General pediatrician and medical acupuncturist Dr. Carl Robinson uses a machine called the Acutron Mentor, which emits a combination of micro currents and color light therapy called energy light rejuvenation. "It seems to be working very well," Robinson says. For 30 to 90 minutes, patients get a massage from probes delivering gentle electrical currents that are supposed to be harmonious with the body's innate bioelectric activity.
Robinson says studies show this stimulates an increase in collagen, elastin (a protein in connective tissue that allows it to keep its shape after stretching), circulation and chemicals involved in cellular metabolism. Using several shades of light, chromo-therapy is delivered through fiber-optic cables to heal skin. Special creams also are applied as the doctor uses sliding, pinching and holding techniques on the facial skin. At one point, the doctor channels the current through his hands with the aid of patches. He does this to tone facial muscles, pulling on the areas that Tobin wants changed. At times patients at times as Robinson puts pressure on the acupuncture meridians that correspond to balance and energy. "We are also using this micro current and color light over the acupuncture points, which makes a big, big difference," Robinson says. "The acupuncture points, which have been used for the last 3,000 years, actually give people that sense of well-being." Since Tobin had previous damage to her skin from smoking, Robinson says Tobin will need double the typical number of treatments — as many as 20. Most people need 10. But after five treatments, Tobin says there's a noticeable difference. "We've seen those effects (last) about six to eight weeks and then (patients) come in and get a tune-up, and that lasts another six to eight weeks and they get another tune-up," Robinson says. "So they'll come back in and see me about four times a year."
"People I work with on a daily basis say, 'What did you do different? Is your hair different? Is your face? Are you using new makeup?' You know, just little things like that," Tobin says. Robinson knows the effects are not permanent, but neither are the fillers and Botox doctors inject to fill lines and wrinkles, he says.
Doctors say there is some science on both the theory of healing through electrical current and LED lights, but they would like to see stronger proof. "We know cells talk to each other electrically to stimulate repair and collagen production," says Dr. Mary Lupo, a dermatologist. "Some facial creams creams simulate electrical currents, such as the ionic creams (by) Neutrogena and Aveeno. It is theoretically conceivable that there could be neocollagenesis (new collagen) from electrical current applied a certain way to the skin."
"There's no doubt that people who use these (LED) lights on a regular basis seem to have a better rejuvenation of their skin, and their skin looks fresher and younger," says Slidell dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth McBurney of LSU Health Sciences Center and Tulane University. But McBurney says LED light studies show that only the red light, not blue and green, penetrates the skin, and that red light rejuvenation is minimal. Doctors would like to see scientific studies on how this energy light rejuvenation compares to other anti-aging techniques. "I think you need a lot of these treatments to stimulate meaningful biological changes, and they will require maintenance," Lupo says. "So my argument is, how much better is this than prescription retinoids in producing new collagen?"
"(To) my colleagues, I will say the science may not be 100 percent there, but it works and the patients love it," Robinson says. "It gets them better. It's holistic, using your own body to do the work." For Tobin, the results are what she wanted. "I was a smoker, and I had smoke lines ... and a huge line across my forehead and I've noticed that they've reduced," Tobin says.
Ultimately, patients' experiences will be the test, says Dr. Patricia Farris, a Metairie dermatologist and spokeswoman for the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. "If patients are happy with the results, they'll keep coming back," she says. "And if they're not, the technology will fall flat."
Energy line rejuvenation acupuncture costs $1,200 for 10 treatments. Tune-ups are $120. For more information, call 273-4826 or visit www.theacudoctor.com. Dr. Patricia Farris is no relation to medical reporter Meg Farris.
Look for Meg Farris' Medical Watch reports, including "Weight Loss Wednesday" and "Wrinkle Free Friday" stories, weeknights on WWL-TV Channel 4 and anytime on www.wwltv.com.