Is Cosmetic Acupuncture A Genuine Alternative To Injectables Like Botox?

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Although it's often seen as an easy fix for fine lines and the first signs of ageing, if there's one thing I've learnt in my career as a beauty writer, it's that Botox isn't for everyone.
Cosmetic doctors have publicly debunked claims that preventative Botox is capable of delaying the inevitable. And then there are are other circles in the medical field that have hypothesised that older generations of Botox can prove to be ineffective over time, instead pointing patients in the direction of modern anti-wrinkle options that don't come with the risk of the dreaded 'Botox immunity', such as Xeomin.
There's also a wave of individuals bolstering the #Notox movement on TikTok, encouraging people considering injectables to pick up facial contouring microcurrent devices and try things like lip flip-imitating makeup hacks instead. However, if users' responses to the app's aged filter are anything to go by, many people still want the option to minimise the effects of ageing where possible.
Touted as a skin rejuvenating treatment, cosmetic acupuncture is an ancient practice with 5000 years of history that stems from Traditional Chinese Medicine. It's a treatment that's garnered the attention of celebrities like Kim Kardashian and is frequently compared with anti-wrinkle injections because people claim it delivers similar results.

“A Triple Threat Against Ageing”

One of Melbourne's leading cosmetic acupuncturists and Doctor of Chinese Medicine, Dr Vivian Tam, calls cosmetic acupuncture a “triple threat against ageing” because it can:
1) Lift and tone the skin by targeting motor points in muscles in the face,
2) Firm and tone soft tissue and skin by stimulating collagen and elastin production and
3) Boost blood circulation, oxygenate the blood and promote a more balanced complexion.
"Cosmetic acupuncture involves using tiny, painless and very specialised facial acupuncture needles to stimulate blood flow and promote collagen production," Tam explains to Refinery29 Australia. "It's really beneficial for skin health and anti-ageing. Plus it relieves tight muscles and tension and promotes lymphatic drainage."
During cosmetic acupuncture, the needles cause "microtrauma" to the skin when inserted, that can help to stimulate collagen and elastin production, and subsequently help plump the skin and soften the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, firm skin and minimise sagging. However, unlike injectable treatments such as Botox, cosmetic acupuncture also has the benefits of a targeted facial treatment and can also be used to treat a myriad of other skin ails such as acne, pigmentation, uneven skin tone, facial tension and scarring.
@suci.acupuncture Cosmetic Acupuncture, Facial Cupping and Gua Sha Facial Treatment on myself for a bad skin week. #tcm #acupuncture #chinesemedicine #guasha #cosmeticacupuncture #facialcupping ♬ Aesthetic - Tollan Kim

Is Cosmetic Acupuncture Cheaper Than Botox?

Like Botox, the price for cosmetic acupuncture varies greatly depending on the specifics of your treatment.
Botox is usually charged per unit used during an appointment, plus the time and expertise of the practitioner administering it. It can cost anywhere between $150 to $500 depending on how many parts of the face are treated. Similarly, there is really no set median price for cosmetic acupuncture.
Highly qualified doctors such as Dr Vivian Tam charge a bit more than the Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors operating small practices, which means you're likely to find a doctor offering cosmetic acupuncture for as little as $30 or as much as $180 per session. Unlike bi-monthly Botox appointments, weekly cosmetic acupuncture treatments are recommended for best results, but the frequency and total number of your treatments will depend on your skin. Plus, if your health insurance provider allows, you might actually be able to claim back the cost of your cosmetic acupuncture treatments. Good to know!

Botox Vs Cosmetic Acupuncture

We'd love to be able to give you the ultimate winner in this anti-ageing squabble, but the truth is that there is no clear 'better' option, as it all comes down to personal preference. Cosmetic acupuncture could be cheaper if you're getting just one treatment, but if you go every week for the rest of your life then, of course, a small dose of Botox to your '11' lines might seem like the more cost-efficient route.
The one thing we will say is that if you're in your twenties or thirties and you're considering preventative Botox, cosmetic acupuncture could be a treatment to try as an alternative. Save the hard stuff for when you get older — if at all.
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