Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/2/2019 (342 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Welcome to Jen Tries, a semi-regular feature in which Free Press columnist Jen Zoratti will try something new and report back. In this instalment, Jen Tries... cosmetic acupuncture.
Acupuncture, a form of traditional Chinese medicine, is often said to relieve pain. But can it make you look younger?
Cosmetic acupuncture, or facial acupuncture, is a beauty trend that’s gained popularity over the past few years, especially among celebrities. It’s often touted as a natural alternative to Botox and chemical peels. I’d read about it in various beauty blogs, which suggest that acupuncture could be a "powerful weapon" in your anti-aging "arsenal," which seems like appropriate language, considering women are almost always waging war with their own faces.
On principle, the phrase "anti-aging" makes me bristle, as does the expensive upkeep required by women to adhere to beauty norms. Our culture makes it clear: put in a lot of effort, but make it seem effortless, because ew, effort. And if you have the audacity to age, then for God’s sake, woman, do it gracefully.
But this, I’ll admit, is where my vanity and my principles chafe. I get my eyebrows shaped every six weeks. I wear $32 mascara. I scrub, buff and moisturize. On the aging front, I think crow’s feet are beautiful. I don’t, as Nora Ephron famously wrote, feel bad about my neck. But as someone who is officially "you may want to consider adding a night cream"-years-old, I’m more aware of time and gravity as it relates to my face. My treatment coincided with that 10-Year ‘Glow-Up’ Challenge on social media, wherein people compared and contrasted their current face with their face of 10 years ago — you know, a fun, harmless thing that has nothing to do with facial recognition. I didn’t think I’d aged much between 23 and 33, but I also had bangs when I was 23 which hid a growing network of forehead lines. Apparently, my RBF (or "resting bitch face") does not, in fact, rest. Instead, my eyebrows are arched in a perpetual ‘Can you even believe this?’ expression, on which I blame the news cycle.
Also, I want a dewy, no-filter-needed glow. Sue me.
So, I went to see Tatiana Martins, a registered acupuncturist who is also certified in facial acupuncture. She practises out of Via Natural Medicine in St. Boniface, one of a handful of places that offer the service in the city. Martins first saw an acupuncturist to deal with her own health issues while she was a student at the University of Winnipeg. "It changed my life, so I decided to pursue it myself." She moved to B.C. to study acupuncture, and returned home to practise in Winnipeg.
Before we get started, she explains how cosmetic acupuncture works. "You’re needled throughout the body, as well as on the face," she explains. This is said to balance your qi, or the energy that flows throughout your body. "On the face, the needles help bring about blood circulation, it promotes collagen and elastin, and it helps bring a glow to the face in general. A lot of my patients find so many other benefits after treatment — they’re more relaxed, their stress is reduced, they sleep better. And all of that factors into the aging process."
An initial treatment is $85 and follow-up appointments are $65. Martins likes to temper people’s expectations. "It’s not going to be Botox," she says. "Acupuncture takes time. The goal is long-term benefits, it’s not a short-term quick fix." It can take up to three to four sessions to see results, Martins says, and eight to 10 is considered a full course load.
Truthfully, I was more stressed out about the fact that I would be appearing in the newspaper without a lick of makeup, which you can’t wear for the treatment, than I was about getting a bunch of needles in my face.
The needles used are as thin as a hair; about 40 of them could fit into a regular hypodermic needle. She began with the needles in my feet. I’d love to report that this process was completely painless, but my right foot protested loudly. Some discomfort is normal; a needle might hit an area that’s particularly tight. I didn’t even feel the facial needles — even the ones in my nasolabial folds, the lines running from the sides of your nose to the corners of your mouth, which Martins warned can sometimes "suck."
Once the needles are in position, you are left to relax for about 20 to 30 minutes. I felt warm all over. Some people even fall asleep. Then the needles are removed and disposed of. "You’re a bleeder," she says, gently dabbing away tiny pin-pricks of blood. Ordinarily, that would be an alarming sentence to hear, but I am too relaxed to care. Then she runs a jade roller all over my face, which feels excellent. When I checked myself out in the bathroom mirror afterward, I looked refreshed. Whether it was the acupuncture or the jade roller or just taking an hour to my damn self or a combination of the three is impossible to know, but I felt great.
Whether you’re skeptical of facial acupuncture or swear by it, there’s one thing everyone can agree on: your skin is your tell. All your sins, so to speak, will eventually show up on your face. My face, for example, tattled to Martins that all I had to drink all day was coffee.
"If you’re a smoker, or have a bad diet, or don’t get enough sleep, it’ll impact your skin," she agrees, which is why she also addresses lifestyle and health issues with patients, and works with them on how to take better care of themselves in general. Indeed, my appointment didn’t feel particularly "cosmetic." It felt holistic. A dewy glow, it turns out, isn’t skin deep.
Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.