ISUN Meets… an interview with Sakina di Pace, The Facial Cupping Expert

ISUN Meets is a collective of conversations to serve you on your natural beauty journey. It is a space where minds alike meet to offer both shared and unique perspectives on nourishing your skin and soul respectively through accessible methods and approaches that support your ISUN routine.

Sakina di Pace has practiced acupuncture globally for over a decade. Working in harmony with her needles, Sakina began to use facial cups to further alleviate the pain of her clients with nerve conditions and realised the capacity they held to improve the internal condition and enhance the skin. She is The Facial Cupping Expert, creator of the ‘6-step Facial Cupping Protocol for Beginners’, along with a popular and accredited ‘Facial Cupping For Professionals Course’ that helps teach those who want to become qualified in offering facial cupping to their clients.

Sakina, how did you discover facial cupping as a successful acupuncturist?

I incorporated facial cupping into acupuncture treatments for clients who were suffering from Bell’s palsy and trigeminal neuralgia back in 2011 - I introduced facial cups very gently to stimulate their paralysed muscles and ease their pain. It was so effective that I thought “if Facial Cupping could stimulate paralysed muscles, it would certainly help to regain elasticity in the skin of my cosmetic acupuncture patients!”. That’s when I started integrating cupping into my cosmetic acupuncture treatments, and it was a huge success right from the start.

For those who are new to facial cupping, may you introduce this rejuvenating ritual and share some of the benefits of incorporating it into a skincare routine?

Facial cupping is an alternative therapy that uses suction cups (which could be made of glass, bamboo, or silicon) on the face. It stimulates your facial muscles and penetrates the multiple layers of the skin which result in a better lymphatic and energy flow (more glow!), released muscular tension (faded fine lines and wrinkles), and smoother, toned skin! But - that’s not all. Cupping works internally, shifting stagnant energy that causes skin imbalance. Examples include:

  • Dark circles under the eyes = potential kidney imbalance
  • Inflammation on the chin = potential hormonal imbalances
  • Dryness on the cheeks = potential digestive issues

The ritual also stimulates different acupuncture points on your face which encourage inner balance and relaxation. What you feel inside will be reflected externally. It’s like that extra glow we sometimes get after a blissful holiday!

What is the most profound moment you’ve experienced as a facial cupping practitioner in your clinic?

My mind casts back to when I treated someone with trigeminal neuralgia. This condition manifests as very severe facial pain, often described as sharp, intense, stabbing pain in the cheek or jaw that may feel like an electric shock. Using very gentle suction on her cheeks changed her life - within a few sessions her pain had reduced from 10 to 2! Facial Cupping had such a positive effect on her that it encouraged me to treat more patients with this condition, which I did.

I honestly think I can say I’m here teaching facial cupping today because of this very first patient.

How would you describe the Traditional Chinese Medicine(*TCM) perspective on natural beauty?

The main TCM perspective on natural beauty is that if you’re healthy physically and balanced emotionally, then your skin will be healthy.

Imbalances on the face, such as pimples around the chin, dry skin, or red rashes are a manifestation of internal imbalances that need to be treated internally.

Let’s look at eczema: in Chinese medicine, we differentiate different types of eczema. If the skin is wet and hot, it’s likely to be caused by ‘Damp Heat’ whereas dryness and redness are most likely caused by ‘Heat in the Blood’ and itchiness often associated with ‘Invasive Wind’. To treat eczema, we wouldn’t only recommend ointments or special creams, but as acupuncturists, we would also try to address the root causes of this condition with needles, herbs, cupping, and gua sha.

This is also true with emotion. Emotions are a cause of disease in TCM and emotional health is an integral part of Chinese Medicine. Let’s take the emotion of anger and frustration which affect the Liver, and interfere with the free flow of Qi. This Liver Qi stagnation can lead to dark spots. Now, Liver Blood deficiency can lead to dry skin openly showing anger can cause vertical lines between the eyebrows. We can of course use Botox to address these issues, but it’s only a temporary fix. By addressing the root cause of these symptoms, you won’t need any Botox and your skin will glow again. That’s the beauty of TCM, and by extension acupuncture, facial cupping, Gua Sha, and herbs.

Facial mapping is used in TCM natural beauty practices. Can you offer insight into what mapping is and why it’s beneficial?

From a Chinese Medicine perspective, all our organs manifest on the face.

Have you noticed that when you’re stressed, you develop two lines between your eyebrows? Have you also noticed that these lines can disappear when you’re on holiday or simply more relaxed? These 11 lines, as we call them, are in the liver area of the face. The emotions connected to the liver are anger, impatience, and irritability. That is why these lines develop when we have these emotions. Knowing this can be beneficial as instead of focusing solely on an external treatment, we can look more inside ourselves and try to address our anger concern knowing it’ll also help our 11 lines and wrinkles between our eyebrows.

Do you think that the viewpoint on ageing could change if more people used facial mapping to understand their fine lines?

Yes, totally! Emotions create expressions. Wrinkles are the results of the repetitive expression. They show the world who we are - what emotions we had in the past and which emotions we are likely to experience in the future. Contrary to what we often think, wrinkles aren’t static - they come and go. Being able to read the emotions behind certain wrinkles could help us to see through the lives of others, and be more understanding and tolerant of them.

Can you share some examples of skin and fine line meanings according to TCM facial mapping?

A skin that lacks tonicity, that starts to sag, often links to a Spleen Qi deficiency. To address this, we should work on tonifying the Qi of the Spleen. This can be done through acupuncture but also diet, like eating more cooked and warm food versus cold and raw.

Examples of fine lines include marionette lines which can be connected with disappointment, and crow’s feet with joy. In addition to working directly on the lines with natural therapies such as facial cupping, it’s also so important to work internally on correlating emotions. If you have fewer expectations in life and try to work on your disappointment, your marionette lines can suddenly start to become less prominent.

Acupressure can work beautifully alongside facial cupping. What are some of your favourite naturally rejuvenating points?

My first favourite rejuvenating point is called "Heavenly Appearance" or SI 17 on the lateral aspect of the neck, close to the jaw. The name of the point itself indicates it'll help with the rejuvenation of the face. This point, as well as sculpting the jawline, will help to improve any puffiness or swelling of the face, as it'll disperse "Qi and Phlegm" (as we say in the acupuncture jargon!).

My second favourite is called "Container of Fluids", or Ren 24. As SI 17, Ren 24 is a great point to help drain excess fluids in the face, and reduce any stiffness you might have on your face. This is also a great point for Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ) or lockjaw. This point can also really help to calm your mind.

To be honest, I have so many favourite points and they work best when combined as part of a protocol to rejuvenate the face.

When you’re doing acupressure, whether you’re using your finger or an acupressure tool, make sure the pressure needs is gentle but firm. You need to feel some pressure, but it shouldn't hurt and it shouldn't leave any marks.

  • Press over the point gradually, and keep your finger still (unless mentioned otherwise).
  • Do this for a minimum of 10 seconds and a maximum of 2 minutes.
  • It is very important to be fully present when applying pressure. You need to imagine that it is your energy that is going through your fingers and the point.

Why do you believe that approaching beauty with natural methods (such as facial cupping, cosmetic acupuncture, etc) is more important than ever?

I believe that healthy ageing is the new “anti-ageing”. We’re slowly awakening to the harmful effects of invasive injections such as botox, fillers, and implants and more and more people are turning to natural (but equally powerful) ways to take care of themselves.

What is your ultimate ISUN hero product?

My hero ISUN product has to be the Antioxidant Sun Butter SPF 27. I’m very minimalist when it comes to skincare, and I only use the best natural products on the market. It sinks in easily and contains zinc oxide, the most natural of sunscreens - and it smells delicious!

It is with gratitude that we thank Sakina for her insight into the Traditional Chinese Medicine viewpoint on natural beauty and facial cupping. These non-invasive rituals present the opportunity to pause and explore the natural landscape of our faces – an ever-changing eco-system that reflects inwards.

Discover Sakina’s ISUN hero product, the Antioxidant Sun Butter SPF 27

Tracey Drabloes