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Nellie acupuncture

We had needles put in our face as replacement botox and it felt so good

A blend of Chinese Medicine and botox – sign me up

For decades, the beauty industry has turned away from holistic treatments, natural ingredients, and traditional practices in favour of chemicals, lasers, and injectables. The move, in part, has been dictated by a more impatient and more changeable attitude towards beauty from consumers and customers looking to keep up with the latest semi-permanent beauty trends we see on social media. It’s also in some measure down to the ever future-facing beauty industry doggedly pursuing the elusive fountain of youth. 

Then, you have salons like Skin Matters. Skin Matters is one of a legion of salons and facialists increasingly turning back to traditional, and even ancient methods, and seamlessly fusing them together with newer technologies and innovations, with great results. 

As much as I love laser (a lot) I’m also a huge fan of techniques like Gua Sha used by supremely experienced therapists like Su Man. I normally turn to more traditional facials if I’m looking to feel relaxed, and more full-on procedures, with downtime, ahead of special occasions. It’s one of the perks of the job that I get to try them all out, but one gaping hole in my beauty journey remains to be acupuncture. 

Acupuncture is a treatment derived from ancient Chinese medicine. Fine needles are planted by a practitioner, at very particular points on the body. The slim needles pierce sensory nerves just below the skin in order to relieve pain and stress. While acupuncture is believed to have highly therapeutic results, it’s technically a pseudoscience. In traditional Chinese medicine, certain parts of the body are related to others. Under-eye bags can indicate imbalanced kidneys. Certain parts of the ear relate to the lungs. Just below your knees, to your stomach. And so, needles are placed according to a patient’s concerns. 

I headed to Skin Matter in Notting Hill, founded by Joanne Evans, skin health expert, to try out their “cosmetic acupuncture facial”. Skin Matters is a complete experience, dedicated skin, mind and body health. The salon offers a range of treatments across multiple practices tailored to the concerns of each client from facials to infusions, massages and acupuncture. This particular facial is positioned as a natural alternative to botox and anti-ageing, targeted by inserting needles with the intention of relaxing the muscles in the face and boosting collagen. The needles increase circulation and boost elastin and detoxification for a clearer complexion. Skin Matters is one of the most beautiful salons in London, more closely resembling the inside of an Italian villa than a place where people come to get their blackheads removed. At the beginning of the session, I’m asked about my concerns (stress, some digestion problems, and dips in energy). 

My face, chest, and neck are cleansed and cleaned before the practitioner begins to insert single needles into my chest. She asks if I ever wake up in the night (I do) and at what time (usually around 3 or 4 am). I’m told that time in the night dictates it’s my lungs that are waking me up, and that lungs are emotional sites, indicative of emotional stress and turmoil. I find the needles in the ears a little stingy at first, and then tight. She lightly pressures areas three times and asks me to identify which feels the most sensitive before piercing the skin. 

As we move onto my chin, I can barely feel it as the needles enter the skin and I start to relax. My laughter lines are slightly more sensitive, with the skin above my brows feeling the most tender. In all honesty, the discomfort is so minimal it’s barely noticeable, and before very long I’m relaxed. I take a look in my phone’s camera. The placement of the needles is pleasingly symmetrical. A sheet mask is gently laid over the needles for ten minutes before I sit under an LED lamp for 25 minutes. For anyone out there who’s sat under an LED lamp, it can be intense, especially if you’re claustrophobic, and even as a seasoned expert, the first few minutes take some adjustment. If you do manage to relax, it can be hard not to nod off. I’m relieved to have the needles in my ear removed, as it’s the only site on my body that feels tense. 

After the treatment I’m warned that I could experience some tiny little bruises – I didn’t. My skin now looks very hydrated, and the lines around my mouth are visibly reduced. The fine lines on my forehead are still visible at closer inspection but pleasingly moisturised. 

I’m inspired by the holistic approach of the treatment and am now sure that I’d like to try out full-body acupuncture on account of how calm I feel. I think salons like Skin Matters are signposting an imminent move, in line with the larger wellness trend, for beauty treatments to embrace ancient, herbal and spiritual methods as people seek out less chemical, permanent solutions to changing skin.