The practice of facial rejuvenation therapies enjoys a long and rich history in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Beginning as far back as 1121 B.C. where practitioners began to develop special modalities to treat a variety of skin conditions including dietary adjustments and herbal prescriptions. Building on these foundations, new concepts were introduced such as acupuncture around 221 A.D. and have continued to evolve throughout history. During the Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644 A.D.) further progress in rejuvenation techniques were developed and attention was brought not only to the eyes, nose, lips, teeth, and hair, but also to the complexion and wrinkles. The classic text Materia Medica links the beneficial properties of certain herbs to specific health and beauty concerns.
In Chinese Medicine, there are many factors that play a role in the health of the skin of the body and in particular to facial rejuvenation and health – time of the year, weather conditions, food, drink, emotions and the healthy function of our body. In the scope of facial rejuvenation, we can relate certain functions and dysfunctions of the body to major organ systems. Each organ system has a set of properties and conditions that are desired for optimal effectiveness; when the flow of Qi or energy is off, the resulting symptoms can be felt in many other areas of the body. The following is an example of the five yin organs of the body and how they relate to facial rejuvenation.
The Heart – Not only does the heart rule blood and blood vessels, but also emotions (see previous blog post Elevating the Mind and Emotions for more details). That means that anxiety, stress, anger, frustration all contribute to the formation of wrinkles. To target wrinkles, you must be aware of your emotions and whenever possible to resolve and let them go. The weakened function of the heart can lead to facial swelling or puffiness and if further disturbed can contribute to a restless sleep and the formation of dark circles and puffiness under the eyes.
The Lungs – The lung system controls respiration and the skin. The functional impairment of the lungs will lead to undernourishment of the skin which leads to dryness, wrinkles, and a withered-looking complexion.
The Liver – Taking good care of your Liver is the key to eliminating wrinkles! It plays a major role in Blood – as a builder, container, and flow regulator – and in the function and flow of Qi throughout the body and all other organ systems. A disruption in the Liver function, therefore, disrupts Qi and Blood flow everywhere, including the face. A stagnation of Liver Qi often leads to wrinkles, dark spots, and a dusty complexion.
The Spleen – In control of digestion and ingestion, the Spleen, dominates the function of converting food into Qi and Blood which is vital for facial beauty and total body health. The face responds to what is digested and absorbed as well as the type and amount of food. When the Spleen is deficient, the skin will be undernourished and result in a loss of skin tone producing sagging and looseness. If the Spleen’s ability to transport fluids is hampered, the face may appear puffy and the eyes may develop bags under them as well as the pooling of these fluids may lead to brownish dark spots on the face.
The Kidneys – The Kidney system regulates the fluid balance in the body. If the Kidneys are deficient, a person may develop dark eye circles and age spots or puffiness under the eyes. When the essence of the Kidneys is depleted, the aging process is accelerated which affects the tautness of the skin which in turn causes wrinkles and thinning of the hair.
According to Chinese Medicine, the seasons can contribute to the health of and accentuate problems pertaining to the face, skin and hair. In the spring, because there is more wind, Bell’s palsy may manifest, as well as the drooping of eyelids and muscle spasms or twitches around the eyes. In the summer, conditions such as redness in the face and eyes may appear, sores around the mouth, and purulent acne and eczema. The autumn is dry and tends to manifest as skin rashes, acne, dry skin and wrinkles. The cold and wind of the winter can cause rough and dry skin.
Chinese Medicine Treatments for Facial Rejuvenation
Acupuncture – Acupuncture treatment for facial rejuvenation promotes the free flow of Qi and Blood and opens the pathway, or meridian systems of the body. It regulates Yin and Yang, and excess and deficiency – allowing for a balanced internal body condition.
Acupressure – Like acupuncture, acupressure heals the face and body by manipulating the flow of Qi in beneficial ways by applying gentle but firm pressure at certain energetic points along the meridian systems of the body. Acupressure soothes and regulates the flow of Qi and Blood, harmonizes yin and yang, encourages lymphatic drainage, facilitates nutrient absorption, and stimulates the skin’s own ability for collagen production.
Herbal Therapy – There are hundreds of herbs and herb combinations that have been used for thousands of years for facial rejuvenation. Herbs can be ingested as well as made into washes, masks, and moisturizers.
Diet Therapy – Each food has its own properties including colour, flavour, temperature, therapeutic function and organ system that it affects or relates to, which then can translate into prescriptions for the body depending on the health or dysfunction of any organ or organ system. For example, sweet foods nourish Qi, Blood, and yin and moisten dryness thereby improving dry, wrinkly skin. Another example is that red foods help the complexion by nourishing the Heart – important red foods include tomatoes, red rice, carrots, strawberries and watermelon.
Facial Cupping – Facial cupping is a rejuvenation treatment that has been used for years around the world. Specially crafted smooth rimmed glass cups are used to create a gentle vacuum which lifts the facial tissue and activates your lymphatic drainage system. While maintaining suction, these small cups glide over the skin to stimulate the release of collagen, which will assist in the reduction of lines and wrinkles, and at the same time draining fluids causing puffiness. Facial cupping therapy increases the circulation of blood in the skin which brings an increase of nutrients to the area so the skin’s appearance is healthy and glowing. It is a wonderful treatment for those with acne issues and acne scarring. After a facial cupping treatment, your skin will feel tighter and smooth, areas of droopiness will be lifted, pores will be clean and you will notice a visible reduction in size.
Gua Sha – This technique refers to the use of the fingers or a small tool with rounded, smooth edges to massage, stimulate, and manipulate areas on the face, neck, and body to promote Qi and Blood flow and remove toxins. Gua sha is commonly practiced by scraping the fingers or tool along the surface of the skin applying gentle and steady pressure. Under normal circumstances, marking does not occur on the face because the movements are gentler than gua sha for the rest of the body. It can be used for reducing wrinkles and sagging, improving complexion colour, and eliminating swelling from the eye area.
Qi Gong – The purpose of Qi Gong is to assist the body’s natural self-regulating/balancing capacity by manipulating internal energy with one’s mind and breathing. Qi Gong uses the body by moving it and concentrating the breath and directing it in specific ways. It uses the mind by focusing it to achieve relaxation. This practice assists in facial rejuvenation by bringing the entire body into balance.
Like any TCM treatment, there is no one protocol that suits every one person. With every variation of skin type, underlying constitutional issue, and environmental and emotional concern, there are just as many treatment options. To its benefit, Chinese Medicine promotes these many of these options as lifestyle choices to be managed by you rather than simply relying on a practitioner for constant care. We are here to guide you on your journey and to educate you in what techniques to try at home for a glowing and radiant complexion!