A few weeks ago I found myself in a meeting casually mentioning I’d like to try acupuncture for my cystic acne (these are the things I get to talk about when my meetings include reviewing beauty products). Two of the three women in this office turned to me and said, go see Sandra Chiu. They proceeded to speak about her like she was an ancient healer who transcends all time and space and in her presence who will feel otherworldly and maybe even levitate. More than intrigued, I hunted her down and made the pilgrimage to Brooklyn to visit this magician at her holistic healing center, Treatment by Lanshin, to experience my first ever (!!!!) acupuncture session and talk to her about how she uses a multi-prong approach to treat skin disorders and create skin rejuvenation.
Upon meeting Sandra I could already tell what the fuss was all about. She’s as kind as she is caring, knowledgable and thorough in her skin care treatments. While I’ve been told to douse myself in every topical (and even oral medication) under the sun (with varying degrees of effect), Sandra sat with me for almost an hour talking to me about my eating habits, sleeping habits, digestion success, and even took a photo of the color of my tongue. It was amazing how heard and understood I felt in her presence. Obviously I’m always curious and had a few questions for Sandra…
I’m endlessly in awe of the way [Chinese] medicine follows the principles of Nature, in a way that it helps you truly regard our natural world with total and complete reverence.
Where did your interest in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine stem from?
A bit culturally – Chinese medicine is deeply embedded in Chinese culture and so I grew up drinking herbs when I got a cold and things like that. So it’s kind of embedded in my psyche. But it wasn’t until – believe it or not I was once an entry level investment banker a long long loooong time ago – and I was so unhappy and so overworked and stressed that my body started breaking down in pain at age 24 (too young!) that I turned to a Chinese healer for treatment. And, long story short I was blown away by the way it not only made my pain go away – it made me feel like a new person… or probably more accurate to say it made me feel like a better version of me.
I became fascinated by how Chinese herbal medicine works on a such a holistic level so that you feel better on a physical level as well as emotional and even spiritual. Also, I’m endlessly in awe of the way this medicine follows the principles of Nature, in a way that it helps you truly regard our natural world with total and complete reverence. I mean, it’s so cool that the way we diagnose and evaluate disease in Chinese medicine is based on observing how nature works around us, as nature within us.
Skin problems and disorders reflect much deeper rooted imbalances and dysfunction in the body.
I love how you treat skin conditions from a multi-prong approach and not just with topical. Can you talk a bit about how you use acupuncture, Chinese medicine, and topical treatments in tandem to correct skin conditions?
Skin problems and disorders reflect much deeper rooted imbalances and dysfunction in the body. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy are practices can be used to restore healthy skin function, by supporting and restoring the internal systems that relate to skin – like digestion, hormonal and nervous system. I love to use an inside and outside approach where we can apply our medicine internally via Chinese herbal formulas, while helping the skin directly on the surface with treatment using acupuncture, gua sha and the right topical/skincare products.
Can you talk a little bit about the gua sha tool and why you suggest incorporating it into a skin care routine? Why it’s so important to “manipulate” the muscle and tissue of one’s skin to promote healing?
I absolutely love what I see and observe facial gua sha does for not only the skin, but how it serves as a beautiful meditative personal practice that soothes and eases our nervous system. Beauty is as happy does – so it’s important to be able to relax ourselves deeply and regularly – the Gua Sha routine does that. More fundamentally, the use of a jade or smooth stone tool to massage and release our tissues supports the health of the skin by giving you a way to “work” your tissues free from tension and blockages that stagnate our healthy circulation of blood, fluids and vital energies to our skin.
Beautiful skin is healthy skin, which is supported by free and healthy tissues (underneath). As an acupuncturist, and someone who works with people’s bodies, I think its odd that we tend to think that it’s a topical product that will make our skin glow. But the skin functions so much better (and looks so much better) when we apply a technique that can work open the tissues in addition to good skincare products. Facial Gua Sha does that for our facial zone, as does facial acupuncture, massage and facial exercise/yoga.
Alright. I had stalled enough. It was time for the needles. I wasn’t thrilled at the notion of little needles being stuck all up in my skin but I also am not thrilled by my congested skin (and the two cysts that have recently taken residence on my chin and cheek respectively). So I closed my eyes and tried to ignore what was happening. Prior to this point I had been a bubbling brook of words to Sandra. But after the fifth needle, my brain was turning to mush, my words slowed to a crawl and my knee twitched periodically (it was apparently releasing energy). I felt like I was put into a hypnotic trance — dare I say levitating.
Thirty minutes later I was back in the New York sun and gingerly touched my face while waiting for my uber. My cysts were half the size they were when I walked into Sandra’s oasis an hour earlier.
Sandra has put me on a regimen of Chinese herbs and while the taste is pungent at best, I am gobbling them down like Mrs. Pac Man chomps on those yellow dots while counting down the days when I will be back in Sandra’s presence.