Medically reviewed by Kerry Boyle D.Ac., M.S., L.Ac., Dipl. Ac., CYT — By Daley Quinn on May 11, 2021

If you grapple with acne, you may have tried what feels like every topical treatment and medication available to get it under control.

If that’s the case for you, it might be time to consider acupuncture.

Acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practice that’s been around for centuries. It’s believed to work by stimulating certain pressure points that circulate energy, or qi, through the body.

By stimulating these points, it may be possible to ease acne symptoms and even the underlying issues that cause them, particularly hormonal imbalances.

Modern-day experts believe that acupuncture works by increasing circulation of blood and reducing inflammation.


Acupuncture benefits

Acupuncture may offer benefits for several types of acne and other skin conditions, including:

  • acne rosacea
  • hormonal acne
  • acne scars
  • psoriasis
  • eczema
  • allergies

One major benefit of acupuncture for treating acne is the minor side effects associated with acupuncture treatment.

For acne rosacea

According to TCM, rosacea is a heat condition, and most skin conditions that cause redness are due to heat.

“Acupuncture and herbs work to clear heat, not just from the face, but from the body in general,” says Gianna de la Torre, a licensed acupuncturist and the co-founder of Wildling. “Many heat conditions that appear on the skin are due to overall system imbalances, like yin deficiency. This is a TCM diagnosis that often causes heat to flare up to the face.”

In a 2018 study, researchers found that a patient with rosacea who was treated with acupuncture for 30 minutes, 3 times per week experienced a significant decrease in symptoms and reported no relapse for 6 months post-treatment.

More research is needed to determine whether these results could be replicated with a larger sample size.


For hormonal acne

Hormonal acne is caused by hormonal fluctuations that accompany normal life processes, like menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.

Acupuncture may help address the root cause of hormonal acne, hormonal imbalance, as well as the actual breakout itself.

“There’s a modality for needling the face to help the skin clear more quickly, but acupuncture and herbs are incredibly effective at regulating the hormones to curb hormonal imbalance,” says de la Torre. “This is one area where acupuncture really shines.”

A 2018 review found acupuncture to be effective at reducing menstrual pain, and another 2018 review illustrated acupuncture’s effects on hormone imbalance.

Studies show that acupuncture may also help regulate the endocrine system, which could help improve hormonal acne. Still, more vigorous studies are needed to show the effectiveness of acupuncture for regulating the endocrine system.

“This is achieved through reducing stress hormone levels, promoting circulation to the right tissues and glands, and reducing inflammation and toxins,” says Paul Kempisty, a licensed acupuncturist in New York state.