Chiara Merullo enjoys facetime with cosmetic acupuncturist Sarah Bradden
Truth be told, when I stepped into Sarah Bradden’s treatment room at Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
I knew there would be needles – and lots of them – but would turning myself into a human pin cushion really take off the years? Would I emerge looking younger, feeling fitter? Or would I be asked to show my tongue?
Bradden is the cosmetic acupuncturist whose treatments have been touted as the alternative to Botox, and whose “healthy obsession” and personal battles with skin and digestion have led her to train in LED light therapy and targeting acupressure points. Part of her healthy obsession, as she calls it, is rooted in her own struggles. Developing acne in her late thirties, as well as battling extensive gut and digestion issues (later diagnosed as diverticulitis), she craved an answer: “I wanted to heal, and I wanted,” to know how I could manage my condition, without having to resort to surgery,” she says. “And the medication and constant pain aged my skin dramatically.” The issues eventually prompted her to train in acupuncture and LED (Light Emitting Diode) therapy.
As I let my mouth hang open, Sarah assessed my general health and immediately picked up on something that I certainly wasn’t expecting: my chronic stomach pains. Alongside a series of general questions, she observed that I seemed tired and a little depleted. In short, she concluded that I was in need of a reboot.
I was surprised by her holistic approach and how personal the session felt; Bradden’s treatments take a two-pronged outlook to ageing. They focus on reminding the body what it is meant to be doing and encouraging it to work in harmony. Bradden believes these therapies ensure that the qi– the energy that runs in the body – is “flowing in the right direction”. “Qi is what vibrates in us all the time, a smooth flow translates to good health by bringing the body into a homeostasis state.”
“Qi is what vibrates in us all the time, a smooth flow translates to good health by bringing the body into a homeostasis state.”
Every treatment is tailored to the person, and how they feel that day. A series of needles were inserted into my ears. This provoked a strange, but not uncomfortable, warming sensation as the blood rushed to them. More needles were inserted into my feet and ankles, around my face, under my chin and on my “third eye” (the mid-point between the eyebrows). Finally, longer needles were placed around the mouth area, to not only help get rid of those nasolabial lines but to “also work the stomach and intestine meridian”. Unsurprisingly, I was slightly more sensitive to these.
Meanwhile, my face and stomach were exposed to UV light to penetrate cells and “wake them up”. It was strangely comforting, and I had a sensation of dozing off in the sunshine. Reflexology was then performed on my feet, and at this point my “inner qi” was so relaxed that I did doze off.
The needles were soon removed, and I experienced a feeling of release, like I had let go of something and gained momentum. A quick glance in the mirror and my face already looked brighter, a little more alive. My skin, I was pleased to see, was positively glowing.
As I walked out, Sarah said: “I think you needed that today.”
I couldn’t agree more.