suggestion, counter-irritation, conditioning, and other psychologic mechanisms.

Beauty Brains Bottom Line

If you’re going to get a cosmetic procedure done, don’t waste money on acupuncture. Save up for a full blown face lift. At least that will be done by a reputable doctor and has been proven to work. And if surgery isn’t something you want to do, stick to the high quality facial products you can buy at your local drug store. They’re just as good as the department store products.

What do YOU think? Do you believe in cosmetic acupuncture? Leave a comment for the rest of the Beauty Brains community.

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Dr. Nikki December 31, 2015, 5:32 pm

    Worked for me!! The author obviously has no real experience with oriental medicine.. It’s helped mu whole family w various health problems. And GOT RID OF THE LINE of the line on my chin IN ONE SHOT!! Acupuncture has been heling people for 6,000 years.

    • Perry Romanowski May 11, 2016, 4:50 pm

      As a doctor I’m sure you realize anecdotal evidence is not evidence of anything and the fact that something has been used for a long time doesn’t mean it works.

  • DW May 4, 2016, 3:34 pm

    This article is garbage and there is more and more increasing evidence that it DOES work for promoting health and beauty in many ways. Instead of writing a smug and smarmy blog such as this and calling Acupuncture “Bogus” – please get your facts straight. Inserting a needle into the skin creates an inflammatory response which therefore DOES increase circulation locally, not to mention systemically via the autonomic nervous and vascular systems, etc. In addition, over time, the inflammatory response of needling, particularly on a repeated basis, gives rise to the production of collagen where the needling took place. Acupuncture has been demonstrated in many, many studies (some well executed and admittedly some less so) to be more effective than placebo. Recent evidence in 2013 showed that stimulated Acupoints show up on MRI scanning in areas of the brain that relate to the effects of such Acupuncture points over nearby “sham” Acupoints. http://www.healthcmi.com/acupuncturist-news-online/764-mrilr4st44
    In addition – this has also been found with research surrounding CT scanning: http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1230-new-ct-scans-reveal-acupuncture-points

    Lastly, there is now also some genuine evidence to suggest that that the Channels and Collaterals (if the author even knows what that means) DO exist -http://upliftconnect.com/science-proves-meridians-exist/ .

    To the author of this article – as an Acupuncturist and long-time user of Chinese Medicine, I am annoyed to read such a generalized and uninformed article, even if it was written before my cited conclusive studies had been completed. Western Medicine is also needed, but you don’t do anyone any favours by discouraging people from opting for less invasive therapies and treatments which actually end up being less expensive and much less risky (BOTOX – ahem!) in the long run. It’s been around for 5000+ years and is only continuing to grow and evolve. Stop propagating mis-information simply because of your own myopic, biased ideas and do some learning about what you intend to post. A face-lift may work for some, but often needs to be redone every 3-5 years. They are far more expensive, look less natural and leave scarring. Please think twice and have some reverence for things which science is only starting to understand. Science is amazing but never can be relied on as being the only source of answers.

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