- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 2004

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Paula Scardamalia has pins in her face — nine tiny ones angling out near her eyes, mouth and jaw.

The pins were placed to tighten chin skin and erase lines on the 52-year-old woman’s face. The practice, called facial acupuncture, is becoming popular as a holistic alternative to trying to turn back time through toxins or surgery.

“This has got to be healthier than Botox or a surgical face-lift,” said Ms. Scardamalia, the little needles wagging slightly.

Interest in facial acupuncture might be tied to the rising popularity of alternative medicine, or to society’s obsession with youth and beauty, or to the mass of aging baby boomers. Whatever the reason, acupuncturists report a wave of interest in the ancient Chinese practice.

“It’s very hot,” said Mary Elizabeth Wakefield, a New York practitioner whose facial work consumes about three-quarters of her practice.

Acupuncturists typically stimulate selected points on the body with hair-thin pins to promote good health and alleviate pain. They say it corrects energy imbalances along the body’s “meridians,” — a concept many mainstream physicians say lacks scientific evidence.

In facial acupuncture, needles usually are stuck in wrinkles and sags to bring more blood, energy and muscle tone to an area. The theory, in a nutshell, is that a healthy face is a better-looking face.

“As you might imagine, facial acupuncture for, shall we say, cosmetic purposes, was not one of the core issues in ancient Chinese medicine,” said Michael McCoy, executive director of the Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Alliance. “It just turns out to be an interesting application that fits a lot of cultural values of the present.”

Some practitioners advertise the process as an “acupuncture face-lift,” though more tradition-minded practitioners bristle at the term.

Marion Bergan, the licensed acupuncturist who treated Ms. Scardamalia for a demonstration, offers “facial rejuvenation acupuncture” in addition to her medical acupuncture. The 90-minute procedure includes an herbal face mask, a massage and a mild electrical stimulation. But the underpinning, so to speak, remains acupuncture.

Although millions of Americans have had acupuncture treatments, the practice has never been fully embraced by the American medical establishment.

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