Most women know about the magic-like effects of Botox, used to make wrinkles and fine lines on the face disappear when administered correctly, but some women have started to opt for a more natural and toxic-free alternative to anti-aging: facial acupuncture.
So, how does each method work and which one is best for you?
Botox is a widely used drug made from a neurotoxin called botulinum toxin, produced by the bacterium Clostridium. Mixed with saline, it is injected into the skin of the desired facial muscle. The injection causes the nerves in that muscle to stop sending signals to the brain to move, essentially freezing the muscle. The wrinkles in that muscle area relax and soften, and because there is no movement, prevents new wrinkles from forming. That is, until the Botox wears off after about four months and another injection is needed.
Facial acupuncture, also known as facial rejuvenation, mimics the effects of Botox with needlework derived from ancient Chinese medicine with a holistic wellness approach. Facial rejuvenation is also used to treat other skin issues such as dark circles, puffy eyes, enlarged pores, sagging jowls and acne.
Ali Vander Baan, owner and founder of Yintuition Wellness in Boston, is a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist.
“We stimulate collagen production with fine needles placed at local points, around the eyes, between the nose and mouth, or around the lips,” says Vander Baan. “The fine needles promote movement of lymph and blood circulation, in addition to collagen.”
For each client’s initial visit, Vander Baan says, “We do a full body treatment in addition to just treating the face, because ultimately the speed at which we age is the result of how we live our lives: our lifestyle, diet and our overall health.”
If one of Vander Baan’s clients wants to treat acne, she would look for signs of hormonal imbalances and administer needlework on the kidney system, which, in Chinese medicine, is located on the lower back.
Laura Pilitsis, owner and founder of Meridian Wellness acupuncture clinic in Brighton, is also a licensed acupuncturist who works with clients to counteract the effects of aging through holistic bodywork and localized needlework.
She explains that in her facial rejuvenation sessions, after determining a client’s underlying health issues, acupuncture needles are placed directly into the skin’s problem areas. “The tiny needles create micro-traumas that stimulate collagen and reactivate weakened muscles that contribute to wrinkles” says Pilitsis.
When comparing facial rejuvenation with cosmetic procedures such as Botox, Pilitsis says, “What sets facial rejuvenation acupuncture apart is the fact that it treats the underlying causes of skin issues and effectively slows the aging process from within.”
“So, while injections and fillers are able to create the appearance of tighter skin and lifted brows, your acupuncturist will actually be able to reactivate those muscles that have lost some of their tone and help your body to produce its own collagen to fill those fine lines and wrinkles, naturally,” she says. Plus, there is no downtime after acupuncture, and only a very rare chance of bruising.
Vander Baan says that choosing between Botox and facial rejuvenation depends on, “Mostly a personal philosophy, whether you feel that a non-toxic or non-chemical approach is more appropriate for you.”
However, she says, “Some people do both, but we recommend at least three to four weeks between doing Botox and fillers and our visit. We can help maintain what you’re trying to do with Botox and fillers.”
Pilitsis says that she doesn’t usually see clients do both acupuncture and Botox and that facial rejuvenation might counteract the effects of Botox. “With Botox, you’re freezing the muscles, but with acupuncture, we’re naturally stimulating them.”
If cost is a deciding factor, here’s how Botox treatments and facial rejuvenation breaks down, although, naturally, prices vary depending on where you receive it.
At both Meridian Wellness and Yintuition Wellness, facial rejuvenation costs $200 for the initial visit and $150 for each follow-up session.
At Cosmetic & Laser Center Boston, Botox treatments run $14 per unit, with clients typically undergoing between 5 to 40 units per session, depending on the area of the face and how deep the wrinkles are.
Both treatments require regular maintenance as our skin and bodies continuously face the elements of our environments and the natural processes of life. “Your daily life will continue to present stress and other things that cause us to age,” says Vander Baan. “And we want to continue to address those things.”