The great skin de-stressing of 2022: Why cosmetic acupuncture should be on your self-care radar

January 17, 2022

We’ve been clenching jaws and furrowing brows like it’s a full-time job lately, making stress control techniques as indispensable as our retinol. Daphne Lim is a licensed cosmetic acupuncturist and herbalist with a background in psychology—aka pretty much a pro destresser—providing traditional Chinese medicine-based treatments (like gua sha and cupping) designed to relax the mind, body and fine lines. Curious how it all works? Lim explains the transformative nature of this full-body approach to skincare and what to expect if you’re new to the world of needles.  

Daphne Lim, Licensed Acupuncturist

Can you break down what cosmetic acupuncture is and how it works?

Lim: Essentially, cosmetic acupuncture is the use of acupuncture techniques to address one’s appearance. We use very fine acupuncture needles and place them in specific areas to elicit a change in the skin. We place needles in muscles on the face that are holding tension or slacking, thread needles through lines in the skin that need a healing collagen boost, or place them in points near areas of discoloration or acne breakouts.

Many patients come in wanting to just address the face, but most cosmetic acupuncture practitioners evaluate the whole body and perform a full body acupuncture treatment. In fact, typically the real magic happens with the points we place elsewhere, that are meant to balance or ground one’s energy. For example, there are points on the feet that brighten the eyes, on the hands that help clear your complexion, or on the shoulders that release circulation to your head to lift sagging, dull skin.

The new year always brings the need for routine self-care. What are some ways that stress and tension manifest in our faces?  

Lim: Stress can show up as a dull complexion, acne breakouts, skin irritations and drooping skin. Stuck energy and tension can create overdeveloped muscles in the face, like the jaw’s masseters, which can cause a fuller face or the brows feeling heavy over the eyes. With cosmetic acupuncture, we’re bringing energy, circulation, blood flow and nutrients to these areas. By stimulating a specific spot in the muscle of the face, we can help it relax or engage if needed.  

How do treatments like cupping and gua sha work in tandem with acupuncture? 

Lim: Like acupuncture, cupping and gua sha break up adhesions and built-up toxins from the face, so they can be processed and released. Looking at it as a whole in Chinese medicine, we are always concerned with how to support the patient’s energy to process and release. Our aim is to figure out how to do that in the healthiest way—in harmony with the patient, the season and the environment. And we treat the patient based on their unique needs. If a patient comes in on the verge of getting sick or is hungover, we use a gentler treatment with fewer points and stimulation. This is because their energies are weaker and we don’t want to overwhelm their system with more to process.  

Talk to us about what an acupuncture facial experience is like.

Lim: First, we take a few minutes to discuss the patient’s skin history and their goals for the treatment. I examine their skin and I ask further questions that help me identify root causes of any issues, and how I can best support their healing.  

Next, the client uses a facial cleanser to remove any dirt and makeup from their face and neck. I have them get comfortable and lay down on the treatment table, then spray a hydrating mist to start on the face. Next, I gently place acupuncture needles on the body, starting at the feet and moving up to the face and scalp—and depending on the patient, I’ll also set up an LED light over the face. Then, they’ll rest for 30 minutes.

At the end of the session, needles are removed and a facial oil is applied to perform gua sha, and we conclude with cupping. Most clients leave feeling relaxed and at ease. 

After an appointment, how can your clients continue to relieve facial stress at home?  

Lim: I always encourage my clients to learn at-home gua sha and cupping as they’ll maximize the benefits by incorporating them into their daily routines. I also remind them to slow down and check in with what’s going on in their bodies several times a day, and if they notice tightening, take several deep breaths to release it. Just like reading the news or feeling hungry, an awareness of fatigue or stress helps to keep our bodies at ease, energy flowing and stress off the face. 

Read more Q&As in our series, “The great skin de-stressing of 2022”:
Checking in on mental health before a cosmetic procedure? One of L.A.’s top RN’s mission to transform the industry,” featuring celeb-sought medical aesthetic provider and registered nurse Vanessa Lee

References for this information:
Healthline, Understanding Gua Sha: Benefits and Side Effects
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Murad, and are for informational purposes only, even if the advice of physicians and medical practitioners are included. This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should not be considered specific medical advice. 

About the Author

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Based in Los Angeles, Hannah is a senior beauty editor with IPSY and has been writing and creating content for beauty, skincare, lifestyle, and fashion for over seven years.