After years of trying every acne treatment under the sun, I finally found one that works. (I just had to overcome my fear of needles to try it.)

Chelsea Taber Burns
December 07, 2017

My skin has always given me trouble. For as long as I can remember, I've been worried about acne. And for the majority of my life, I've used some sort of medication or treatment in an attempt to keep my skin under control. I've been on the prescription drug Accutane twice, and as a beauty editor, I’m lucky enough test out every new zit-zapping product that comes across my desk. But because I've tried so many products that claim—and ultimately fail—to clear my complexion, I’m always a little skeptical that the latest treatments I hear about will actually do what they say.

So when I recently received an email suggesting I try acupuncture to banish breakouts, I was intrigued, but had some reservations. After talking with co-workers, though, I was surprised to learn that many of them swear by acupuncture to help with a range of ailments, from stress to infertility. I decided to give it a try.

I booked an appointment with Elana, a certified acupuncturist who specializes in cosmetic acupuncture at NOY Skincare + Laser in New York City (a 60-minute acupuncture session at NOY starts at $90). She's the mother of the founder of the skincare center, and gives off an instantly calming, motherly demeanor from the moment you meet her—which I was extremely grateful for, since I’m deathly afraid of needles. Oh, did I mention that? I’m terrified of needles. I told her about my phobia, and she assured me she’d use the baby needles.

Elana led me back to a quiet, dimly-lit room with calming music playing in the background and chatted with me about my health concerns and what I’d like to improve about my skin. As I laid down on the table, I told her how my mild melasma was bugging me and that I had acne-prone skin. After confirming with Elana that she would definitely be using those teeny-tiny baby needles, I said I was ready for her to start and closed my eyes.

I was clenching my entire body and waiting to feel the prick on my skin when Elana said, "See, that wasn’t so bad!" I hadn’t even felt the needle go in, and she was done. Well, sort of: Next, she pricked the palm of my hand, and that hurt. She asked if I wanted her to take it out, but I assured her I could handle it—it was already in there, I didn’t want to turn back. My cheeks were another area that felt a little more of a zing when pricked, but other than those two sensitive spots, the whole process was relatively painless.

Chelsea Burns

Once all the pins were in place, Elana said she was going to leave the room for 20 minutes so I could meditate. My eyes had been shut up until that point, but it was killing me not to take a peek. I slowly opened them and saw pins sticking out from every angle, and all I could think about was what would happen if I sneezed. Guys, whatever you do, do not open your eyes. It made it almost impossible to meditate.

After what felt like an hour, Elana came back into the room and removed the pins—which was also surprisingly painless. She finished with an egg white mask and then sent my glowy, calm skin on its way.

After assessing my face in the mirror at home, it definitely looked fresh, bouncy, and dewy. Elana had told me it can take a few treatments before you start seeing serious skin-clearing results (I have!), but because the pins get your blood flowing, you immediately leave with a youthful flush. She explained that she likes to couple acupuncture with laser treatments to maximize and speed up the good-skin benefits.

As a beauty editor, it’s my job to try hundreds of skincare serums, creams, and gels, but this experience opened my mind to alternative solutions that go beyond the typical spot treatment. I’ve learned that there usually isn’t just one hero serum that will solve all your skin problems—it might be a few different things working together. In addition to the acupuncture and lasers I get at NOY, I’ve also been religiously using a line for sensitive skin from Marie Veronique, and the combination has been nothing short of skin magic. This combination has helped me reach peak glowy, pimple-free skin potential—the kind of skin I’ve been dreaming about my whole life.