Plastic Surgeon Doubts Acupuncture Can Treat Wrinkles

To reduce those unsightly lines and wrinkles on the face, some people are putting their trust in the ancient science of acupuncture, a Chinese therapy long believed to alleviate physical and emotional imbalances.

Dr. Bruce Genter, a plastic surgeon in Pennsylvania, voiced his skepticism in this ABC news segment, pointing to the lack of scientific evidence supporting acupuncture as an effective wrinkle treatment.  Yet, some are saying it works for them; are they seeing real change or is wishful thinking clouding their perception?

Julia Engstrom, who says she has used Botox and laser treatments in the past, believes facial acupuncture has improved the texture of her skin and reduced the appearance of wrinkles. Nearing the end of 10 treatments, she says her improvements have come through improved sleep and relaxation. “I’ve noticed that my skin is a lot smoother, [there’s] a lot less red pigment in there and the wrinkling seems to be a lot less,” Engstrom said. “I [also] have a lot less darkening under my eyes and I’ve been getting a lot of compliments.”

Acupuncture, a process during which tiny needles are placed strategically into the body, is said to bring improved health and well-being. In an article for Prevention magazine, licensed acupuncturist and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner Phyllis Olson asserts that acupuncture can indeed lessen the appearance of wrinkles. She attributes this to a core premise of acupuncture – that health is reliant upon the healthy flow of chi (energy) in the body, which can be disrupted for a myriad of reasons. Acupuncture treatments are believed to break up energy blockages that prevent optimal blood flow to certain places in the body, improving circulation.

Beata Maslanka, Philadelphia acupuncturist and author of the “Art of Wellness” acknowledges that acupuncture doesn’t yield visible results that compare to Botox or other facial fillers, but claims that beauty actually comes from within; when internal imbalances are healed, people will look better overall.

Olson agrees, noting that the treatments foster relaxation of facial muscles, thereby reducing wrinkles. “Aside from the light, momentary stings, acupuncture is really quite relaxing,” she adds.

The results Engstrom points to are hard to discern from the video, but one can wonder about the salutary effects of relaxation and optimism, not to mention the natural human tendency to see (and believe) what we want to see.

If it does have a wrinkle-relaxing effect, how long could this last? NYC dermatologic surgeon Barney Kenet, MD tells Prevention: “If acupuncture relaxes the muscles, it might reduce wrinkling temporarily. As for the increased blood flow, at most it will probably give you a temporary rosy complexion–something you don’t want if you have an inflammatory condition such as acne or rosacea,” he warns. “Otherwise, cosmetic acupuncture is relatively harmless.”

Maybe so, but then you may want to consider the cost. The average price of an acupuncture treatment for facial wrinkling could be as much as $60 to $100 per session, with 10 sessions recommended by Olson, followed by monthly maintenance procedures.

In contrast, the average Botox treatment in the US costs $472 and a single treatment will last 3-6 months. This makes acupuncture wrinkle treatments both an unproven and costly proposition.

Dr. Genter, whose patients are proof that Botox and other facial fillers visibly reduce the effects of aging on the face, says: ”If it increases your well-being that’s great, I just don’t know that it can make your face look younger.”

Dr. Lee B. Daniel, Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
244 Country Club Rd
Eugene OR   97401