Cosmetic Acupuncture: better than Botox?

You’ve seen the selfies of celebrities looking like a baby porcupine and have heard that it’s better than Botox, but what is cosmetic acupuncture all about? And more importantly, does it work?! Read our blog to find out more about this treatment.

Following decades of rising demand for cosmetic surgery, the desire for more natural anti-ageing methods is taking the beauty industry by storm. With increased understanding around wellness, from nutrition to mental health, growing numbers of us are steering clear of the “frozen face” fad and embracing all things holistic, over fillers and injectables, to achieve a longer lasting look of natural beauty.

As expected, a host of famous faces are leading the way; celebrities such as Bar Rafaeli, Kim Kardashian, Mille Mackintosh and Calum Best have all recently shared proud ‘needle selfies’ during their cosmetic acupuncture treatment, also known as Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture (FRA). Renowned for creating a glowing youthful complexion without looking “done”, it’s no wonder that this wholly natural treatment has been the secret beauty weapon of health-conscious Hollywood stars such as Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie for many years.


Understandably, for those not familiar with the treatment, acupuncture may instantly conjure up thoughts of Hellraiser’s Pinhead character, so our Chief Clinical Director, Craig McHugh, explains what the method entails and how it works.

What is cosmetic acupuncture?

Cosmetic acupuncture is the use of traditional acupuncture on the face and points on the body to aid facial rejuvenation and slow the signs of ageing. Stemming from traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is an ancient technique that has been practiced for well over 2,000 years and has been used in western medicine for many decades now. The process involves using ultra-fine, sterile, single-use needles of varying widths, lengths and materials that are gently placed into the skin at the acupuncture points.

How does cosmetic acupuncture work?

Many of the effects of ageing are due to a decrease in circulation. Based on the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, cosmetic acupuncture works by placing the ultra-fine needles up to a couple of millimetres into the bottom epidermis, at strategic acu-points, to effectively increase the circulation of energy and blood to the face. The needles cause a micro-trauma that stimulates the body to produce collagen, which gently fills out any fine lines and triggers the skin’s self-repairing mechanisms, bringing all its healing potential to the surface of the skin. This also increases oxygen flow, which in turn encourages micro-circulation to nourish the skin and accelerate cellular waste elimination.

What kind of results can I expect?

Thanks to the increased circulation and balance of energy, results can include better skin tone, softening of fine lines, brighter eyes, diminished puffiness around the eyes, and a general lifting of the face, including jowls. Many clients also report a feeling of overall rejuvenation and sense of wellbeing, ranging from improved digestion, decreased stress, less menstrual discomfort to decreased acne breakouts and even improved sleep.

What happens during my treatment?

Your Healthsure practitioner will firstly discuss your desired outcomes from the treatment and conduct an assessment to get a clear picture of your medical record and determine any causes of energy imbalance. They will then gently place the needles on systemic points to activate muscles in the face and neck.

Next, much smaller needles are inserted into the frown lines and wrinkles, causing a micro-trauma that will stimulate the body to produce collagen to gently fill out the line.

Finally, regular acupuncture points on the body are used to promote general health and reduce stress. This helps to give you that well-rested, bright-eyed glow.

The needles will typically be left in for a 20 to 30 minute duration, during which you will be able to relax in peace and quiet. Your therapist will be close by at all times should you need to speak to them.

How long does the treatment take?

Your treatment will typically last between 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Does it hurt?

The acupuncture needles are much finer than those used for injections or drawing blood. You may feel a very minor sharpness on initial insertion of the needles, although most clients would not describe this procedure as painful. As some points on the face are more sensitive than others, your physiotherapist will take extra precaution around those areas to minimize any potential discomfort. Cosmetic acupuncture is regarded as an overall calming treatment, as your body enters a meditative state once the needles are placed. Most of our clients find the therapy very relaxing – most of them even fall asleep!

Who will carry out my treatment?

Your acupuncture will be carried one of Healthsure’s physiotherapists who is AACP (Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists) registered and fully qualified to carry out this treatment. You can expect the best results because we practice the traditional system of cosmetic acupuncture, which combines classical acupuncture points with advanced acupuncture techniques. We also incorporate full body acupuncture into our cosmetic treatments, so systemic imbalances that might affect your face are also resolved during your treatment. 

What are the benefits of cosmetic acupuncture?

  • Chemical-free
  • Safe and risk-free
  • Virtually pain-free
  • No side effects involved
  • No down time
  • No injections
  • Relaxing
  • Targets cause of ageing skin
  • Effective in treating acne, eczema, and rosacea
  • Improvement of overall wellbeing
  • More cost effective than plastic surgery or injectables
  • Results last for years
  • You still look like yourself but healthier!

What happens after my treatment?

There is no downtime involved with cosmetic acupuncture. You can have the treatment during your lunch break and head back to work feeling refreshed and glowing. Occasionally you can experience a very small amount of bleeding when the needles are removed and minor cases (approx. 3% of treatments) this can develop into a small bruise, although this should clear within a week. 

How many treatments do I need?

Although results vary from person to person, with many people feeling instantly brighter after the first session, the majority will start noticing a real difference from the third treatment as the results accumulate over time. Consistency is key, an appointment once a week has a snowball effect as collagen returns to the area again and again.

For optimum results, we would recommend a course of around 10 to 12 consecutive weekly treatments; a course of treatment takes several weeks to administer, allowing the body time between sessions to build collagen and rejuvenate on its own. We also advise having a maintenance session once every 3 to 4 months or once per season.

How long do the results last?

The effects of cosmetic acupuncture are cumulative and can last up to 3 to 5 years after a course of 10 treatments, with maintenance.

Is it safe?

Absolutely. Our chartered physiotherapy practitioners know the human anatomy well, and insert the needles in a safe manner. The needles that we use are pre-sterilized and disposed after a single use. There are no side effects to the treatments. Bleeding very rarely occurs, and if it does, the amount is minimal – usually a droplet.

Should I consider acupuncture before Botox? 

For those who are new to anti-ageing treatments and are a bit apprehensive about exposing their face to anything drastic, acupuncture is a very gentle, non-toxic option, whereas Botox can tend to look quite harsh. This is because the area of muscle is effectively frozen, whereas in acupuncture we’re getting it to work again.

Aside from being costly (approx. £200 upwards / area) Botox only hides the signs of ageing temporarily and more quantity will be required over time to create that same result, as the muscles gradually weaken; acupuncture enhances the skin’s own ability to regenerate, effectively strengthening your natural rejuvenation process.

Botox (Botulinum toxin), as the name suggests, is a toxin, and simply hasn’t been used long enough for us to see the potentially damaging effects of it building up in our system. We do, however, already know that there is risk of paralysis of surrounding muscles and it can cause upper eyelid dropping. Acupuncture, on the other hand, has been practiced for over 2,000 years without any potential nasty side effects. Another downside of Botox is that you’ll lose a lot of facial expression, which can look very unusual not to mention unnatural.

Is cosmetic acupuncture right for me?

To find out more about cosmetic acupuncture, contact Healthsure today to set up a consultation with one of our physiotherapists. They will meet with you to discuss your specific needs and answer any questions or concerns you may have.