After a relatively clear-skin 2018, my face started to erupt in big, horrible, painful pimples in February 2019. They were all concentrated on the right side of my face, extending from my hairline almost to my chin. Every time I would extract one (yes, I am a picker, I know how to do it properly) I would feel at least another two come up. Every time I touched my face it felt bumpy. Without makeup, you could see the red, inflamed marks on my skin.
I couldn’t figure out what was going on or why. I had cut out dairy – a previous trigger and I was cleansing and moisturising and exfoliating and masking. Colleagues and friends offered plausible explanations: maybe it’s a new product, hormones or even not changing my pillowcases often enough (I change them every week).
In desperation, I decided to try Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture to help me with the breakouts. I believe that what shows up on your skin is a reflection of what’s going on inside. Along with skincare and external factors, diet and lifestyle play a large part in determining why your skin is the way it is.
When I met Associate Senior Physician Lin Xiaoyan of Eu Yan Sang TCM Wellness Clinic at Plaza Singapura, she took my pulse and checked my tongue. Then she asked me a series of questions about my lifestyle including whether I was stressed and what time I go to bed. After examining my face, she said my breakouts were because of lack of vital “Qi” or vital energy.
She says, “A lack of ‘Qi’ results in poor blood circulation and subsequently a build-up of ‘phlegm-stasis’ in the body, which shows up as breakouts.” She went on to explain that the lack of vital “Qi” could be inborn—which means the body’s constitution is weak from the start. And because of this, the body is not able to regulate blood circulation and is unable to get rid of metabolites such as “phlegm-dampness” from the body. This lack of “Qi” could also be due to an unhealthy lifestyle—for example, constant stress, a lack of quality sleep, inadequate exercise and a high intake of cold beverages and “cold” foods such as salad and cooling herbal drinks that can deplete the body’s “Qi”.
At work, I was in the midst of wrapping up a big project that took a lot of coordination and attention to a lot of minor details, so yes, I was stressed. And in a bid to keep up with social life, catch up on my Netflix shows and generally have a life outside work, I was sleeping between 11.30pm and 12am, which I thought was decent, but clearly it wasn’t adequate, leaving me tired the next day enough to not want to work out.
To promote “Qi” to regulate blood circulation, Associate Senior Physician Lin Xiaoyan suggested I get facial acupuncture. I had never done acupuncture before and wasn’t sure what to expect. She explained that they would insert sterile hair-thin needles into specific acupoints on my face, hands and legs to help achieve a state of balance internally, thus helping to alleviate the breakouts.
After cleansing the areas with an alcohol swab, Associate Senior Physician Lin Xiaoyan proceeded to insert the needles into the various acupoints. She warned me that while inserting the needles would not hurt, I could feel heaviness, some amount of pain and discomfort at some acupoints.
When the needles were inserted in my face, I felt no pain, except on the area where I was experiencing an active breakout. She avoided the spots where the pimples were and instead, inserted the needles in between the zits. Those areas were pretty painful nonetheless, so I could feel the prick on the raw area.
As she cautioned, I did feel a bit of discomfort and soreness on some parts of my arms and legs. In spite of that, I managed to fall asleep and only wake to the alarm signalling the needles had been on for 30 minutes. I guess I really wasn’t getting enough sleep.
Like any alternative medicine, it takes more than one session to see any real change or reduction in my breakouts. But since I really wanted to treat my breakouts fast, I went for a facial to extract and treat my pimples. That’s not to say the session was not helpful—at least now that I know some of the underlying triggers, I’ll try to manage my stress, get more sleep and eat properly.