ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Veronica Montoya, 51, a fan of constitutional facial acupuncture, says it leaves her looking refreshed and feeling rejuvenated.
After a treatment of about 45 minutes that includes hydration with organic botanicals, her face looks more radiant and lines are less apparent. A bonus, Montoya says, is that her sinus headache is also better.
More and more people are turning to acupuncture, as alternative to cosmetic surgery or injections of Botox or skin-plumping chemicals, to tighten and minimize the appearance of wrinkles and sagging skin, say acupuncturist Pola Richardson, a doctor of Oriental medicine in Albuquerque. Several area clinics and spas offer facial needling treatments that are similar to techniques appearing on the “Dr. Oz Show,” “Today” and other television programs.
The state requires anyone who performs acupuncture to be licensed and the license should be visible, says Anita Villegas of the state’s regulatory and licensing department. The state maintains an electronic database of licensed doctors of Oriental medicine at verification.rld.state.nm.us, she says.
The appearance of the face reflects the overall balance and health of the entire body, says Richardson, of the Shendao Family Wellness Center on Carlisle, just south of Montgomery NE. She bring that approach to her work, which has been influenced by Mary Elizabeth Wakefield, also a doctor of Oriental medicine, who teaches it nationally.
The ancient Chinese system of acupuncture has become a more mainstream treatment for pain, insomnia, migraines and nausea, with increasing scientific evidence of its efficacy. Although it isn’t understood exactly how acupuncture works, according to the University of Maryland School of Medicine, one theory is that the thin needles stimulate nerve fibers that transmit signals to the spinal cord and brain, activating the body’s central nervous system. The spinal cord and brain then release hormones responsible for making us feel less pain while improving overall health.
“You are a whole person, not just bits and pieces. Everything affects everything. The conditions of the body show up in the face,” Richardson says. For example, she works on digestive issues with Montoya, so not surprisingly to Richardson, some of the facial lines she treats by inserting thin needles, about the thickness of a human hair, relate to energy of the stomach channel in Oriental medicine.
Another client would have a different points to stimulate, she says: “Our bodies know balance. We all have self-healing ability.”
How it works
On this day, Richardson begins the facial with a deep cleansing, using a natural product developed from the essential oils of a local company, PlantSense.
She inserts the needles along those areas that are lined or sagging to stimulate Montoya’s own collagen and elastin production to plump out the skin and also to balance the muscles underneath, she says. The acupuncture helps sedate overactive muscles, like the pinched lines between the eyebrows and activates others like the muscles on the neck and chin where skin waddles.
A series of 10 or 12 treatments, every week or so, achieves the best results. Other benefits can include a more even skin tone and as well as fading of scars, a reduction of enlarged pores and of swelling under and around the eyes. The treatment can also shrink red capillaries and strengthen blood vessel walls, Richardson says. Each treatment is $99. Packages are available to save money, she says.
Montoya says she can barely feel the needles as Richardson inserts them, but it isn’t an unpleasant sensation.
“The face bruises easily, so you want to be very gentle,” Richardson says.
Montoya rests with the needles in place for about 30 minutes to allow the chi or body energy to work, Richardson says.
After the treatment, she mists Montoya’s face and chest with a herbal tonic, also developed by Katie Buggs, owner of PlantSense. She also uses two jade rollers, each about an inch wide, to settle the chi and balance Montoya’s energy.
“I feel terrific,” Montoya says after the treatment.
Buggs, 65, owner of PlantSense, is also one of Richardson’s clients. She says she makes her skin products as pure as possible because what is applied to the skin ends up in the body. “It shows up in the bloodstream. What you put on your face, you put in your body.”
Buggs says through Richardson’s facial acupuncture and other treatments, her vision has improved, as well as an overall lifting and tightening of her face.
Urban Escape Massage and Body Work in Rio Rancho offers a similar treatment called an AcuFacial, says owner Valerie Walton. She isn’t aware of any side effects.
Often people have a series of four treatments, once a week, before a special event, like a wedding, she adds. Although results vary, most people see changes by the second or third session. “The AcuFacial minimizes fine lines and wrinkles and plumps the skin. It works at a cellular level by encouraging collagen production to create a smooth, youthful appearance,” she says.