Is it really better than Botox?
It’s true what they say, that you wake up one fine morning and, standing before the bathroom mirror brushing your teeth and thinking about the day ahead, you freeze at the dreadful sight of a new wrinkle on your face. Where the heck did it come from? Why did it have to set up its permanent residence on your goddamned face? Clearly it loves company, because over the last year or so the wrinkle society have been showing a great love for your facial landscape.
“The way you sleep definitely affects how your face looks,” acupuncturist and Shiatsu therapist Ilaira Bouratinos, who owns and teaches at the Oriental Medicine Centre in Athens tells me. If you sleep on your side, your face will actually become lop-sided. If you squash your face onto the pillow, there’s more chance of developing wrinkles. The ideal is to sleep on your back.” But, she adds, there’s so much more to it than that. “You seem to frown a lot while you talk – there! You’re doing it again!” That’s true, I even frown if I’m talking about ice cream, great sex or summer holidays. I smooth out the frown with my fingers and send relaxation vibes to my forehead, where the unfathomably deep Gorge of Obscure Perplexity has developed between above my left eye over the years. “That’s better,” she smiles – momentarily. “Hey! You’re frowning again! Stop it!”
On a far deeper level, Bouratinos informs me, according to Eastern medicine, which addresses the body from a holistic approach and sustains that the body is made up of meridians, or energy lines, the diet you eat, the lifestyle you live, the way you process your thoughts and feelings, how much sleep and rest you get, your habits, the amount of activity you engage in every day, the amount of sun and water and fresh air you get, all add up how your face will turn out. “The face has numerous acupoints, just as the body does, which via the meridians connect to all of the body’s organs and internal functions,” she tells me, “and similarly, according to an Eastern medical theory, the appearance of your face reveals a lot about your inner health. A Chinese medical practitioner will understand that dark circles under the eyes, pale or sagging skin, wrinkles in particular places, dull eyes, redness and other features relate to specific health conditions.”
Bouratinos is telling me all these interesting things whilst inserting extremely fine, small needles into my face, as part of our Cosmetic Acupuncture session. I am lying in her tranquil treatment room, which today is infused with the aroma of lavender and rose oils, as she inserts needle after needle into my forehead, cheeks, chin, temples… Some of them hurt, (she tells me pain is a good sign of reactivating energy in an area that had gathered hard layers of dead skin, such as scar tissue, which can cause blocks in the flow of energy). Mostly it’s like a tiny prick. Sometimes I don’t feel it at all. “Ouch!” I exclaim, reminding myself that it’s all in the name of beauty and that I have put myself through much worse over the years. Dancing in spiky high heels? Check. Waxing? Check. Wearing a corset that should never have left the 17th Century? Check. Let’s just stop right there before it gets too embarrassing.
I wouldn’t consider myself vain (ok, maybe a little), but I have passed the four-O (aka furrow) line and I do still have decent enough eyesight to see the ongoing, obvious changes in my appearance (oh how we take ourself for granted!). Several of my also seeing girlfriends have felt so unhappy with the lines and turkey neck et al they have ventured towards the needle (Botox not heroine) and become devout to fillers and freezers and whatever else they are called. I have thought about it a lot, and felt very tempted. But I have refrained because aren’t we all bombarded by images of very wealthy, successful women who have turned to plastic surgery and, despite how good a doctor they can afford, end up looking like alien plastic ducks?
Above all, my entire life philosophy veers me towards holistic choices, as I tell Bouratinos. “Apart from the fact that it’s a natural treatment that doesn’t involve injecting chemicals and toxins into your organism, and that it doesn’t cause long-term damage like repeated use of Botox does, aesthetic acupuncture stimulates collagen production and actually renews the skin’s cellular structure from the inside, as well as reactivating and toning facial muscles. Meanwhile, it’s benefitting the whole body,” she says. Unlike the mask-like effects of cosmetic surgery, aesthetic acupuncture brightens the eyes, clears the mind, improves sleep quality, lifts your body’s energy levels and helps rebalance your metabolism!
After Bouratinos had placed all the needles (around 40 of them!) into my skin, I rested for around half an hour. She removed them quickly and painlessly and then massaged my skin with tiny soft suction cups and manual massage with lavender and chamomile essences. The immediate result was that I looked like I’d had a deep sleep (something I don’t get much of as the mother of a toddler) from which I’ woken up a few years younger – my skin was glowy, rosy and relaxed. I had to wait a few days before being able to see the deeper results – nothing that my mean-spirited eye could see much of but that friends, colleagues and even my partner pointed out to me without knowing I had done anything. “What have you done?” one colleague asked, “did you change your hair?”
I just enjoyed smiling to myself (I might as well hold on to a fun secret on the rare occasion that I have one).
I had two more sessions with Bouratinos, spaced over the next two months, mainly due to my own time constraints. Apparently the ideal is to go for a weekly session at least for three to five weeks to see bigger, faster and more long-lasting results. But seeing my skin tone improve dramatically (I happily re-encountered my skin from a decade before), my eyes brighten, my cheeks lift significantly, and my jawline tighten was an amazing experience, and a very interesting one too.
Apart from the thrill of seeing my more youthful self emerge (I, young you, was always here, grasshopper, just hidden away under layers of your outward ageing!), I did actually feel more energised, had better sleep and felt more balanced overall.
The effects are expected to last for around six months to a year, especially if you have a session every month or every few months and look after yourself better in terms of how you eat, exercise and sleep, and care for the skin – all things I was definitely inspired to do more of from now on.
Bouratinos also runs workshops every few months in which she teaches, within the space of an afternoon, how you can massage and exercise your own face for 5 minutes a day to drastically improve, reduce or prevent facial sagging and wrinkles.
Check out www.omcentre.gr and www.ilaira.com to book your cosmetic acuptuncture session and find out about facial toning workshops.