Cosmetic acupuncture is a noninvasive treatment that involves placing tiny needles into specific points in the face. The benefits may include plumping and tightening the skin, targeting wrinkles, reducing fine lines, and more.

Traditional Chinese medicine has used acupuncture for thousands of years to treat a range of health issues. It believes that problems and an imbalance in the flow of vital energy, otherwise known as qi or chi, are possible causes of accelerated skin aging.

Restoring the flow of energy in the face may have the potential to rejuvenate the skin, combat signs of aging, and improve overall skin health.

This article explores acupuncture for wrinkles, its potential benefits, side effects, safety, and more.

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Traditional Chinese medicine views health holistically and believes that health problems occur due to blockages in the flow of qi.

Acupuncture involves placing needles through pathways called meridians across the body to remove these blockages to improve blood and energy flow throughout the body.

Facial acupuncture

Acupuncture in the face, also called cosmetic acupuncture, facial rejuvenation, or an acupuncture facelift, is a popular form of acupuncture that focuses on the face, neck, and hairline.

Facial acupuncture or micro-needling involves puncturing the skin with thin needles to create tiny wounds.

These signal the body’s healing response, increasing blood and lymph flow, which boosts the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the injured site.

Microtrauma also stimulates the release of chemicals that reduce swelling and fibroblast cells, producing collagen and elastin.

As a person ages, there is a reduction in these elastic components, causing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Collagen strengthens and firms the skin and boosts its elasticity and hydration. Repairing the skin’s elastin restores the skin’s texture, appearance, elasticity, and wound-healing capabilities.

A 2020 review found that both facial exercises and facial acupuncture have the potential to improve:

  • age-related wrinkle length
  • skin laxity
  • muscle thickness
  • pigmentary changes

It can also significantly lighten melasma, based on a 2016 study.

Another review in 2018 found that facial acupuncture was effective in improving the following:

  • wrinkles
  • facial blood circulation
  • facial size-reduction
  • improvement of the condition of the skin
  • skin elasticity

Other benefits

Aside from wrinkles, a 2021 review showed that acupuncture could improve other skin-related conditions, including atopic dermatitis, itch, and hives.

Other anecdotal benefits of using facial acupuncture on the skin include:

  • lifts droopy eyelids
  • reduces fine lines
  • brightens complexion
  • minimizes pores
  • reduces puffiness and swelling
  • reduces jaw tension
  • improves skin texture
  • lessens skin sagging

Acupuncture is generally safe when performed by a qualified professional. Therefore, it is important for people to choose a licensed acupuncturist. A person can search the National Board of Acupuncturists for a licensed practitioner.

The side effects associated with acupuncture are considered mild and negligible. Soreness is common. Slight bruising or bleeding may also occur, especially in individuals taking blood-thinning drugs or with severe blood disorders. These typically subside over a few days.

Rarely, deep placement needles may cause internal injuries such as infections, collapsed lungs, and punctured lungs.

A 2021 case report showed that a person with undiagnosed diabetes who was not a licensed acupuncturist developed abscesses after self-administering acupuncture.

Adverse effects related to cosmetic acupuncture include:

  • itching
  • dry skin peeling
  • bruising
  • bleeding
  • pain
  • swelling

As with any treatment involving needles, some people may feel faint and need to lie down. A 2015 case report detailed extensive facial sclerosing lipogranulomatosis — hardened nodules and plaques — that appeared 5 years after the facial acupuncture treatment, which the researchers believe was due to a reaction to the needle’s silicone coating.

Generally, individuals do not need to follow strict aftercare following facial acupuncture.

They may resume their routine activities. Ideally, a person should stay hydrated and avoid other needle injection procedures such as Botox and fillers during the course of acupuncture sessions.

A person may notice results from one treatment, such as:

  • reduced puffiness
  • improved skin
  • muscle firmness and tone

Below are some common questions regarding cosmetic acupuncture.

Is acupuncture as good as Botox?

Botox works on dynamic wrinkles or those caused by facial expressions such as frown lines and smile lines. Meanwhile, acupuncture can target fine lines and wrinkles due to sun damage and aging. Its results are not as dramatic and immediate as Botox, but it lasts longer.

The risks associated with facial acupuncture are relatively mild compared to the potential adverse effects of Botox.

Can acupuncture lift your face?

Practitioners claim that acupuncture can make the face look more firm and appear more youthful and lifted by:

  • improving the blood and lymph flow
  • stimulating collagen and elastin production
  • tightening sagging skin
  • toning facial muscles

Traditional Chinese medicine widely uses acupuncture as it offers a holistic approach to health and has potential beneficial effects on the skin, including reducing wrinkles and fine lines.

While the risks associated with acupuncture is minimal compared to other anti-wrinkle procedures, such as Botox and fillers, a person needs to seek qualified professionals to prevent adverse side effects.

Doctors can also help guide individuals with certain conditions to know if they are eligible for facial acupuncture. People with blood clotting disorders and those taking blood thinners should not receive acupuncture, as this may cause bleeding and bruising, among other side effects.