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Finer Points

A Facial Acupuncture Primer

Article by Willow King

Photography by Illustration by Gina Dodge Studio

Originally published in Boulder Lifestyle

While many people consider acupuncture a great treatment for over well-being and sometimes more specifically to treat injury or illness, they may not have considered it as a natural alternative to more invasive treatments to keep one's face looking plumped in all the right places, glowy and relaxed. Facial acupuncture works to stimulate lymphatic drainage and increase blood flow to the face. This increased blood flow can support collagen production, which can help reduce fine lines and wrinkles and generally improve circulation in the facial and decolletage areas.

I had the pleasure of receiving a treatment from Dr. Stefanie Greenleaf to learn more about the process. Facial acupuncture is a time-honored tradition that has been used for thousands of years for maintaining beauty in all its forms and Dr. Greenleaf also emphasized that it is important to recognize that the face is a reflection of how the entire body is functioning internally, as well as a reflection of one's emotions.

When she works on patients, she addresses the full body first and then moves up to the face to address specific concerns there. She can work on crow's feet and wrinkles, but she can also help work on some of the root causes of those worry lines. “In Chinese Medicine,” she says, “there is always the root and the branches. So we try to work with both.” She uses microcurrent in conjunction with the needles to stimulate and wake up the muscles in the face, followed by a toe-to-head acupuncture treatment that demonstrated how tight my shoulder was (Gall Bladder 40 a.k.a. weight of the world) and how nice it feels to have the different meridian points come alive with the needles.  My treatment also included a very relaxing and gentle gua sha (closest translation: skin spooning) with a lovely light oil and facial cupping, which felt like a tiny loving octopus all over the pressure points of the face, including a natural lip plumping, which was extra special. 

In Chinese medicine, they talk about Shen, which loosely translates to spirit. One of the wonderful things about this kind of work is you can both see and feel the afterglow. After a treatment one's face can look more balanced and easeful, releasing tension in the jaw and some of the long-held patterns that eventually create crease lines, also known as the dreaded “elevens” between the eyes. The practice works on many levels—nervous system, immunity, central organs and the more cosmetic dermal level—all of which contribute to a deep sense of well-being after 90 minutes on the table. 

Dr. Greenleaf suggests that 10 treatments, spaced about a week apart, is the most effective way to achieve desired results, followed by a maintenance protocol that can be specifically designed to suit the individual. 

We need a licensed practitioner for the needles that are one of the main tools of acupuncture but one can do both facial cupping and gua sha at home. Stef will be teaching a class on home techniques on August 8 from 6-8 pm, all details Visit her site to register: