A beautiful face comes in many shapes and forms. Differing values and norms create expectations and interpretations of what, in essence, constitutes beauty. But health and joy and a lively interest in one’s surroundings certainly are universal foundations of facial beauty. A heart of gold shining through a loved one’s face and eyes makes a visage beautiful. Sincerity and intelligence, I think, make a face enchanting. And–let’s be honest here–proper care and maintenance are keys to remaining beautiful throughout one’s natural lifespan. So yes, I am a health coach, an Asian bodywork therapist, and a future herbalist and acupuncture practitioner but no, it’s not all kale and sit-ups and bitter herbs for me or for my patients and clients. I love to eat and I am determined to enjoy life and I think you, dear reader, should do the same! Even so…it is important to take the best care possible of one’s complexion and in this essay, I am going to talk to you a bit about beauty and facial rejuvenation strategies that will keep you at your very best.
First things first though: attitude is everything and let’s never lose sight of that fact. One attitude towards beauty that I love is reflected a recent comment by glamour and burlesque artist Dita Von Teese, pictured here in a Facebook screen shot. To wit, and in her own (albeit slightly edited) words, “Learning how to wear your hair or how to dress is one thing, but there are many other layers of beauty to cultivate that give a woman her sensuality [and] erotic wit and make her compelling to know. We have a lot to learn from each other at all stages of life.” The full post is a reflection on her joy in working with and learning from such venerable and wondrous figures as Carmen Dell’Orifice, Mamie Van Doren, Ilona Royce Smithskin, and Julie Newmar and it’s a strong statement about the value of women of all ages. This mentality, I feel, is equally important when we consider men and their differing stages of life and evolving beauty–or handsomeness–too. Consider, for instance, this incredibly handsome elder statesman. He is old but damn does he ever rock his look, don’t you think?
When I was in my twenties and had thirty staring me down, I made up a saying that I hold true to this day: “good genes and a bad attitude will take me far.” (Note: the bad attitude had nothing to do with negativity and everything to do with deciding that I would be the one to determine whether or not I was beautiful no matter my age.) I still firmly believe that attitude is everything (and I’m really grateful for my genes), but I’m also more conscious of beauty maintenance than I was back then and much less lazy about it. Plus, now that I have formally studied facial rejuvenation acupuncture and am practicing it in clinic and now that I am AOBTA-CP and able to offer bodywork that includes aesthetic treatments for the face, I have become super interested in acquiring as much knowledge as possible on the subject of what can be done to maintain one’s visage. On behalf of my patients and clients, it is my duty to find out as much as I can about this topic, right? *Sighs virtuously*
Of course my main interest relates to Chinese medicine and what it can do for musculo-skeletal, gut, and mental health. Strangely, I’m seeing that facial rejuvenation does play a role in overall wellbeing though. In fact, in my office where I offer aesthetic bodywork treatments for the face and in intern clinic where I practice acupuncture under the direction of my supervisors I am finding, more and more, that both women and men love what Chinese medicine has to do for their faces and their psyches. It’s not just vanity at stake here. On top of that, friendships in clinic and where my office is housed have also expanded my horizons. There is a lot that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) can do for a person’s beauty but spa and medi-spa treatments can complement and enhance aesthetic maintenance if a person so wishes. Myself, I am not that keen on invasive procedures but I’ve learned a lot about them and I realize that if you know what you’re getting into and you trust your practitioner, then anything goes and personal choice and taste are what really matter. Consequently, I wanted to use this platform to outline some of the other ways to enhance one’s visage that I’ve tried lately before discussing the benefits of adding Chinese medicine to your repertoire.
One place I highly recommend for pampering and beauty care of all sorts is the spa where my weekend office is housed. As many of you know by now, I work as an independent contractor out of Earthspring Acupuncture’s office which is within (but also independent from) Heather Gordon Spa & Wellness.
Thus far, I’ve only had my eyelashes and brows tinted by Heather but I have seen the work that she and her employees do and it’s outstanding. A partial list of the wide array of services that are available includes but is not limited to: facials, tanning, waxing, skin tag removal, brow and lash tinting, and–most recently–she hired a lash specialist who does truly incredible eyelash extension work. Heather made my lashes and brows look marvelous and her seasonal specials on the facial menu are, quite frankly, starting to call my name. And as strange as I think false eyelashes are, I see clients leaving after Felicia works her magic on them and I know that the day is coming that I will try them, even if it’s only once. Felicia is a true artist with the eyelash extensions, no doubt about it. What I love the most about the spa, though, is its atmosphere. I was thinking about it recently and asking myself what would make me choose–or reject–a spa. I realized that I rarely get facials and that the only time I ever do is if I stay at a boutique hotel that has spa services. I treat myself to facials then; otherwise, I don’t really think about them much. If I had to choose a spa now, I would want a local business (not a chain); I would want a great atmosphere where I felt comfortable; I would want a variety of services from which to choose; and I would want to know that the spa had a great reputation. In other words, I would pick Heather Gordon Spa & Wellness.
Beyond learning about spas by having my weekend office in one, I also got lucky enough to be treatment partners and become dearly friends with Natalie Ledbetter of L-Aesthetics & Longevity MedSpa during the summer term and oh, did we have fun! We both learned a lot from working together, too.
Natalie is a nurse anesthesiologist and her husband, Billy, is an MD. Together at their family-owned and operated business, they offer an impressive array of services that begin with facials and expands to include injectables, lasers, peels, and more. Now, I am from Santa Barbara and I am very familiar with plastic surgery and other enhancements. Honestly, I think that kind of thing is scary. Who really wants to looks like a cat-faced, expressionless wax figure except, apparently, aging Hollywood stars and trophy spouses everywhere? I always said no way would I try any of that kind of thing. Well. Over the course of several sessions in clinic together, I watched Natalie restore the beauty of a patient who had been burned during a laser treatment by an unskilled practitioner (lesson here: ask questions before you get lasered and make sure your practitioner is highly trained). I was so impressed by her care and her talent. We shared our treatment strategies and observed each other’s work and talked about ways to improve our technique all summer long. I told her what I do for patients when they come to me for bodywork and she told me all about what she does at her office with Dr. Ledbetter. We eventually decided that we needed to demonstrate to each other what each one of us does in our separate practices and thus, fortuitously, a truly magical collaboration occurred.
Before discussing what it is that I do and elaborating on what Natalie does, though, I would like to to briefly discuss facial rejuvenation acupuncture. There are several ways to become trained in it; one, of course, is to study any of the many books available on the topic. At my school, one of the beloved and highly-respected founders of my program, Dr. Jamie Wu, teaches a seminar on facial rejuvenation protocols that include acupuncture and tui na. Another method that is very well-known and popular is Mei Zen cosmetic acupuncture. My suggestion for anyone who is interested in Mei Zen is that they go see Lauren St. Pierre-Mehrens of Earthspring Acupuncture. I tried Mei Zen with her and I loved it–not only did it work like magic on me, but it also left me feeling remarkably calm and internally nourished. People adore Lauren, and for good reason–she is a kind, attentive, and gifted practitioner. Mei Zen, for its part, relies on quite a few needles but, as you can see in the photographs in the link, it works, especially for fine lines and dullness of skin. Dr. Wu’s method, for its part, is remarkable for the large wrinkles on the forehead, especially, and his approach brings an over-all tranquility to the expression that is characteristic of a well-done Chinese medical treatment. Many of us, myself included, took both Dr. Wu’s seminar and the Mei Zen training. As a result, I tend to use a combination of techniques that I find especially useful from each one when I’m in the student clinic. My personal preference is Dr. Wu’s protocol but I am very glad that I have both teachings to draw from and I use them both to great effect. Patients love the results and I thus became inspired to do some of this work on my own face. So, though I am not doing it right this second, I have and most surely will again sit here writing my blog essay with a face full of needles. Facial rejuvenation acupuncture is safe, effective, and incredibly calming too. Try it, you’ll see!
Natalie and I both expect to offer cosmetic acupuncture when we are licensed. [On edit: If you are reading this after summer of 2018, please note that I completed my board exams and am duly licensed]. However, she will make TCM a part of her larger medi-spa menu while I expect to refine and expand my protocol within the scope of the way I use bodywork in my unique treatment strategy. Since we have the TCM in common we decided to practice on each other and see what each had to offer. Natalie and I had such a great time that we have decided, in fact, to make a combined facial treatment that utilizes both my strategies and hers…stay tuned for more news on that project, which is forthcoming shortly.
As mentioned above, in any case, I am really leery about plastic surgery so I was skittish when we began our treatment exchange. Since I don’t know very much about what’s what in a medi-spa, I let Natalie choose a machine for me–the Exilis Elite, which I started calling “the exile machine” because it sort of freaked me out and I felt better giving it a nickname. I ended up LOVING that thing. It burns a little bit (not too much) but what really stood out for me was that it not only firmed up my face but it also restored the natural olive tone to my skin. I guess that too much studying and stress had left me a little dull-looking? Well, not after four treatments with this puppy. And I have a couple brown patches on my skin–one that showed up on my face after getting an injection at the dentist’s office–and she offered to laser it off me with the Profractional Laser. This is why I love and trust Natalie–she asked me if I had any freckles on my face that I wanted to keep and I pointed out the big one on my cheek that another person might have asked to have treated with the laser. I explained that a mole on the face like mine is a marker of being Sicilian and that I would be grieved to lose it. Natalie worked around the mole and told me that she wasn’t going to get rid of all my freckles because they are natural to my face and make me look like me. Ok, I could have cried at that. She understood me and she understood that I was a little afraid of the laser and what it might do. In the end, I look just like me but my skin is prettier, it has more tone and glow, and my icky blotch from the dentist is gone. Natalie is truly gifted and she really listens to her patients. She is trustworthy, and that–more than anything–is crucial if you are going to let someone mess with your face.
My proverbial black bag of magic treats for its part relies on Asian bodywork therapy (ABT), it’s related to what I deliver as a health coach and trainer, and–underlying all platforms–it is nourished by my reliance on Chinese medical theory and practices. Outside of the student clinic, I am able to combine Chinese tui na style manual therapy with cupping for a beauty protocol that leaves people feeling blissful and looking even better. If you are nervous about needles or prefer a massage-like treatment, then ABT is the right choice for you. Though I am not going to give away all my secrets here in a blog post, I will say this much: habitual expression in the long term does change the way the muscles lie on the bones of the face. Doing something about muscular tension underneath the skin can do wonders for what one’s expression looks like. Working on the muscles of the neck can do wonders for both the neck and shoulders and for the jawline. Following up with cupping and/or other allied techniques can shift the balance of the skin, it can smooth the visage to a remarkable degree, and it can also bring about a new glow and expressiveness. And since this is Chinese medicine that we are talking about, I take into account the whole person and their holistic and balanced state of wellbeing when I plan each individual treatment. Most significantly, I LOVE muscles and bones and this kind of work definitely requires attention to detail, patience, and artistry. It is so incredibly much fun to practice facial rejuvenation ABT and see how happy it makes my clients feel and look. Natalie, after six treatments, will tell you that she saw the difference in her jawline, skin tone, and cheekbone definition. She looks and feels great after being on my table and so will you. For longer-lasting change, patients need to come for a series of appointments, but for a special occasion like a wedding or an important date or a job interview, men and women alike can benefit from a single ABT treatment in my office. You will leave feeling and looking marvelous–try it, you’ll see!
If you have never thought about Chinese medicine and facial rejuvenation, I hope that this has inspired you to consider it. For people with acne or rosacea or an uneven complexion, acupuncture and herbs are a good place to start; though, of course, spa treatments and lasers are also certainly valuable treatment options. For muscle tension and tight, dry skin, I think that nothing could be better than Asian bodywork therapy (though of course all of the above will help). For things that call for a stronger intervention, my suggestion is that you find someone you really trust. In all cases, your practitioner should be well-trained and able to articulate his or her philosophy regarding treatment of you, the individual. Your practitioner should listen to you and be able to reflect back to you what your own vision of beauty and health will look like on your face. What matters is that you look at yourself as an individual, with a unique history that you carry on your face, one who has unique needs and hopes. From there, it matters to find someone who will talk to you and who will listen; trust, above all, matters just as much as talent.
And finally, of course, don’t forget to cultivate your attitude. With or without the best genes in the world, with a bad attitude, you will indeed go far. And that, dear reader, certainly is beautiful!
Paula Bruno, Ph.D., L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, an AOBTA-CP traditional Chinese bodywork therapist, and a wellness educator. She maintains an active and growing practice at her Austin, TX office. Dr. Bruno is also available for distance appointments for wellness consultation or coaching.
In her first career, she was a Spanish professor.
Dr. Bruno’s specialties as a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner include: • Musculoskeletal health (acute or chronic pain relief; Ehlers Danlos syndrome & hypermobility support) • Digestive support, gut health, and weight loss • Aesthetic treatment, including scar revision • Men’s health • General preventative care and immune support for all persons.
Note: Material on this web site is not intended to replace your treatment or care provided by an MD. It is for educational/entertainment purposes only. A TCM practitioner in Texas identifies syndrome patterns but does not diagnose illness. Always consult your primary care doctor for health concerns.