Conscious Choice Article

Acupuncture Facelift

If Botox and surgery don’t appeal to you, but you still want to do something to lift your spirits and face, consider acupuncture

By Rose Spinelli

Gravity had become Kim Schneider’s foe. So when her son was to be married last year and she wanted to look her best, she did some research. “I’m not one to do Botox, I’m more of an alternative-medicine kind of person,” said Schneider, who works as a massage therapist and hair stylist. Still, she looked into plastic surgery. But at the consultation, she said, doctors used scare tactics to lure her under the knife.

“They tried to make me feel bad,” Schneider said. “They told me that if I wanted to do it, I had to do it now, and that [I should have plastic surgery if] I wake up every morning and hate to look in the mirror. I said, ‘Wait a minute. I don’t hate to look at myself.’ But I have been walking around for 53 years,” she said with a laugh. “So I have some sagging, especially collecting around the jaw line.”

Instead of forking over in excess of $6,000 for a “mini facelift” and confronting weeks or months of unsightly bruising and swelling, Schneider opted for a virtually risk-free natural alternative: an acupuncture facelift. She is pleased with the results. The transformation caused not so much as a blip of disruption to her daily life, and on her son’s wedding day the compliments flowed like the champagne — with no one the wiser.

However, it was a “slow process,” she said of the acupuncture facelift treatments she received from Larisa Turin, O.M.D.


The Science Behind It

Not all acupuncturists are trained to perform natural facelifts. Turin, who received her education abroad, is one of the few in Chicago to be trained in the technique. And while the results can be astounding, the real beauty behind this new breed of cosmetic therapy is that it doesn’t just zap wrinkles or tighten sags.

Traditional Chinese medicine holds that all organs are connected by meridians that evenly distribute blood and energy through our bodies. Healing occurs by restoring overall balance where there was once stasis, or inactivity of the life process. It’s said that the needles activate the flow of blood and energy into the many vessels and nerves on the face. This creates a circulatory passageway on the skin’s surface to smooth wrinkles, improve metabolism and provide nutrition to the muscles.

If you go to Turin for an acupuncture facelift, however, it’s likely she won’t talk much about your fixing droopy jowls. “It’s impossible to treat just the face, because it’s just a symptom, a mirror to what’s going on in the body. You have to work on the basics,” Turin said. “I’m not against it, but my belief is plastic surgery is visible. They will pull up the skin, but if you don’t have normal blood circulation, your face will look dull. Plastic surgery can never improve your facial appearance, give it a nice pinkish color. You’ll look lifted and that’s it.”

Many who contemplate plastic surgery are rightfully concerned about the pain of submitting to a major medical procedure. Schneider, who had weekly treatments (at $150 each) for about three months, speaks fondly of her experience with Turin. “That hour felt so luxurious,” Schneider said. “It was always such a treat because I really felt like I was taking care of myself. [Turin] talked to me about menopause and my diet, she did massage with crushed pearls and she gave me herbs.”

“You’ll start noticing a change after two or three (treatments),” Turin said. For lasting results she suggests between 10 to 12 treatments. “After that, it depends. Most of my patients have maintenance treatments every half-year to every few months.”

The Path Eastward

It’s not just her patients who have undergone a transformation in the name of acupuncture. Turin and her husband moved to America from their native Russia in 1997, with two young sons in tow, not in a calculated career move, but for love. Turin, 50, met her future husband in 1984, during her final year of medical school at the world-renowned IM Sechenov Medical Academy. He was a foreign-service student who hoped to be a diplomat. The rub was that Turin, originally from the Ukraine, is Jewish and her husband is not. As citizens of a country cloaked under a veil of anti-Semitism, she said, no one wanted to let them forget it.

“I didn’t want to marry him because he’s a brilliant man and I knew what it meant for his future,” Turin said. When he told his colleagues whom he was marrying, things became more difficult. “For him to marry a Jewish girl meant my husband’s career came to a standstill. Russia became a dead-end for us.”

Switching careers wasn’t an option for her husband. “It’s not like in this country,” Turin said. In Russia, “If you go to school for one thing, you have no choice but to do it.” So they packed up and moved to the only place Turin’s husband could find diplomatic work — the sparsely populated and largely isolated country of Mongolia.

In an accent bathed in her Slavic roots but precise in its English delivery, she said, “It was a place for losers.”

Turin continued her medical practice in Mongolia, where the couple would live for five years. Though she still believed strongly in Western medicine, what she saw there eventually changed her life’s work. “First, I was just curious,” she says. But she came to a realization. “Unfortunately, Western medicine doesn’t know everything. I got lots of cases where all the tests came out fine, but the person felt unwell.”

She enrolled in the Mongolian Institute of Traditional Medicine, where her teacher as well as the students were medical doctors. “In Europe and even China, you have to be a medical doctor to practice acupuncture because you have to be able to diagnose,” Turin said. After her formal training, she was given an apprenticeship where she learned her cosmetic skills.

After the economic reforms of perestroika were introduced, the Turins returned to Russia. The country was still in turmoil, however, and after one of her sons was nearly abducted, they moved to the U.S. Turin spoke no English at the time. By 2000, her husband had gotten his law degree and she opened her acupuncture practice, where she uses her diagnostic skills but treats from an Eastern point of view. She offers this global perspective acquired from her travels: “Eastern people take such good care of themselves when it comes to anti-aging issues. They start to work on prevention many years before.”