To give the face an instant lift, Dr. Vicki Belo now uses acupuncture, an ancient form of traditional Chinese medicine that involves pricking the skin, nerves and muscles with needles to alleviate pain and cure a host of ailments.
Combined with a more conventional and noninvasive “lunchtime” procedure like Rev Light, acupuncture is said to instantly tighten sagging muscles and improve blood circulation for a more glowing complexion.
Belo used to go to Hong Kong regularly to have facial acupuncture until she was able to convince her Chinese acupuncturist to fly to Manila to train her and her team of doctors.
“We started offering acupuncture late last year,” she says. “Our knowledge is limited to the face, but acupuncture is known and accepted even in the West to help treat various conditions.”
Because of the facial muscles’ “unique” composition, acupuncture is able to address a person’s sagging facial muscles without her having to go under the knife. People in their 40s, 50s and even in their 60s are the best candidates for this procedure, Belo adds.
While noninvasive procedures such as Ulthera, Thermage, Fraxel and even Rev Light stimulate the skin to contract and increase collagen production, they don’t address sagging facial muscles and poor blood circulation. As a person ages, her facial blood vessels also shrink, resulting in dark, uneven skin tone.
“The face is the only part of the body where skin and muscles are stuck together,” says Belo. “When a person is young, the muscles of the face are rounder, shorter and more contracted. Thus, you can see the contours of a young person’s face.”
Many people—and even some beauty doctors—have this misconception that only fat gives the face volume. It turns out that muscles also make the face look rounder, younger and more relaxed, says Belo. As a person ages, these facial muscles become longer and looser.
You can do all sorts of noninvasive laser and radio-frequency procedures aimed at tightening the skin, but the effects are limited because the sagging muscles underneath remain untouched. Between skin and muscles, the muscles prevail in the end because they’re thicker and heavier than skin.
“That’s why the effects of Ulthera and Thermage last only about a year, two at the most,” says Belo. “If there’s nothing weighing down the face, laser-treated skin would be able to hold up longer.”
The only noninvasive procedure that causes facial muscles to contract is acupuncture, “a thousand-year old practice that takes only 15 minutes to do,” she says.
Belo sticks about a dozen or so needles on various points of the face before removing them one by one a few minutes later.
Belo’s acupuncture program comprises 10 sessions (P5,000 per session). The first two sessions are done within a week, while the remaining eight sessions are done once a month.
To address dull, aging skin, Belo has paired acupuncture with Rev Light (P9,000 per session), a laser procedure designed to diminish wrinkles, shrink pores, even out skin tone and eliminate unsightly pigmentation. Depending on the condition of a person’s skin, clients normally undergo four sessions of Rev Light once a week.
She likens pigmentation to a big chunk of rock on the face. When a person has even skin, light that falls on her face is able to shine back, making her look younger.
Pigmentations, which are brown, map-like discolorations resulting from sun exposure and uneven melanin production, leave splotchy shadows on a person’s face.
“Rev Light should go hand in hand with acupuncture,” says Belo. “You undergo Rev Light first to blast away pigmentations into tiny chunks or particles. These particles are eliminated first through your lymphatic drainage system before they go down to your tummy and out.”
If circulation is impeded, these pigments are likely to stay on your complexion longer. That’s why you need to undergo acupuncture after every Rev Light procedure to help jump-start circulation and remove those pesky pigments, pronto.
“The beauty of acupuncture is its two-pronged effect,” says Belo. “It stimulates energy flow and circulation while promoting muscle contraction.”
But acupuncture has a rather short-term effect. After going through 10 sessions of acupuncture, you have to do it all over again after three months or so to keep your facial muscles from sagging. Through a so-called embedded thread procedure, Belo is able to extend acupuncture’s tightening effects for as long as one year.
“We usually do Rev Light and acupuncture first,” she says. “The effect is instant. If the patient likes the results, and he or she would want a more long-term effect, we proceed by putting embedded thread.”
Like acupuncture, the embedded thread procedure (P1,800 per thread) also involves pricking the skin with needles—at least 40 needles per treatment. But this time, a so-called protein thread is attached to each needle. When a needle is removed, the protein thread, which is designed to stimulate the skin and muscles, gets left inside.
“Unlike Apthos Thread, embedded thread doesn’t physically support anything because each thread is small,” says Belo. “But since each thread is in permanent contact with an acupuncture point, it causes the muscles to contract continuously. The effect can last from six months to one year without you having to undergo acupuncture again.”