Michelle Smith likes to live simply. “I’m not complicated. I believe in simplicity, and I hope to give that to my clients,” says Smith, owner of Image Acupuncture & Skin Care, which is housed in Serenity On St. Paul Day Spa in Denver. In an industry inundated with products promising the fountain of youth, she strives to give her clients easy, individualized solutions. By using her unique blend of cosmetic acupuncture and herbal therapy, Smith has taken the focus of external therapy and made it internal. “My goal is to listen to my clients. It’s important that we develop a relationship where there’s mutual respect and trust,” she says.
During her teenage years, Smith struggled with problematic skin, which affected her confidence. When conventional Western remedies failed her, she knew there had to be a better way. Smith says she was troubled by the “factory health care” she received from physicians who were intent on shuffling her in and out of medical visits within a matter of minutes. Her drive to find alternative solutions grew only stronger with time.
Smith enrolled in the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 2001. In her quest to understand more about treating skin, she decided to acquire her esthetic license at the facility. It was there that Smith developed her integrated approach to treating the whole person naturally. “There is a magnificence to aging, and we should approach it in the most natural way possible,” she asserts.
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It is that attitude that continues to fuel Smith’s business, which opened its doors in July 2004. She offers a full spectrum of acupuncture and herbal therapies for ailments ranging from allergies and sports injuries to infertility. According to Smith, her specialties lie in cosmetic acupuncture, skin disorders and facial-renewal procedures, but she does not believe that acupuncture alone will provide the results that her clients desire. She has a strong belief in combination therapy for the skin, drawing on ancient Chinese remedies to treat today’s faces.
When clients come to her seeking solutions, Smith’s affinity for holistic truths often trumps modern quick fixes. “In today’s society, the outer appearance is becoming more and more important,” she says. “We’re in a craze of injections, which do a great job immediately, but we don’t know the long-term effects. I don’t think looking beautiful necessitates expensive, painful procedures.”
For Smith’s clients, that credo can be a refreshing one. According to her, the overwhelming number of product options available at mass-market venues often are not tailored to women’s distinct needs. In Smith’s facial treatments, Chinese herbs are combined with various essential oils to create custom blends and formulas. This is Chinese medicine at work. When clients come to her with complaints about blemishes, she delves to the root of the problem by figuring out whether the condition is due to hormones or stress. Based on this information, Smith creates a course of treatments unique to that individual’s needs. “Everything is completely tailored every time,” she says. “I don’t use one line of products for all my clients. It’s absolutely necessary to consider the whole person: mind, body and spirit.”
Smith has aspirations to take that philosophy on the road one day, sharing her blend of Chinese medicine and skin care with practitioners worldwide. She hopes to follow in the footsteps of Mary Elizabeth Wakefield, a woman who changed Smith’s life when she trained her in Berkeley, California, in constitutional facial acupuncture—a technique that consists of renewing the mind, body and spirit. Nationally, Smith says that there are very few schools that offer extra training in acupuncture—especially that which goes beyond traditional needle therapy. She hopes to let fellow practitioners in on her secrets someday. “It’s not just the needles,” Smith says. “It’s not just the skin care. It’s the combination of both that is crucial.”
Although her acupuncture approach is nothing new, she maintains that the harmony she has struck between needles and skin care is unique. As a teen whose skin troubles led to questions about self-image, and now as a woman facing the changes that trickle across her face in her 40s, Smith keeps one purpose close to her heart: helping women to feel better about themselves. “Self-esteem is a huge issue when your skin doesn’t look good,” she says. “Whether it’s blemishes or wrinkles, I want to make a difference.”