Acupuncture & TCM for Hair, Skin, & Nails? Check!

Acupuncture & TCM for Hair, Skin, & Nails? Check!

            Acupuncture works for the treatment of issues surrounding the hair, skin, and nails with a more natural approach than potentially harmful western medicine treatments or supplements. Due to social media and its various celebrity or influencer endorsements, the demand for hair, skin, and nail supplements has gone through the roof. Since 2016, the supplement industry will have more than doubled by 2024 from $3.5 billion to an astronomical potential $6.8 billion. Beauty supplements in general have mixed reviews from both professionals and consumers, and it is easy for patients to overdo it with supplements which can potentially do more harm than good. TCM for hair, skin, and nail issues has shown to be an effective natural treatment.

Acupuncture for the Hair

            The condition of one’s hair according to Traditional Chinese Medicine is viewed as an indication of the health of the blood. As acupuncture practitioners, we know that by TCM standards, healthy blood will result in a full head of healthy, strong, and shiny hair. Additionally, healthy hair is reliant on good flow of Qi to nourish the scalp. The most common issue that many come to acupuncturists for is hair loss, either alopecia or sudden hair loss, or thinning hair or gradual hair loss.

A famous TCM dermatologist, Zhu Renkang, divided sudden hair loss and thinning hair into 4 patterns:

  • Sudden Hair Loss Patterns:
    • Qi and blood deficiency

    • Blood heat generating wind
  • Thinning Hair Patterns:
    • Damp-heat steaming upward
    • Liver and kidney deficiency

Example Herbal Formula for Hair Loss:

  • Ren Shen Shou Wu Wan – tonifies Qi and blood which are the main components affected with hair loss. Generally comprised of Chinese angelica root, codonopsis root, psoralea fruit, Chinese wolfberry fruit, and fleeceflower root.
    • Aids with hair loss, greying hair, and dry hair as a result of decreased Jing and essence, low sperm count, infertility, and low libedo.

Acupuncture Points for Hair Loss:

  • GB12 – reduce stress to decrease hair loss

  • EXTRA 5/M-HN-9 – stimulate hair growth

  • GB20 – increase circulation to the scalp, head, and neck

  • GV20 – increase circulation to the head
Obviously, there are various other TCM herbs and acupuncture points that are helpful for maintaining healthy hair or restoring hair which was lost or thinning. One meta-analysis from 2022 looked into the effect of TCM for Alopecia found that TCM increased the total number of hair follicles and skin hair growth time in animal models.

Acupuncture for Nails

            According to TCM, ridged, brittle, and pale nails can indicate a deficiency of blood stored in the liver. Basically, the nails are an outward representation of the Liver. While many conditions can result in a liver-blood deficiency pattern, it is not always shown in major symptoms but can be shown with nail brittleness as an indicator that a condition or issue may be brewing.

Nail Brittleness Can Indicate the Following Conditions:

  • Infection
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Trauma
  • Dermatological disease
  • Systemic disease
Other symptoms related to blood deficiency pattern include muscle tightness or numbness, eye floaters, hair loss, or dryness in the skin, hair, or eyes. Nail appearance can show how external factors are affecting internal patient health. Nails in TCM are strong, healthy, and smooth when blood is circulated properly.

Nail Issue Types:

  • Pale nail beds, vertical ridges, dry/brittle nails
    • Blood deficiency pattern symptoms include muscle tightness or numbness, eye floaters, hair loss, or dryness in the skin, hair, or eyes. Can be caused by anxiety or stress, not eating enough, over-exerting yourself, too much alcohol, low iron/B-12 levels.
    • Beneficial to add food that nourish the blood such as figs, yams, pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes, peas, onions, garlic, coconut, grapes, leafy greens, dates, cherries, eggs, molasses, kidney beans, meat, seaweed, miso.

  • Lack of Lunulas at the base of the nails (the white half-moons at the bottom of the nail)
    • In TCM, the lunula is a mark of one’s Qi. Spleen organ system pattern symptoms in relation to the lunulas are low energy, digestive issues, poor immune system, and unable to absorb nutrition, such as mineral and vitamins, correctly.
    • To support digestive fire the patient should consume more warm foods (in temperature and energetically) as they are more easily metabolized. Foods to increase would be cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, onions, garlic, turmeric, soups, stews, and chicken. Alternatively, food that should be avoided would be any food straight from the refrigerator, raw fruit, vegetables, and ice water.
  • Nail Biting
    • Disharmony in the body possibly indicating underlying anxiety, and each organ system is related to physical and emotional functions.
    • Spleen – worry about a specific problem, fatigue, digestive upset, & muscle issues.
    • Liver – irritability, depression, anger, resentment, tension, and may have neck/shoulder tension, headaches, sleep issues, or dizziness.
    • Kidney – phobias, panic attacks, and fear. They also may have restless sleep, ear issues, and night sweats.
    • Heart – mental restlessness, depression, and insomnia. They may also have chest tightness and palpitations.
    • Lung – grief, inability to let go. They may also have hoarse voice, shortness of breath, dry cough, and fall allergies.

  • Yellow Nails
    • Often this is due to being stained from nail polish, but if nails are yellow without having painted the nails, this is, again, a liver issue. Being that the liver controls and regulates the flow of blood and Qi in the body, it is very important in TCM. However, it may not always indicate liver health, and may be the result of nail fungus.
    • To remedy yellow nails, the patient can stop drinking alcohol or decrease intake, reduce stress and anxiety, and do low-impact exercise as opposed to high-impact exercise or strength training.

Acupuncture Points for the Nails:

  • Auricular Acupuncture Points – Shen Men, Heart, Point Zero, Thalamus Point, Master Cerebral, and Frontal Cortex.

  • Body Acupuncture Points – GV20, GV23, GV24, Yintang, LV3, HT7, GV19, GB13, LI4, KI9, KI4, LU7, and SP6.
The nails are a good indication of what is happening internally with a patient, and ironically, the nails are often connected with issues of the hair and skin as well.

Acupuncture for the Skin

         As acupuncture providers, we know that balance in the body shows up on the skin as a healthy, glowing complexion free of blemishes. Essentially, optimal health is nurtured from the inside out. In TCM, the skin is closely related to the Lung, Spleen, and Heart. The Lungs are in charge of circulating the blood and fluids to the skin, the Spleen is the source of blood and Qi, and the Heart pumps blood to the body. Dysfunctions within these organs can cause skin issues like psoriasis, acne, and eczema.

Imbalances Lead to the Following Potential Skin Problems:

  • Lung Imbalance – this can make the skin itchy and flaky

  • Spleen Imbalance – this can lead to an accumulation of dampness and heat, which leads to pimple outbreaks or eczema.

  • Heart Imbalance – this can lead to acne, particularly on the bridge of the nose and forehead.

Common Skin Appearances and Their Meaning According to TCM:

  • Yellow, unhealthy skin – this patient usually has Spleen deficiency causing excess dampness.

  • Dark skin patches – this patient usually has stagnant blood circulation with a kidney deficiency. Additionally, the patient will have a cold body constitution.

  • Pale skin – this patient usually has bad blood circulation and cold body constitution. The patient may also feel tired, run-down, or sluggish.

  • Red flushed skin – this patient will usually yin deficiency with excess external and internal heat.
Above other conditions it seems, skin conditions are most well-known amongst patients to be helped by herbal medicine. There are many TCM herbs that are able to treat skin issues and restore balance to the organs. The skin is the largest organ in the body, and is the most vulnerable and visible organ making skin conditions very common. It is easy for patients then in-turn be stressed by their appearance causing further, more severe problems internally and externally.

TCM Herbs for the Skin:

  • Licorice Root – reduces skin inflammation and ease blemishes, and improves stomach and spleen function.
  • Ginseng – one of the more popular TCM herbs amongst the western medicine community. So much so that it has landed in many brands of skincare as it rejuvenates the skin, promotes collagen production, prevents UV damage, and even can reduce the signs of aging. Can be consumed or applied topically.
  • Chinese Angelica Root – an effective treatment of eczema, and like licorice root, has anti-inflammatory properties. It also interferes with the production of melanin, brightening the skin.
  • Goji Berries – these are one of the TCM powerhouse staple herbs due to their antioxidant properties as well as nourishing the kidney and liver and increasing blood circulation. Goji berries prevent sun damage, and boost collagen and elastin which improves the complexion.
There are an unlimited amount of TCM herbs or combinations of herbs that are great for the skin, but in general, they are a staple in maintaining and improving skin health. These skin issues happen when the Lung is overworked resulting in heat and dampness imbalances.

Acupuncture Points for the Skin:

  • LU5 – beneficial for interior conditions that manifest as exterior skin issues.
  • LI11 – beneficial for decreasing inflammation and treating skin problems distinguished by itchiness, oozing, redness, and inflammation such as hives, acne, or herpes zoster.
  • UB40 – beneficial for decreasing inflammation associated with eczema, itching, and acne.
There a wealth of information in the realm of TCM for hair, skin, and nail health. The benefits of acupuncture and TCM for the hair, skin, and nails is limitless.

To learn more about TCM for Hair, Skin, & Nails, and earn 6 CEUs/PDAs, click here.