Theory and Evidence

Traditional Chinese Medicine Theory (TCM)


The basic principle of acupuncture is to promote a healthy flow of the life force ‘Qi’ (pronounced ‘chee’). Perfect health reflects a perfectly smooth flow of qi through the meridians which the Chinese believe run through our bodies. If the energy flow is inhibited by the challenges of our stressful times (overworking, bad diet, overthinking, poor sleep patterns etc.) or through injury, acupuncture can help address this. There are hundreds of specific acupuncture points along the meridian network and, with the insertion of fine acupuncture needles to key areas, the treatment targets any blockages or hindrances to the flow of energy (qi) which is vital to the well-being of the body, by enhancing the flow.

Chinese medicine has a famous saying – “Where Qi goes, blood flows”

The Chinese knew that youthfulness and longevity were maintained by encouraging the healthy circulation of qi and blood to all tissues of the body. Cosmetic acupuncture was regarded as a very effective means of directing energy, and therefore blood, to the face for rejuvenation.

The Chinese concept of ‘beauty from within’ is expressed in terms of having internal health that transforms itself into exterior beauty. Therefore, visible facial signs and symptoms are thought to relate to internal complaints often caused by dietary and lifestyle factors.

In China, acupuncture was used for cosmetic purposes as early as the Sung Dynasty (AD 960) to improve the circulation of blood and Qi to the extremities including the face and hair. It was incorporated into the beauty regime for the empresses and the emperors’ concubines to maintain their youthful allure.

Using the ancient wisdom of TCM to help restore a revitalised youthfulness to the complexion from a deep energetic level, this unique youth-promoting treatment can also prevent the formation of wrinkles, minimise the appearance of fine lines, and improve the process by which the skin regulates its quality and appearance.

Western Medicine Theory

As we age, collagen production slows down, making it increasingly difficult to maintain our skin tone and elasticity. An acupuncture needle will stimulate and regenerate both the muscles of the face and the skin. The technique boosts the production of collagen which gives the skin more elasticity and keeps it ‘cushiony’.

Acupuncture increases circulation to the skin and facial muscles, hence firming double chins and jowls. It has been shown to stimulate the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the skin, increasing collagen production and reducing puffiness.

The effects can be instant because blood rushes to the surface tissues and gives skin a fresh tone.

Needling a wrinkle mimics an incision and tells the body it has been injured. Healing is stimulated and molecular fibres in the skin start to ‘knit together’.

Acupuncture also affects wrinkles by reducing tension around them. Wrinkles are often caused by tension held in the skin and in the muscle. A tense muscle cannot relax so rigidity sets in and lines develop. Inserting acupuncture needles in the surrounding muscles reduces the tension, hence assisting in decreasing wrinkles.

Over time, acupuncture’s effect on collagen regeneration causes prolonged tightening: jawlines and eyelids are lifted, pores and muscles are tightened, and a smoother more youthful skin is created.

Other positive effects:

  • Draining fluid retention (reducing eye bags)
  • Stimulates skin to produce new collagen therefore cells begin to regenerate
  • Profound natural ‘lifting’ effects without the tell-tale ‘pinch and pull’ that surgery may bring about and the mask-like impression that can be left with Botox procedures.
  • Facial muscles are stimulated which counteracts sagging. This contributes to a youthful glowing skin, resulting in a rosy rejuvenated complexion, improved skin tone and a decrease in blemishes and scarring

“Cosmetic acupuncture is not about instant gratification but I believe that regular treatments will help hold back the sands of time.”

Chrissie Painell. Marie-Claire Magazine.

“Whatever the theory, you can’t argue with the results, the years melt away.”

Bella Freud. Stella Magazine.

As acupuncture evolves as one of the first treatment choices in our quest for health, its use must continue to be supported by evidence. Fortunately, evidence supporting the use of acupuncture is plentiful. On the back of research and emerging evidence, the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have acknowledged its positive use in therapy (see below).

In 1996 a report in the International Journal of Clinical Acupuncture revealed that with only one course of treatment 90% of the 300 individuals treated with cosmetic acupuncture showed significant results.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has produced a long list of disease categories for which traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture has demonstrable benefit. These include:

  • Pain and arthritic discomfort
  • Fluid retention, including bags under the eyes
  • Skin disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Constipation and IBS
  • Period problems
  • Menopausal symptoms

diagnosis in chinese medicine

There are many theoretical models in existence offering explanations for and supporting the effects commonly seen during and after acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture has been shown to raise levels of specific hormones, prostaglandins, white blood cells, ‘gamma globulins’ and antibodies generally. Acupuncture stimulates our own pain relievers and ‘feel-good’ mechanisms’-the endorphins. These are the body’s own naturally produced ‘opiates’ and are reported to be significantly stronger than morphine. They are known as ‘happy molecules’ as they also enhance our mood and sense of well being.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recently made recommendations on the use of acupuncture as an accepted alternative therapy.

Other papers supporting the role of acupuncture in healing and more importantly the role that cosmetic acupuncture plays in re-aligning collagen fibres and hence stimulating healing at wrinkle sites are:

  • Finando S & Finando D (2011). ‘Fascia and the mechanism of acupuncture’. Journal of Bodywork and Movement therapies
  • Di Zhang et al (2008). ‘The role of most cells in acupuncture effects’. The Journal of Science and Healing
  • Yu Xj et al (2008) studied collagen repair and were able to show that acupuncture helps realignment of collagen fibres
  • Sandberg, Lundberg et al (2008)” The effects of acupuncture on skin and muscle blood flow in healthy subjects”
  • Langevin H, Churchill D, & Cipollo M (2001). ‘Mechanical signalling through connective tissue – a mechanism for the therapeutic effect of acupuncture’. Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology