Gua Sha facial massage, technique and tools

If you’ve visited, well, all Skincare brand’s website last year, you probably spotted it: the Gua Sha tool. Sleek, smooth, and often created from vanity-worthy gemstones, the lymph-flushing skincare darling has an impressive past. To learn all about the trendy tool and the many benefits of body care, we asked the pros for a history lesson.

What does Gua Sha mean?

“Gua means ‘to scratch’ and Sha means ‘petechiae’ (small, flat red and purple spots) in Chinese,” says Dr. Ervina Wu, PhD, L.Ac. and co-founder of YINA. “Gua Sha started out as a full body treatment, which most people don’t realize since facial techniques have recently become popular. The key point is to scratch the skin (usually the upper back) to invigorate circulation. blood, release heat toxins, stimulate lymphatic drainage, activate various points of the body and supply useful cells to the area by stimulating an immune response. Sometimes this action creates discoloration on the skin, which can seem dramatic. But reassure you, there is no pain and the petechiae usually goes away within a few days. “

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The ancient story of Gua Sha

While you might have just ordered your own Gua Sha, the tools and process certainly aren’t new. “The first Gua Sha type tool predates acupuncture in the Stone Age. [It] was fashioned from Bian stone in various forms used for things such as heat therapy and bloodletting, “Wu continues.” Metal tools and needles then gained favor with stone tools during the Bronze Age. Huang Di Nei Jing, the most representative Chinese medicine text from 475 to 221 BC.

“According to traditional Chinese medicine, qi or chi is the energy that circulates in the body. Many people believe that a person’s qi must be balanced and circulate freely for their health and well-being, ”noted famous facialist Georgia Louise Vassanelli. Practitioners believe that stagnant qi is a possible cause of inflammation, which is “the underlying cause of several conditions associated with chronic pain,” she says. “Scrubbing the skin’s surface is believed to help break down this energy, reduce inflammation, and promote healing. “

The original Gua Sha tools

These days, beauty and wellness brands place special emphasis on the stones – often jade or rose quartz – from which Gua Sha tools are made. However, that was not always the case, according to Vassanelli. “Gua Sha, which has been used for generations by Chinese mothers as a home remedy for sick children, could have been made from any household tool for scraping the skin,” she says. That said, Gua Sha stone tools are also historically accurate. Famous facialist Angela Caglia notes that Stone Age Gua Shas were “usually made of stone” and those developed later by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine used jade.

When did Gua Sha become popular in the United States?

Butterfly Stone Lift & Sculpt Face Tool

Georgia Louise

$ 75.00

Let’s be clear: Gua Sha a always been popular. The US wellness industry as a whole is just catching up. “Gua Sha has been widely practiced and used by ordinary people all over Asia for centuries. Both cost-effective and effective, it was the first form of treatment for the early onset of disease,” says Wu.

She cites “an influx of immigrants from Asian countries” in the 1970s and 1980s as the reason Gua Sha became better known here. “The first articles on Gua Sha appeared in Western medical journals around this time, although they spoke about the practice in a negative light without proper research,” Wu adds. “Fortunately, there have now been many studies. and extensive research on Gua Sha (in many languages), supporting its positive therapeutic effects. ”

Vassanelli draws a comparison between Gua Sha and acupuncture. “With the rise of personal care and the popularity of functional medicine and Chinese acupuncture, it has become a tool that anyone at home can use and does not require a medical degree,” notes she does.

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Why use Gua Sha on your face?

For many skincare fans, their first look at the tool is via a website or video tutorial. So how did Gua Sha go from full body scratching to facial mate? Vassanelli credits its ability to break muscle tension and move qi. “At first it’s a bit painful,” she says. “But the more you practice, the less painful it becomes as the inflammation is reduced, relieving discomfort, tension and puffiness. I think we can all relate to a tool that doesn’t require batteries and can be done at home. In addition, it feels good. “

And yes, that’s where the buzzing lymphatic system comes in, the body’s incredibly complex waste disposal system. “Unlike our cardiovascular system, which uses our heart to pump blood through it, our lymphatic system circulates lymphatic fluid through our muscles moving and contracting,” says Alder New York co-founder Nina Zilka . “Gua Sha is particularly useful for the lymphatic drainage of our face, because we do not move the muscles in our face very much. The intentional movements of a facial massage will help move lymph through the system and give a more toned and sculpted appearance.

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The right technique

Now is not the time to be a thug. “I recommend that users follow the instructions for the tool they have available closely and not invent their own technique. I’ve seen a lot of beauty bloggers get their instructional videos wrong, ”Caglia explains. “It’s important to go upward, outward only, and lightly press down while sliding on a face oil.”

Need a little more advice? “Using an appropriate Gua Sha tool, such as my Georgia Louise Lift + Sculpt Butterfly Stone, work with gentle pressure (as opposed to scraping) and glide over the contours of the face, working inward and outward to create reddening of the skin and prevent bruising. ”recommends Vassanelli.

But keep in mind that these tips are for Gua Sha skin care. “We recommend that you consult a licensed TCM practitioner for the use of Gua Sha for all medical concerns,” Wu explains.

Does Gua Sha leave bruises?

Short answer: occasionally. Long answer: “It can sometimes leave bruising because you press hard, push and scratch the skin,” says Vassanelli (and notes that bruising can be “a good sign the treatment is working”).

Why is Gua Sha so popular now?

It might have something to do with how simple it is. In Caglia’s words: “We use so much technology, it’s nice to take a break and use an effective, calming tool that doesn’t need to be loaded.

And hey, those sculpted results are pretty cool too. “In addition to using Gua Sha in TCM clinics, we can also use this technique in our self-care rituals. Gua Sha is particularly effective in relieving muscle tension and breaking up fascial adhesions, perfect for those with tight muscles, slow circulation, and technical necks, “Wu adds.” As a facial therapy, it helps deflate, to stimulate microcirculation and promote collagen. production. The key to Gua Sha is consistency. So go ahead and start scratching.

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