I didn’t think I was a good candidate for facial acupuncture. For one thing, the only time I’m perfectly still is when I’m asleep (or getting an expensive haircut). And quite frankly, if I’m going to be stuck with needles, I would like them to deliver the kind of instant gratification that only Botox can provide. That said, when I heard there was a kind man in Midtown who would listen to my problems (but not judge me), calm me down (without meds) and erase my fine lines (without toxins or fillers), all in under an hour, I snagged the first available appointment.
The designer Norma Kamali (who is 66 but looks more like 46) turned me on to Dr. Jingduan Yang, the director of the acupuncture and Oriental medicine program at Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals and the medical director of the Tao Institute of Mind and Body Medicine, which has locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Manhattan.
Kamali tore her meniscus during a workout just over a year ago and was desperate for a way to relieve the pain without resorting to surgery. “I did a lot of research, and Dr. Yang’s name kept coming up,” she says. “He’s very respected, and when it comes to acupuncture, you want the best.”
Dr. Yang eased the pain in her knee, and Kamali was hooked — and going back for more. “I had two questions: do ‘acupuncture face-lifts’ really work, and can you turn gray hair back to its natural color,” she says. “What do you expect? I’m a fashion designer. We’re all about the superficial.” Although more interested in what goes on below the surface, Dr. Yang admitted to having success on top of it, too. “The morning after my first facial treatment, I looked like I’d had a great night’s sleep,” Kamali says. “People kept complimenting me.” After a year of weekly sessions with the doctor, she says the results have been astonishing. “I feel and think I look a lot fresher,” she says. “But it’s more than skin-deep. He addresses your emotional health, your immune system and everything to do with wellness.”
Needless to say, it was with pretty high expectations that I agreed to become a human pincushion. As soon as Dr. Yang (who’s also a psychiatrist) saw me, he said: “You’re very stressed. Tell me what’s going on.” I gave him the usual excuses: deadlines, family, love life, not being able to find a cab. He listened carefully, and his steady gaze made me painfully aware of how fidgety and overwrought I was.
I’m not sure if it was Dr. Yang’s soothing manner, the pressure points he squeezed or the tiny needles placed strategically in my face, scalp, abdomen, neck, hands, arms and feet, but I felt pretty great — and remarkably relaxed — after our first session. I would be lying if I said the needles don’t hurt at all, but it’s just a little twinge. (However, if you move your hand around trying to sneak your BlackBerry when the doctor leaves the room, it can hurt a lot.) Patients with sensitive or thin skin (like me) sometimes experience tiny bruises. But they vanish quickly.
For accelerated results, the doctor recommends two or three visits a week for 6 to 10 weeks. But he’s quick to point out that wrinkle relief isn’t his motivation. “It’s not just about vanity,” he says. “I don’t want people to merely look healthier, I want them to become healthier. The health and well-being of your face is the reflection of the health and well-being of your internal systems and organs.”
I’ve been seeing Dr. Yang for a few months now, and I haven’t cheated on him with Dr. Brandt once. I even got a little jealous during the photo shoot for this story, when he proceeded to ease our model’s headache and treat the hairstylist’s injured ankle. Maybe there’s an acupoint for jealousy, too? I made a mental note to ask Dr. Yang at our next session.
A session with Dr. Yang is $495 for the initial evaluation and $295 for follow-ups; (866) 437-3826; taoinstitute.com.