A Healer Walks Among Us
As an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist, Jill Blakeway relies on ancient wisdom to solve modern beauty maladies like dull skin, dark circles, blotchy complexions, and stubborn acne. The 35,000-year-old art of zang-fu sees such external flare-ups and many others as an indication of internal imbalances of yin and yang. Blakeway treats said imbalances at the YinOva Center in Manhattan with a combination of healing massage, herbs, reiki, and carefully guided pricks of the acupuncture needle. Skincare habits also factor into creating harmony in the body. That’s a topic she’ll discuss this evening during a special appearance at Bergdorf Goodman from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. sponsored by Sulwhasoo, the Korean skincare brand known for its herb-based remedies. Here, Blakeway gives Style.com an exclusive preview of her talking points.
How did you first become interested in alternative medicine?
I first became interested in Chinese medicine many years ago when I suffered from a chronic pain issue and was cured by an acupuncturist. This set me on a journey, which culminated in me studying for a master’s of science in traditional Chinese medicine and becoming a licensed acupuncturist and board-certified herbalist.
What are the most common beauty concerns you hear this time of year?
Dry skin and redness and inflammation of the complexion. In Chinese medicine, yin describes those functions of the body that are moistening, cooling, and nourishing. As we age and seasons change, our yin diminishes, so our skin becomes drier, less elastic, and inflamed.
What solutions do you typically recommend?
We can nourish yin by drinking plenty of water, and eating fruits and leafy, green vegetables. I also advise my yin-deficient patients to eat lots of healthy fats found in olive oil, avocado, and salmon. The Sulwhasoo skincare line contains large doses of yin tonic herbs, which are highly nourishing to our skin as we age. The Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Treatment, for example, contains yin tonic herbs like ophiopogonis and lily flowers, which cool inflammation and moisten skin. Another favorite is the Sulwhasoo First Care Serum, made with rehmannia (foxglove root), which can help soothe skin and reduce irritation.
Where do you stand on traditional versus organic skincare formulas?
I do like my products to be as pure as possible; however, some of the products available in health food stores are very pure but low in active ingredients. Sulwhasoo strikes a good balance between large doses of herbs with active ingredients delivered to the skin with an advanced delivery method. I also like Decleor, Zelens, and Liz Earle skincare.
Are there certain herbs you think most women should incorporate into their everyday routine?
One herb that’s very important is ginseng. It is an adaptogen, meaning it can help the body to resist stressors, such as pollution and fatigue. It’s the major ingredient in Sulwhasoo’s Concentrated Ginseng Cream. Ginseng can be taken orally as well. The dosage depends on the brand and how the supplement has been prepared, so I would recommend talking to a certified herbalist when making a decision. You can also buy ginseng as a root, boil it, and drink the resulting liquid as tea.
Can anything help stave off the dreaded winter cold?
An ancient herbal formula called Jade Windscreen is a great immune booster and has been used for hundreds of years to help the body fight pathogens. Any Chinese herbalist can supply Jade Windscreen. At the YinOva Center, we like the kind made by a company called Golden Flower.
I hear acupuncture touted as a way to stay slim and control weight. True?
Yes, there are specific points to manage appetite based on why people overeat in the first place, so if, for example, someone overeats because they are always hungry, there are needle points that address what is called “stomach heat” in Chinese medicine. Touching these points can, in turn, stop a clamoring stomach. Alternatively, if a patient eats from anxiety, we would choose a more calming point prescription that reduces anxiety.
Interesting. So how can we find a good acupuncturist or herbalist?
Find an acupuncturist and herbalist who is licensed and board-certified. Most states have a list online of licensed acupuncturists in the area. Then make sure that you feel listened to and comfortable both in the office and with the practitioner. As with all medicine, experience is a plus—so, in my opinion, choosing someone who has been in practice for more than ten years makes sense.
Photo: Courtesy of Sulwhasoo