Road test: is cosmetic acupuncture the new ‘natural’ Botox?
By Lucie Clark | May 22, 2019

You had me at ‘natural’.

Botox. It’s a word that everyone over the age of tween has an opinion about. Many people swear by it, claiming a little jab of Botox here or there has smoothed out the signs of ageing in a positive, refreshing way. While others, such as people who don’t like needles, or those who have witnessed the overdone Botox look resulting in a frozen face incapable of showing emotions, are vehemently opposed.

My opinion lies with the ‘jury’s still out’ when it comes to Botox. I’ve seen both the visible upside of Botox where it’s impossible to say what’s been done, only that the face looks fresh, but I’ve also seen extreme facial situations where I can no longer tell if the Botox user is angry, sad, happy or anything at all. I’m also not sure if I’m okay with the fact that Botox is a toxin. How does your body break down a toxin you’re injecting into your face?

But, I can’t deny there is a lure to Botox to turn back the clock on frown lines and crow’s feet, which is why when I was offered the opportunity to try a ‘natural’ alternative — cosmetic acupuncture — I couldn’t agree fast enough.

This natural option is, as noted above, acupuncture, so it does involve needles and if you’re needle shy this option might not be for you. Luckily, I’m fine with needles and booked in to fly down to Melbourne to meet with Australia’s leading cosmetic acupuncture expert, Dr Vivian Tam at the Cosmetic Acupuncture Melbourne to try the procedure out.

Ahead of my appointment with Dr Tam, I researched the treatment to find out how it worked and what the reported results were. The treatment sounded like any other acupuncture, but targeted to help with beauty concerns like tired-looking skin, acne and wrinkles.

Arriving at the clinic in Melbourne I met a glowing Dr Tam, who is the best advertisement for her treatments thanks to her flawless skin. But, according to Dr Tam, this was not always the case. The doctor of Chinese medicine said when she was younger she had “proper acne” and it wasn’t until she finished her Chinese medicine degree and had access to herbs and acupuncture that she was able to clear it up.

The improvement in Dr Tam’s own skin, Dr Tam said, led her to focus her practice in this area and she is now one of the country’s experts on the beauty treatment. And she really knows her stuff.

Before starting the treatment I asked Dr Tam to explain the benefits and she gave me an in-depth lesson in how cosmetic acupuncture works. Dr Tam explained the benefits as working on three levels — at the top skin level, the needles stimulate circulation and blood flow resulting in glowing-looking skin. “The very first benefit that we can say is at the skin glow [level]. That’s an awesome one because it will change quickly because blood circulation is an immediate effect so even after one session or two sessions, you’ll be like wow and people are commenting on how healthy you look.”

The second level works a bit deeper into the skin, which Dr Tam said is the “anti-ageing” level and the needles “create a micro trauma so that your body recognises that something is going on and your body starts that collagen and elastin production to heal the area.” The final level is muscle and you can target the needles to work directly on them. “[A prominent] frown line is often because the muscles are pulling downwards… we can actually use the needle to release the muscle and to soften it, the other direction is that you can actually use needles to tone muscles have sagged.”

Once she’d explained the benefits Dr Tam did a full overall health check because she believes cosmetic acupuncture is not just about the face, it’s related to your whole body. After the consultation, I hopped onto the bed ready for the treatment to begin. Dr Tam started by stimulating my skin with a jade gua sha beauty tool then the needles went it. They are super sharp and very fine, but under the expert hand of Dr Tam the pain factor was zero.

The needles stayed in while I had, to be honest, a tiny nap on the bed, then Dr Tam removed the needles as expertly and painlessly as she had inserted them. A hot towel gave my skin a clean and Dr Tam finished by applying a hypoallergenic skin oil.

One of the best parts about this treatment is that there is no downtime, I put my make-up back on and headed to the airport to catch my flight back to Sydney, with no one the wiser that mere moments earlier I’d had needles in my face. My skin looked refreshed and despite a busy day of travel, when I saw a friend later that day she asked me if I’d just had a facial, my skin was glowing that much.

Dr Tam recommends you start with a course of weekly appointments to get your skin on track and then switch to a less regular maintenance schedule. If I lived in Melbourne I would have booked in for this option, I could see the visible benefits even after just one treatment.

Value for money: Excellent. An initial 75-minute consultation and treatment at Cosmetic Acupuncture Melbourne is $180, with a return consultation and treatment priced at $136 per session — this includes treatment of both your face and your body. Whereas, according to the price to treat just your forehead with Botox costs between $90 and $300 depending on how much Botox the practitioner uses.

Good for: Acne, anti-ageing, fine lines, hydration.

Where to get it: In Melbourne, Cosmetic Acupuncture Melbourne. In Sydney, Dr Vivian Tam recommends The Dao Health.

This is an independently written road test which was not commissioned or paid for by the brand. However, the treatment was provided to the writer at the brand’s discretion.