You have likely scrolled passed someone with small needles lining their face, claiming to use acupuncture to treat a chronic skin issue like acne or eczema. But does it really work? In one word, probably. The ancient Eastern medicine technique can address and alleviate a whole host of health issues, and, as your largest organ, it only makes sense that your skin would be equally affected. I set out to find out more and see firsthand if there’s a point (get it?) in trying acupuncture for clearer, smoother skin.
Let’s start with a quick background on acupuncture and the philosophy behind it: “Acupuncture looks at the body as a holistic entity composed of the mind, body, and sprit. It teaches us that when those things are in balance, you’re in a state of optimal health,” explains Giselle Wasfie, DACM, and owner of Remix Acupuncture and Integrative Health in Chicago. The skin has a special place in this ancient technique, as all of the energy highways that pass through the body meet in the face, she says. “We use face mapping to look at where the issues are occurring in the face and determine the channel behind it for a very specific and individualized approach to treatment.” For example, the chin is correlated to the uterus; the tip of the nose, the spleen.
Secondly, there’s the issue of inflammation—the root of all evils behind many skin conditions including eczema, acne, and psoriasis, as well as premature aging. “Acupuncture cools the blood to the optimal level, so the cells can carry out their natural healing process, which they can’t do when the body is in an inflammatory state,” explains Wasfie. To that point, there’s no shortage of different skin conditions that acupuncture can address, everything from acne to general facial rejuvenation and aging, as it were. And the results can show up fairly quickly; Wasfie says to give it about five sessions for noticeable changes, though you may notice some even after just one.
Moving onto my experience…As a bit of background, I’ve been dealing with some annoying (to put it mildly) skin issues that I simply can’t shake. Namely, perioral dermatitis (red bumps around my mouth, the cause of which is unknown) and a smattering of bumpy pimple-looking things on my forehead. You name it, I’ve tried it to clear up my complexion. Topical treatments (both prescription and non), lasers, peels, oral antibiotics, dietary changes, an allergy test…all with minimal success.
I told Wasfie all of this at my appointment, as she listened carefully and asked lots of other questions about what seemed to make my condition worse or better. After digging into some lifestyle stuff, none of which seemed to correlate, we started to dig a little deeper. Per that whole mind-body connection, my appointment became part therapy session, during which some childhood and emotional experiences I relayed to Wasfie all seemed to suddenly make sense in connection with the symptoms I was experiencing. Long story short, my “diagnosis” was an imbalance of energy in my lung channel and the need for more grounding and self-care.
During the actual acupuncture part of the session, Wasfie worked on both of these channels, and sent me home with homework: eating less raw food, sitting still for 10 minutes a day, and drinking more water. I know it may all sound a little hokey and generic, but I left the session feeling incredible—relaxed, calm, centered, happy. As for my skin, within the next day or two, things seemed to get slightly better; granted, not a drastic improvement, but enough that I noticed and wanted to go back for more.
It’s worth noting that Wasfie also noted that incorporating herbal medicine along with acupuncture would be helpful in speeding along the healing process (not only for me, but anyone dealing with skin issues). “Herbs can be used both internally and externally, making them good for treating the skin,” she points out. (Lucky for me, she’s also an herbalist and has a line of aromatherapy and beauty products.) The bottom line: If there’s a skin issue that’s annoying you, consider adding acupuncture to your toolbox treatment. I’m definitely going to.