Acupuncture: The New Facelift? (cont.)

Acupuncture, a form of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), is designed to free up chi, or energy. When the needles -- approximately 30-40 -- are applied to the body and face, production of collagen and elastin may be stimulated, says Lucas, and skin is "plumped up."

By addressing other parts of the body in addition to the face, acupuncture assists the body's ability to support the "facelift."

Making the Entire Body Younger

"We're helping you to be younger -- and look younger -- by improving your energy from the inside out," Lucas explains. "This still is TCM -- it's not just about the face; it's about the whole body."

"Chinese medicine is the true antiaging medicine," Lucas says. "It helps your own body create a more youthful appearance."

Lucas has been offering this procedure for approximately four and a half years, and last year she began training other acupuncturists in cosmetic acupuncture throughout the United States and Canada. As the procedure gets more publicity, she says, more clients are requesting it, increasing the need for acupuncturists trained in the technique, which requires special acupuncture points and different needling techniques than traditional acupuncture.

Cosmetic acupuncture is not for everyone, says Lucas. Though acupuncture has been used to help people with migraines, seizure disorders, or high blood pressure, for example, these people are probably not good candidates for cosmetic acupuncture. For most people, however, Lucas says, acupuncture "lifts" are a great alternative for those who don't want more drastic procedures.

Columbia, Md. acupuncturist Della Aubrey-Miller, MAc, LAc, was trained in facial rejuvenation acupuncture, another form of cosmetic acupuncture, which she says is also effective in smoothing out lines, erasing shallow lines, and softening deeper furrows. Still, she says, like surgery, the effectiveness of the treatment depends on what you're starting with. "Working on a 40-year-old face is different from a 60-year-old face," she says. For that reason, both she and Lucas suggest starting the treatments when you're in your 30s, or 40s at the latest.

Increasing Energy

What cosmetic acupuncture does, says Aubrey-Miller, is "stir the energy pot." Moving energy through the body, with needles not only in the face but also the feet, legs, arms, head, and ears, stimulates collagen production and brings blood to the face.

Aubrey-Miller's recommended course of treatment is 12 to 16 weeks, with monthly maintenance treatments after that. "It's something useful to do for yourself," she says, and you don't have to worry about recovering from surgery or side effects such as bruising or nerve damage. For many of her clients, it's also a mini-vacation of sorts. "For many people, this is the only quiet time they spend on themselves. Usually, once the needles are in, they just fall asleep for 30 minutes."

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