By Sara Calabro
My Google Alerts are set up to notify me every time a mainstream media outlet mentions acupuncture. For the past two weeks, I’ve been getting pinged more often than usual.
That’s because on March 24—brace yourselves—Kim Kardashian got acupuncture and Instagramed a picture of her face full of needles!
Of course, no one cares about this nearly as much as the media would have us believe. However, when celebrities publicize their use of acupuncture, it generates a lot of new interest and questions about acupuncture—and that’s something we do care about.
So, why did Kim Kardashian have so many needles stuck in her face?
Since I’m unfortunately not the acupuncturist charging Kardashian by the hour, I can’t say for certain why she got this particular treatment. But given the number of needles in her face, it’s likely that at least part of her session involved cosmetic or facial rejuvenation acupuncture.
AcuTake recently spoke with a recognized cosmetic-acupuncture expert to help answer questions that Kardashian’s photo may have raised for people considering similar treatments.
Martha Lucas is a Denver-based acupuncturist and the co-creator of a style of cosmetic acupuncture called Mei Zen. She teaches Mei Zen to acupuncturists at sold-out seminars throughout the United States and abroad.
AcuTake: Who is a good candidate for cosmetic acupuncture?
Martha Lucas: People who are in poor general health are less likely to see cosmetic results from acupuncture. If someone who is in poor health comes to see me for cosmetic acupuncture, I’ll tell them that we need to first work on building up their general health before we can begin cosmetic treatments. There has to be a certain amount of qi to build on in order to produce cosmetic improvements.
People with a lot of sun damage can be unpredictable in their outcomes. I’ve had some people with sun damage have excellent results while others have taken longer.
By the time people are 40, regardless of how their skin looks, they should start receiving cosmetic acupuncture. It is a lot easier to prevent wrinkles than it is to make them go away.
What is unique about Mei Zen cosmetic acupuncture?
Mei Zen means “beautiful person.” It is a specific protocol that uses a relatively non-invasive, shallow needling technique—we go just into the dermis level of the skin—and real acupuncture points. It’s all about treating the entire person, not just their wrinkles.
Is that different from other kinds of cosmetic acupuncture?
Mei Zen is unique in that it treats acupuncture points rather than just going after the wrinkles. Other techniques put needles into the lines on someone’s face versus using acupuncture points. That approach can boost collagen, but you lose the “acupuncture-ness.” You lose the ability to treat a person’s general health when you’re just treating a wrinkle.
Mei Zen addresses both the internal and external signs of aging. It includes a protocol of pre-determined acupuncture points—there is a protocol for the face, neck, and abdomen. In addition, each patient receives body acupuncture points that are appropriate for balancing his or her unique system.
How many needles does the average person receive?
Some acupuncture points receive more than one needle. This is an ancient technique where multiple needles are used on the same point. So, there could end up being around 80 needles in the face, but that’s because sometimes we use more than one needle in a single point. For facial treatments, we use shorter needles that are made specifically for the hands and face.
How many treatments does it take to start seeing results?
It really depends on the person. Some people see results after one treatment, never having tried it before. Other people are still unsure after three treatments whether they are seeing any changes. Because Mei Zen is based on Chinese medicine, people often see other results—for example, better sleep or better digestion—before they see cosmetic changes. It is up to the acupuncturist to keep detailed medical records so that these other improvements get noticed. If you are getting results in other ways, you will eventually get cosmetic results.
Physiologically speaking, how does cosmetic acupuncture work?
People see results from cosmetic acupuncture for several reasons. The treatments address the causes of aging through needling the body acupuncture points. Then, by placing needles in the face, neck, or abdomen, we bring qi and blood to the area. We are creating micro-traumas in the dermis. This makes the skin think it’s being damaged, causing collagen and elastin to flood the area.
How much does cosmetic acupuncture cost?
Mei Zen is a 10-treatment protocol. Treatments should be received two times a week over five weeks. It takes at least four weeks for changes to take hold in the matrix of collagen and elastin. If people want treatments for a short-term boost—maybe they have a special occasion over the weekend that they want to look good for—it will work, but if you want the results to last, you need four-to-six weeks of treatment.
With that in mind, people can expect to spend anywhere between $1,000 and $1,800, depending on the practitioner’s rates. After those 10 treatments, results can last for two-to-five years, but I always recommend maintenance treatments in the interim.
Where can people find a Mei Zen practitioner?
Everyone on our preferred provider list has completed advanced training with me and is certified to perform Mei Zen.
What can be done at home to accelerate or extend the results of cosmetic acupuncture treatments?
Certain foods help the skin look younger. Eat foods with antioxidants in them, so red and purple vegetables. For people who have broken capillaries from the sun, I recommend asparagus because asparagus helps detoxify and improve blood circulation.
White rice, cabbage and cucumbers clear heat, so if someone has red skin or rosacea, those can be good—they are all cooling foods. Figs help take heat out of the Stomach and Large Intestine channels, which makes them great for people who have wrinkles around the lips (that’s where those channels go).
I give supplement advice and recommend qigong exercises for the face as well. No cosmetic technique, including a surgical facelift, will maintain itself well unless you do something at home.
Kim Kardashian photo from Instagram; Martha Lucas photo courtesy of Martha Lucas
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