As the popularity of holistic health soars, many wellness and beauty gurus are steering away from invasive treatments and looking for healthier, low-risk alternatives. One of the latest trends that many are turning to is acupuncture. Having been practiced for centuries, acupuncture and its natural healing abilities are renowned, but there is one woman known for using acupuncture as a natural beauty remedy unlike others. I recently sat down with Dr. Marina Dabcevic of Awaken Now in Santa Monica, a complementary and alternative medicine center that’s pioneering this innovative approach to skincare, to discuss this wellness movement.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in acupuncture?

Growing up in Australia, I had always been interested in alternative medicine, and when I was studying homeopathy at the Nature Care College in Sydney, I completed a weekend course in acupressure, meridians, and healing. It was during that experience when I thought to myself that this is what I need to learn. I began applying to colleges in America, and decided to pursue my master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture at Yo San University in Los Angeles and eventually my doctorate in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington.

Can you elaborate on your studies?

In college, there was a mixture of Chinese professors teaching Traditional Chinese medicine and American professors teaching western medicine, so I was able to learn the key elements of both practices. I also completed an internship at two prestigious hospitals in China, Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Longhua Hospital Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

What was the most important thing you learned while interning in China?

In China, doctors practiced both Traditional Chinese medicine and western medicine, and one thing that struck me was that the quality of life for patients with cancer was significantly better because of this. I also noticed that, because they grow up with eastern philosophies, people have a different way of looking at everything. The yin yang theory is an integral aspect of their culture, and, while I was in China, they were beginning to study cancer treatments in terms of yin and yang, and I thought that unique approach was fascinating.

You specialize in oncology and chronic pain management, but you are now using acupuncture to also help your patients combat aging; what are your thoughts on the correlations between inner and outer well-being?

It is the four aspects of yin and yang. First, it relates to the opposition – the health of the inside is always reflected on the outside and vice versa. It is also connected to the interdependence – although they are opposite they cannot exist without each other; we hear how the body is connected, inside, outside, mind, body, and soul. Additionally, There is the mutual consuming – there is always a continuous state of dynamic balance happening, which is why sometimes we see disease on the outside, and other times it attacks our organs. Last, it pertains to the inner transformation – yin and yang are not static and neither is our body. A mental stress can affect and move into the physical body and vice versa.

What are the benefits of cosmetic and facial acupuncture?

The primary benefit, compared to Botox treatment, is that the treatment is non-toxic. It’s truly an inner and outer wellness experience that reduces wrinkles and puffiness by elasticizing and firming the skin of the face and neck. It improves complexion, softening and smoothing the skin to minimize age spots. Additionally, at Awaken Now, we offer a variety of face masks to complement the treatment; these work to restore key vitamins and minerals, strengthening this healing process.

Why do you believe in acupuncture’s efficacy, especially with regard to beauty and wellness?

Because I see it work every day in my office. I’ve had patients in their fifties come in after treatments and tell me that, for the first time in their adult lives, they can leave the house without makeup because their skin simply looks and feels so good. In modern society, we like quick fixes, but this a natural treatment that generates tremendous results.

These treatments won’t work overnight; in today’s instant gratification society, how do you recommend patients learn to develop patience?

We need to be better educators. We need to set realistic expectations with patients. People do think Traditional Chinese medicine is magic, and there are some instances where eastern medicine can fix an ailment overnight. However, if you go to a physiotherapist, you wouldn’t go for one session expect the pain to disappear. To achieve long-lasting results, especially with facial acupuncture where dermis requires continuous stimulation to build collagen, patients must undergo several sessions. That being said, our goal is to not see a patient every week — after our ten session protocol, we aim to put our patients on a maintenance program for prevention.

Throughout our conversation, you’ve emphasized the importance of approaching issues from a new perspective; how does this apply to your work with Awaken Now?

Awaken Now is a multidisciplinary office. We strive to create a space for each patient to be able to get examined by different practitioners who have different specialties. Our treatments range from cosmetic acupuncture to chiropractic services to electric muscle stimulation, and in the office, we are constantly working together to ensure the patient is living the healthiest, most optimal lifestyle possible.