I have mixed feelings about plastic surgery — Demi Moore, amazing. Meg Ryan, Renée Zellweger, Mickey Rourke — less so. One thing I am certain about though is that I’m not a candidate. I know this because I’m cursed with a body covered in moles. It’s not that I dislike the moles, it is that they are magnets for skin cancer. As a result, I have had many (MANY) of the little time bombs removed over the years.
It is mostly painless and I never see a drop of blood, but for some reason, without fail, post-procedure I faint. In the doctor’s office, usually into said doctor’s arms. A few years back, I was given Xanax in an effort to control the fainting…it made me sob hysterically for absolutely no reason and then I fainted anyway. I try to stay away from scalpels.
Cosmetic Acupuncture On the Rise
So, when I recently got wind of a new holistic trend that is said to have more natural, longer-lasting effects than Botox, and unlike a facelift, requires no surgery, you better believe my ears perked up. Cosmetic acupuncture isn’t new — in the Chinese culture, it dates back to the early Western Zhou period, 1121-770 BC — but it very well may be the future, especially for those who want to avoid the more invasive scalpel-and-giant-needle alternatives.
And what’s more exciting, the industry seems to be heading down this path. With the rise of treatments that use micro-trauma to induce a self-healing, collagen-stimulating reaction in the body (think platelet-rich plasma therapy, microneedling and some lasers), overly taut, expressionless faces may be a thing of the past. Cosmetic acupuncture offers a natural alternative to the plastic surgery that has become increasingly popular over the last couple of decades. It leaves the patient looking exactly like themselves, except more rested, less wrinkled, with plumper, glowing skin.
But what is cosmetic acupuncture? Anyone who has experienced traditional acupuncture will be familiar with the painless, hair-fine needles that are used. The needles are placed at carefully chosen acu-points to manipulate meridians and the body’s flow of energy, or chi. In the cosmetic sense, these same needles are used to correct lax skin, hyperpigmentation, fine lines, wrinkles, acne, improve circulation and impart that ever-elusive youthful glow.
Patience Is Key
The most important thing to understand about cosmetic acupuncture is that this is not a walk-in-with-sagging-jowls-walk-out-with-Angelina-Jolie-angles type deal. It takes time and multiple treatments. According to Josh Nerenberg, acupuncturist and owner of San Diego Cosmetic Acupuncture, you won’t see improvements until the third treatment, and even then it is only a slight tightening and the kind of glow that you would get after a really good facial. An entire course of treatments usually involves about 24 half-hour sessions.
The effects are cumulative, so the more treatments you have the better results you are going to see. And unlike more invasive treatments like heavy-duty lasers or chemical peels, there is no downtime. One treatment per week minimum is recommended, but you could get as many as three treatments per week to speed up the process. Regardless of how many sessions per week you opt for, the end results are exactly the same. And results last two to three years without needing any sort of touch up. Botox, on the other hand, needs to be topped up every six months. And downtime for chemical peels or surgical facelifts? Let’s not even go there.
San Diego’s Answer to Holistic Cosmetic Procedures
Josh Nerenberg is an expert in the field and the man I had my very first treatment with. His clinic is tucked away in a quiet corner of San Diego’s Mission Valley, and a welcome respite from the madness that is this shopping mecca. The clinic itself is a tranquil oasis with soft, tinkling music and deep, relaxing colors. Instead of private rooms, there is a large shared space with comfy chairs and ottomans for stretching out on, complete with lavender eye pillows and a spa-like ambiance.
After watching a video tutorial about what to expect, I was shown back to my own chair where Josh appeared in his white lab coat soon after. He checked my pulse: “Have you had a repertory illness lately?” I had. He then examined my tongue: “Hmm, do you have digestive issues?” Bullseye again. I had accidentally eaten a food I am allergic to a few days prior. I was a convert at that point. He could have turned me into a human pincushion and I would have gone with it.
He instructed me to kick off my shoes, prop up my feet and get comfortable as he began inserting needles in my face, right arm and legs. About 40 needles later, I was told to relax and let the needles — and lavender eye pillow — work their magic. While there wasn’t any pain from the needles, I did feel a distinct heaviness in my right arm, like it was made of steel, when I tried to move it. That was slightly painful, but easily remedied when I stopped resisting and relaxed as instructed.
The 30 minutes flew by and before I knew it, Josh was back gently removing the needles. There was a tiny bit of blood when he removed one of the needles (the one between my eyebrows), but having had acupuncture before, I know this is perfectly normal. And while bruising is a possible side effect, I had no issues (and I tend to bruise easily). Moments later I was out the front door and on my way. It couldn’t have been easier or more relaxing.
Full disclosure: Josh kindly offered for me to experience the first treatment for free. I did not expect to see any results after this treatment (see above results timeline). What I wanted to find out was what the treatment entailed and let’s be honest, if visiting the clinic 24 times was mentally and physically possible.
The Jury is Not Out
Verdict? I would 100% do this again. Twenty-three times to be exact. There is definitely an appeal to having a cosmetic procedure under the watchful eye of a doctor (new legislative talks are taking place to give acupuncturists equivalent medical credentials as MDs) — in a spa setting. And the fact that it does not alter your appearance only enhances it, is a major win for the aging gracefully set.