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Would You Let A Doctor Put 20+ Acupuncture Needles On Your Face? 'Cos I Did!

Read up on cosmetic acupuncture + its skin-loving benefits.
PHOTO: Mixi Ignacio

I absolutely HATE the sensation of anything that resembles an electric current: static electricity, that "ngilo" feeling when you get cavities drilled by your dentist, or even the occasional audible spark when you plug something into a socket. When my teammate Ysa got acupuncture for her asthma, she told me that she felt a surge of electricity go through her body whenever she moved. Still, I went into this procedure with sheer determination that everything was going to be fiiiine. Cosmetic acupuncture, I heard, was supposed to help with collagen production hampered by all my sleepless nights of Netflixing. My ~*glow*~ was on the line, electric currents be damned!

What is acupuncture?

It was my first time to try acupuncture, so I had a lot of questions for Dr. Candy Drilon-DalmanMedical Director, Founder, and Managing Partner at Centro Holistico. She gives the basic idea behind acupuncture: "The goal is to bring back the normal flow of Chi in the body." According to Chinese medicine, Chi makes up the entire body and flows from your head to your toes. Problems pop up when your Chi is blocked: "If there's any disruption in any part of the body, in any part of the Chi, you develop certain diseases."

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Centro Holistico is located at: 2/F The Retail Row, The Grove by Rockwell, Pasig City. They also have a clinic in Alabang.  MIxi Ignacio

What is cosmetic or facial acupuncture?

Cosmetic or facial acupuncture is supposed to bring back the normal Chi flow to the face, aka better blood flow and collagen production in the facial area. Dr. Drilon-Dalman shares that as we get older, our muscles atrophy (they shrink and the skin outside sags). "So the point is to stimulate the muscles to lift the face and to stimulate collagen production and bring back the youthful glow to the face," she says. 

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This is not to say that cosmetic acupuncture is only for older patients. Although it's done specifically for collagen production to keep wrinkles and fine lines at bay, teens and twentysomethings can get it too! Dr. Drilon-Dalman shares that cosmetic acupuncture is also done for acne-prone patients. "Acne in Chinese medicine [means there] is a lot of heat in the body—there's a lack of nutrients [going] to the face, and the toxins couldn't get out properly. The needle is placed right under the pimple to help it dry faster."

When you get your facial acupuncture procedure, expect to have needles placed on other body parts, too. "We also do points for the body, because, for example, we diagnose that your face [lacks collagen due to] a spleen Chi problem. So we put points on the body to address that. It's not just for the face. It's really a holistic thing," says Dr. Drilon-Dalman.

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Around 20-25 needles are placed on the face during a cosmetic acupuncture procedure. The treatment lasts for 45 minutes and is designed to stimulate collagen production. Mixi Ignacio

Cosmetic acupuncture is also recommended for patients who do weight loss programs. Dr. Drilon-Dalman explains, "Losing a lot of pounds can make the facial skin sag, so this is an ideal treatment to be done simultaneously."

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Around 20-25 needles are used for a typical procedure, although depending on the severity of the situation, the needle count can reach up to 40 or 50. The needles at Centro Holistico are only used once and thrown out after the treatment. 

How much is the cosmetic acupuncture procedure?

Cosmetic acupuncture at Centro Holistico costs P2,500 per session. They also have memberships (P3,000 for one year) with discounted rates (P2,125 for members). The membership will get you discounts for treatments and packages with seasonal upgrades such as perks on your birthday month. 

Regular acupuncture at Centro Holistico costs P1,500. 

Centro Holistico's interiors are calming and relaxing; the place smells like a spa, too! Mixi Ignacio
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How often should you get cosmetic acupuncture?

Initially, getting treatment once a week is ideal, but sometimes, Dr. Drilon-Dalman recommends treatments twice to thrice a week, depending on the patient's needs. In general, 10-12 sessions are recommended for tangible results.

"Initially, after a few sessions, you'll notice [that your] face has more glow, and there's a tightening of the muscles," she explains. "As we go along [with the treatment], if you have any [fine] lines, you'll notice slowly that they will flatten out a little bit." She adds that it's not like Botox wherein muscles are temporarily paralyzed to smoothen out wrinkles, but it does help you age gracefully by bringing back the youthful glow of the face.

The acupuncture treatment is done in private "rooms" like these. Mixi Ignacio
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Is cosmetic acupuncture painful? What do I expect during the procedure?

"There is some pain, but it's very tolerable," Dr. Drilon-Dalman shares. She says that if you've had vaccinations before, those are definitely more painful! Once the needles are in, some people feel some heaviness, although this is on a case-to-case basis. 

When all the needles are inserted, you'd have to rest and wait for 45 minutes for the procedure to be over. This is for cosmetic acupuncture only; regular acupuncture only takes 30 minutes. A facial acupuncture procedure will take a minimum of 30 minutes for you to feel the effect. 

Each patient's acupuncture experience is different. Whenever Dr. Drilon-Dalman gets asked about how the treatment feels, she says she cannot fully describe it because it depends on one's mood and condition before the procedure. "But the common thing is they're more relaxed and less stressed after the procedure," she says. 

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Prior to the acupuncture procedure, I had a consultation with Dr. Candy Drilon-Dalman wherein she asked me questions about my lifestyle and took a sample of my blood to analyze under a microscope. Mixi Ignacio

What are the downsides of cosmetic acupuncture?

"You can bruise—of course—they're still needles," Dr. Drilon-Dalman explains. "There are lots of blood vessels on the face, so bruising is a possibility. Although the needles we use are very small—they're Japanese needles, [and] very sharp."

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Wanna know how deep the needle goes into your skin? Half. An. Inch! "It depends on the part of the face," explains Dr. Drilon-Dalman, who laughs at my shocked reaction. She reassures me that the needles will be inserted at an angle, so they actually won't be that "deep."

There are also patients who feel sleepy after the procedure, so they opt to do it later in the day.

Even though you're getting facial acupuncture, needles will also be placed on other body parts. For example, the doctor put needles on my ears to help with anxiety and stress. I also had needles on my tummy, legs, and arms for gut and detox issues. Mixi Ignacio
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Can you move during the procedure?

Yes! But there are some parts of your body where you'll feel a current when you move. Dr. Drilon-Dalman shares, "There are even patients who text the whole time! Then I tell them, 'Can you relax? Your Chi is not going to improve if you keep on moving!'" 

What to do after a cosmetic acupuncture procedure

You're not allowed to wet your face for two hours after the cosmetic acupuncture procedure. If there is a bruise, place a cold pack over it within the next 24 hours. There is no downtime whatsoever, so you can even get the treatment done on your work lunch break.  

Before getting my cosmetic acupuncture: Prep + Consultation

Before my consultation with Dr. Drilon-Dalman, my weight and blood pressure were taken, and I had to step on a Karada Scan machine to determine my fat percentage, skeletal muscle percentage, visceral fat level, and the like. I also had to answer a "Medical Symptom/Toxicity Questionnaire" that will help them identify the underlying causes of my ailments. I signed an "Acupuncture Consent And Release Form" as well.

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Before the doctor's consultation at Centro Holistico, they asked me to answer a health questionnaire and release form. They also took my weight, blood pressure, and fat percentage vs. skeletal muscle percentage, among other data. Mixi Ignacio

"When we diagnose you for anything in Chinese medicine, we ask a lot of things like diet, exercise, any emotional things—'cos they all come into play. And emotions actually play a big part in your health," says Dr. Drilon-Dalman.

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Here are some questions the doctor asked me:

  1. What is your main concern about your health?
  2. Do you have any major issues with your health?
  3. Aside from stress, what else gives you anxiety?
  4. What's your schedule like?
  5. You wake up at what time?
  6. Do you eat breakfast every day?
  7. What time is your first real meal?
  8. What's your usual lunch?
  9. Where do you usually get your food?
  10. Do you usually eat out?
  11. For your dinner, what do you usually order?
  12. Do you eat fruits and vegetables? How often?
  13. Do you eat snacks? 
  14. Do you like sweets?
  15. How much water do you take?
  16. Anything else you like to eat or drink?
  17. Do you drink coffee?
  18. What time is your latest coffee?
  19. What time do you sleep?
  20. Most of the work you do involves a computer? How's your eyesight?
  21. How's your bowel movement?
  22. Do you pee often?
  23. Menstruation is regular?
  24. How long have you been on the pill? No side effects?
  25. What are your allergies?
  26. Asthma—when was your last attack?
  27. Do you take any supplements?
  28. What are your health goals for yourself?
  29. You get home at what time?
  30. Right now, what can you cook?
  31. What food items make you bloat?
  32. Any restlessness?
  33. What triggers your headaches?
  34. When you work out, how much water do you get to drink?
  35. Do you sweat a lot?
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The tiniest movement (like curling my toes!) would trigger a surge of current (not painful, but definitely an acquired sensation) through my limbs, so I tried to be very, very still while waiting for the 45 minutes to be over. Take note that I also had needles on my limbs and tummy.  Mixi Ignacio
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During the cosmetic acupuncture procedure: My experience

I had to lay flat on the bed with a blanket over me (no shoes) so I was in a position conducive to sleeping or relaxing. Before inserting the needles, Dr. Drilon-Dalman sterilized the spots with alcohol. Did I feel the needles? Yes, but they were not painful. They're almost like little ant bites (the brown ones, not the red ones) and once they're in, they don't really feel like anything. The needles inserted under the eyes (upper cheeks) had the most sensation upon insertion. 

Dr. Drilon-Damlan advised me to try IV Nutrient Therapy (P3,500) during my acupuncture procedure. It's basically a 20-minute IV drip of vitamins because according to my blood analysis, I need more vegetables and detoxification in my #lyf. 

But 10 minutes into the acupuncture and drip procedure, I felt a terrible bout of acidity. Liquid was rising up my throat, and I kept on swallowing my saliva to keep it down. After a moment of panic, I called for Dr. Drilon-Damlan, and she quickly inserted a needle in my upper tummy (the part that hurts when you get heartburn) and no BS, the acidity INSTANTLY subsided. She also propped up my head with a pillow, which helped, but tbh, I felt like the needle on my tummy had more to do with it. She explained that some patients feel heightened symptoms of their ailments (mine was acidity and gut problems) during the procedure, so I guess that's exactly what happened. Thankfully she was on standby, because can you just imagine having 20+ needles on your body and puking from acidity at the same time? Just thinking about it makes me want to LOL.

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Around 20 needles were placed on my face. Mixi Ignacio

I'm not gonna lie: I couldn't get myself to sleep. I was a little stressed from my acidity incident, and I discovered that the tiniest movements (curling my toes or making a fist with my hands) would trigger a surge of current down my limbs. In the end, it was like I had pins and needles all over my body. Not the most fun thing, but at the same time, I felt like I was doing something good for my body. 

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After the cosmetic acupuncture procedure

45 minutes after, Dr. Drilon-Damlan carefully removed each needle and applied pressure on each spot with an alcohol-soaked cotton ball. She noticed that my gallbladder points (the side area between my knee and calf, the top of my brow) had minor bleeding and bruising, which basically reaffirms my detox issue (I need to get rid of more toxins in my body). 

Minor bruising is common for some acupuncture patients, although there is zero downtime. Apply an ice pack after to help it heal. Mixi Ignacio
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I was given an in-depth prescription after my procedure of all the things I need to do (continue exercising, eat more veggies, take more supplements). I had never seen such a detailed list of to-dos for my health, but I loved how it made me reevaluate my life decisions until that point. My biggest takeaway: I need to drink 3 liters of water and 8 servings of vegetables PER DAY. 

Before and after the cosmetic acupuncture procedure. There's no major difference, but dare I say I look less bloated on the right? Mixi Ignacio
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Did I notice any difference after? I felt sleepy for sure (this is my body telling me what it needs, according to Dr. Drilon-Damlan), and there was mild tenderness on the bruised areas. My before and after photos weren't drastically different, but then again, I didn't expect them to be. This is the kind of procedure that takes time for you to see results, and if you're a believer in self-care and patience, then it might just be for you. It's important to note that I did not just do cosmetic acupuncture; everything I went through, from the prepping to the consultation, the IV drip to the acupuncture, was part of a well-rounded evaluation and treatment.

Days after the treatment, I knew three things for sure: 1) I started eating more vegetables, 2) I drank more water, and 3) There were no breakouts on my face and it actually felt more hydrated. Now, if #3 was a result of #1 and #2 and perhaps the Nutrient Drip I took, I honestly don't mind; something went right, and that's enough for me to go back. 

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Centro Holistico has two branches: 1) 2/F CommerCenter Alabang Commerce Avenue corner Filinvest Avenue and East Asia Drive, Filinvest Corporate City, Alabang, and 2) 2/F The Retail Row The Grove by Rockwell E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave (C5) 1604 Pasig City. To book an appointment, visit their website.

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