National report — Proponents of facial acupuncture say it represents a viable and increasingly popular alternative to Botox (botulinum toxin, Allergan) treatments for some facial rejuvenation patients.
How popular?Mary Elizabeth Wakefield, L. Ac., M.S., M.M., adjunct faculty of facial acupuncture at Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College, Berkeley, Calif., and a recognized advocate of facial rejuvenation acupuncture in North America and worldwide, says that while no one tracks the number of acupuncture procedures performed annually, she has personally trained more than 2,000 acupuncturists to perform her trademarked treatments in Constitutional Facial Acupuncture Renewal. She herself does 30 to 40 such procedures weekly.
"I treat close to 20 patients a week," adds Shellie Goldstein, L.Ac., M.S., an acupuncturist who practices in Manhattan and East Hampton, N.Y., and has trademarked a technique called the AcuFacial.
Conversely, a number of Ms. Wakefield's practitioner-students in the Los Angeles area have reported that they are routinely "de-Botoxing" young Hollywood hopefuls who, due to their inability to emote as a result of the injections, have been instructed to "unfreeze" their immobile facial muscles.
"Acupuncture treats the energetic system of the body," which Chinese medicine interprets as a system of meridians that normally flows freely, Ms. Goldstein says. However, problems including stress and injuries block this flow, while inserting acupuncture needles at points along these meridians helps direct energy (or qi) where needed, she says.
Regarding facial acupuncture, Dr. Carruthers says, "The skin swells when one puts needles into it. It's an interesting concept, but where's the proof? It's good marketing, but it's not science."
The procedure's effects need to be quantified, says Laurie A. Casas, M.D., associate professor of surgery, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine (and American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery spokeswoman).