Here on Who What Wear UK, we love to try different treatments, and we're more than up for being beauty and wellness guinea pigs. From reviewing the best facials to trying crystal healing, there's no stone left unturned. It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it, right?
So when an email landed in my inbox about new skin, mind and body hotspot Salon C. Stellar, opening in London, I was immediately drawn to its unique concept. Headed up by Andrea Pfeffer, the salon brings together my two favourite areas: the high-tech, results-driven skincare treatments you'd expect from high-profile clinic and the ancient wisdom of alternative therapies like acupuncture, sound healing, nutritional therapy—and even astrology—all under one roof.
With its dual approach, you can treat your skin from the inside and out while boosting your mind and body in the process. Perfect if you want a treatment that is results-driven but find a traditional spa facial doesn't quite cut it or if you want your advanced aesthetics facial to be both efficacious yet relaxing—you get the best of both worlds here. For my treatment, I headed along to try the Facial A.Cu, an acupuncture facial that incorporates the placement of needles on the face, as well as modalities like LED, high-frequency, gua sha and vacuum cupping, which are bespoke to your skin's individual needs. Interested in how I found the experience? Read on for my full review of facial acupuncture below.
Acupuncture Facial at Salon C. Stellar Review
Advanced aesthetician and acupuncturist Iris Abdele talked me through the treatment as she lead me to the treatment room. (FYI: The interiors here are beautiful—modern but serene.) I've never had any kind of acupuncture before, but friends of mine have sung its praises to me, and I was keen to learn more and experience its benefits.
Abdele says this acupuncture facial treatment is great for everyone, but in particular for those with scarring or fine lines and wrinkles. From a cosmetic standpoint, the act of the needle going into the skin actually triggers the wound-to-healing effect, helping to kick-start collagen in targeted areas to plump. However, the needles are also placed into acupuncture points, which can help treat the body by affecting the flow of Qi, or energy. Acupuncture practitioners believe that when Qi doesn't flow freely throughout the body, it results in illness or ailments. So by placing a needle into the body, it takes away some of the Qi to alleviate the issues. And with around 2000 acupuncture points on the body, there are so many concerns it can help with. If you're in any way sceptical, acupuncture is even recommended for pain management in the NHS.
Salon C. Stellar uses a wide range of products in its facials, from science-backed brands to skincare that harnesses natural ingredients.
My skin before cleansing and the acupuncture treatment.
"From a TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) perspective, there are certain things we can look for on the face," she says. "Different areas of the face represent different parts of the body, and they can give us clues as to what's going on in our system." For example, in her clients with rosacea, there is usually a lot of heat in their skin, while breakouts around the chin and jawline may point underlying hormonal issues.
Naturally, everyone's needs are different, so it's a good idea to come armed with any issues you're currently experiencing, whether it be fertility concerns, migraines, irregular periods, digestive niggles or any aches and pains, to your consultation so your therapist can treat the corresponding acupuncture points accordingly. It's also fascinating to see what can read from your skin, just by looking at your complexion. "In TCM, they look at you as a whole picture rather than just one thing," she says. In Western medicine, if you have back pain, they'll typically only look at your back. "Whereas in TCM, they take a step back and look at you as a whole," she says.
The facial begins with a skin analysis to determine what your skin needs and any concerns you want to address before going in with a deep cleanse, steam, extraction and exfoliation. A radio frequency device was also used to help tighten my skin with longer-term results. During my skin analysis, I was dying to know what Abdele could read about me from my skin as an acupuncture practitioner.
"You have an undertone of redness, but it may be 'empty heat,'" she explained. "Full heat is when you are actively doing something to put heat into your body, but empty heat could be down to a blood deficiency, which could manifest in dry skin or short periods," she says, both of which I experience. If a blood vessel is deficient in blood, it leaves a gap and builds heat, which is called empty heat. "It's not a true heat, but it's a reactionary byproduct," Abdele said. In terms of triggers that can cause heat, the common culprits are dairy, caffeine, red wine (annoyingly, all the good stuff), which are all "hot" foods and drinks that cause heat in the system.
As for the dryness in my skin, Abdele notes this is linked to the kidneys and the lungs. "The lungs are how the skin expresses itself, while the kidneys support the free-flow of Qi in the body," she says. I mentioned that I've had asthma from a young age, and she could start piecing parts of the jigsaw together to build a profile on what areas may need addressing. We discussed everything from health issues I have right through to my menstrual cycle. I had a few hormonal breakouts on the day, so Abdele placed a couple of needles around these. "We call this surrounding the dragon," she says, which helps to speed up the blemish healing process. She also applied a needle to an acupuncture point on my chin to support my hormonal well-being.
As it was my first acupuncture treatment, she applied the needles just to my face. However, they can also be applied to the body to treat different concerns. The needles are intra-dermal needles, which means they are smaller and less painful than other needles. I'll admit the application of the needles isn't totally painless ("Some areas can be a little spicy," said Abdele, as she applied a needle near my nose, an intestinal acupuncture point), but it's a quick pinprick. As someone who hates having their annual flu jab or blood tests, I found this to be totally bearable.
As the needles get to work on the acupuncture points and cosmetic areas, like the nasal labial folds (aka, my laughter lines) to plump, an LED device was applied over my skin and neck to help supercharge the skin's renewal process. As I lay there, I could really feel a sense of relaxation wave through me, and I felt light as a cloud. The needles were then removed and the facial finished with the application of serums and moisturiser, which were massaged in to the skin, and my upper back and neck were also seen to, kneading the knots out of my upper body.
Post-treatment, Abdele recommends staying hydrated and avoiding any active ingredients like exfoliating acids or retinols for around a week. Some minor bruising can sometimes happen, but I didn't experience this.
Is the acupuncture facial worth it?
The day after my acupuncture facial.
Looking back on my acupuncture facial, I wouldn't hesitate to book in again. Not only did I leave the salon with an immediate glow (and surprisingly, very little redness from the needles) and a sculpted effect, but I felt so relaxed. I practically floated home, and even the rush hour commute and delayed train couldn't ruin my vibe. My sleep also felt incredibly restful that evening, and I woke up to the glowiest of complexions come morning.
Over the following days, my skin continued to behave well, with my spots disappearing and the glow still remaining. I also left with a deeper understanding on how the body and skin interplay with one another, and I could really feel the physical well-being benefits from the acupuncture as well as the benefits to my skin. So if you want all the benefits of the skincare devices with the ancient wisdom of acupuncture rolled into an incredibly chic clinic, I'd highly recommend booking in.