A growing number of people looking for less invasive procedures than plastic surgery or Botox injections to do away with wrinkles and sagging jawlines are turning to the ancient Chinese-rooted practice of acupuncture. And they are starting to come to Laurel's Main Street for the treatment.
Since late 2011, acupuncturist Janet Young, of Laurel, has offered facial rejuvenation treatments at the Neighborhood Acupuncture center in the 300 block of Main Street. A master's-degree graduate of the Tai Sophia Institute in North Laurel, Young said using acupuncture to slow the aging process is not a quick fix like Botox, which relaxes the muscles and provides immediate results, but it does work.
"I've seen people see results after one or two treatments, and I've seen immediate results, too," Young said. "But I don't want people to have unrealistic thoughts about this. There are no guarantees; but of my clients, I have never had anyone not see results."
Acupuncture for the face is becoming increasingly popular and some research shows that it does erase fine facial lines and reduce deeper lines. According to Young, it can be used to firm bags around the eyes and wrinkles on the neck; reduce a double chin; tighten skin pores; tone muscles; and improve collagen production. It is also used for noncosmetic reasons on people with health issues, such as Bell's palsy, which can cause facial numbness and muscle twitching.
Tai Sophia acupuncture teacher Michelle Gellis also teaches facial rejuvenation courses using acupuncture outside of the school. Gellis said there's thousands of years of practice behind the procedure and recent studies show that the procedure does work. Like Young, Gellis said she has gotten noticeable results with her clients, but added that it's important to remember that facial acupuncture deals with the whole body.
Treating the whole body
When clients come to Young on Main Street for the first time, they have to first fill out a questionnaire about their overall health and lifestyle habits.
"For me, it's all about your body, and the face is part of it, so that's why I treat you as a whole," Young said. "Facial rejuvenation deals with the inside and out because your health shows up on your face. If you're not sleeping well, not eating well or not drinking enough water, it can show up in lines around your mouth, eyes or dry skin."
The facial treatment itself takes about an hour to 90 minutes and is done in a private room. The procedure involves muscle groups being targeted with acupuncture needles, in order to stimulate toning and tightening of them. The needles also accelerate blood flow, which Young said gives the face a rosier and more youthful glow.
"I place needles on points of the face, feet, legs, ears and basically do a full acupuncture session. I do a lot of needles on the face and the body's energy moves into the face and head, so I have to balance you by doing grounding points on the feet and legs," Young said. "Also, other points of the body are done because, for instance, for drooping jowls, points on the feet, and around the ankles and legs are pinpointed because they can support those facial muscles."
Many of the needles used in facial acupuncture treatments are the same as those used in other acupuncture treatments, but those used to target fine lines on the face, especially around the eyes and mouth, are much smaller. They are also shorter and are often inserted with tweezers. At the end of the session, a jade roller is used to massage the face and further even out blood flow
Young and others suggest that those interested in facial acupuncture should go through a conventional acupuncture treatment before having the needles placed on their face. It's not that facial rejuvenation is painful, but a person sees them up closer and may want to experience it on other areas of the body first.
In terms of age, Young said her clients have ranged from 45 to 60 years old and that so far, they have all been women.
Laura Carr, of Edgewater, is 47 and said she wanted to get rid of crow's feet around her eyes and firm up her jawline. Carr went to Young after receiving a session for her birthday and signed up for additional treatments after that first visit.
"I got a lot of lift in my jawline after the first treatment that was not a huge difference, but it was noticeable to me," Carr said. "I feel better about myself, and I look closer to 40 than 50, so I'd say I look five to seven years younger."
Carr said she received five treatments, with the last one being in mid-February. Last week was her first maintenance treatment. Young recommends six to 12 initial weekly treatments, with follow ups every six months or so.
And although this technique is cheaper than some, it still usually runs from $120 to $200 per session. Young's rates are $120 per appointment, and she offers 20 percent discounts on package deals.
She said that she doesn't provide sessions in Neighborhood Acupuncture's community room, where clients pay what they can afford, because her needles are more expensive. Plus the community room has low lighting, and Young said she needs a well-lit room to insert the needles.
Although the procedure does have fewer risks than plastic surgery and some other face-lifting treatments, it is not recommended for people with high blood pressure, severe migraines, bleeding and bruising issues, AIDS, cancer and several other health conditions.
"I also don't do people who've had recent facial treatments like Botox because Botox relaxes the muscles and nerves in an area, and facial rejuvenation is all about movement and rejuvenating the skin and cells of the face," Young said. "So if you've just paid $500 for Botox, you don't want that."
As for the benefits of facial rejuvenation, Young added, "This can help people feel better about themselves, but I tell them, if you want results, you have to watch your diet and work out. You do your part, and I'll do mine."