Beauty lovers are always on the lookout for the next revolutionary facial routine. Many times these trends are inspired by traditional beauty from around the world.
From the 10-step Korean skincare craze to bakuchiol, history has gifted us with many beneficial routines and tools. Currently, the industry is abuzz over jade rollers and Gua Sha. The Gua Sha facial is inspired by traditional Chinese medicine.
What Is Gua Sha?
“‘Gua’ means scrape, and ‘Sha’ means sand. It’s a treatment that involves scraping a flat jade or rose quartz stone over the skin in upward strokes to relax stiff muscles and promote tissue drainage.”explains Dr. Sheel Desai Solomon, a board-certified Raleigh-Durham North Carolina dermatologist.
Originating from East Asian and Chinese medicine, it was actually used to treat muscle pain and tight muscles. The pressure applied using a Gua Sha tool may leave you red or bruised but it reportedly has dramatic effects.
New age gua sha is used during facial treatments. The facial uses a similar technique to improve the look and feel of your skin.
The History of Gua Sha
The natural, alternative therapy is one of many ancient Chinese healing techniques. It offers a unique approach to treating issues like chronic pain.
As previously mentioned, facial gua sha is a newer concept. It does not come from traditional methods or Chinese royalty beauty routines.
“Gua sha was originally used for two conditions: the abrupt, immediate, sudden collapse of the body from heatstroke and seasonal diseases, like a cold virus,”explains Ping Zhang, DOM, L.Ac, a New York-based traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) guru and a pioneering acupuncturist in the field of facial rejuvenation.
Traditionally, gua sha would be performed with easy to find items. Everything from an animal bone or horn to a soup spoon or a coin was used during the Yuan Dynasty to perform Gua Sha on farmers who were suffering from exhaustion.
According to Cecily Braden, a holistic esthetician and New York-based spa educator, “the facial benefits of gua sha were discovered by mistake,” by acupuncturists who used facial pressure points to treat ailments in other parts of the body.
“They had this aha moment when they saw that wrinkles were going away, too,”says Braden.
How Do You Use it?
Essentially the process involves using a gua sha tool to scrape or press into the skin with short or long strokes. This stimulates microcirculation of the soft tissue and increases blood flow.
While gua sha can be used on the back, buttocks, neck, arms, and legs it is currently most popular to use it for the face. Before starting, apply a generous amount of massage oil to give the skin some slip.
Then using a gua sha tool begin applying mild pressure at the center of the face and moving upward and outwards across the face. The massage should follow the same lines as you would when using a jade rolling.
What are Gua Sha’s benefits?
Gua Sha has been associated with many benefits including relieving migraines and neck pains. Similarly, gua sha facials have been linked with relaxing the jaw, relieving tension, increasing circulation, and encouraging lymph drainage resulting in an unbloated, lifted, and slimmer facial appearance.
“It helps break up fascia, the connective tissue that hugs muscles but can sometimes interfere with optimal circulation.”explains Dr. Solomon.
Unfortunately, there is no clinical proof for these benefits. However, avid uses insist that their skin appears smoother and lifted after every session.
Many also believe it helps reduce wrinkles and puffiness in the skin especially when used cold. Others believe it helps products absorb better into the skin.
Possible Side Effects
While gua sha is considered relatively safe and should not be painful, there may be some minor side effects. It may cause capillaries near the surface of your skin to burst. This results in skin bruising and even minor bleeding.
If you press too hard, you may also experience temporary indentation in the skin. It is also recommended to avoid gua sha if you’ve had any surgery in the last six weeks or if you are taking blood thinners or clotting disorders.
The Tools Of Gua Sha
There are many possible tools to use to perform a gua sha facial. Some popular options include jade roller or specifically designed Gua Sha stones.
Some companies have also developed textured rollers and jade combs. If you want to try it out without investing in a specific tool, many DIY hacks involve using a spoon.