If you follow beauty blogs like Vogue, InStyle, HuffPost Beauty, etc, you may have seen folks talking about Gua Sha facial massages. I’m here to tell you about the history, how they work, and what results you can expect from them!
What exactly is facial gua sha?
Much like acupuncture, Gua Sha (pronounced gwah-shah), helps regulate your qi–the balance and flow of your energy. The practice uses smooth stones of varying shapes and sizes that massage your face. This beauty ritual actually predates the trendy articles in Vogue. It is an ancient Chinese practice and as the stones gently scrape your skin it increases blood flow and relaxes tense muscles. Facial Gua Sha can help relieve issues like TMJ pain and facial muscle tightness. Additionally, the practice is linked to clearer skin, fewer wrinkles and a more sculpted appearance. If this sounds like a win, keep reading!
How does facial gua sha work and what results can be expected?
Gua Sha facials use a rose quartz or jade (you wanted Instagrammable, right?) The stone is lightly scraped over the skin in upward strokes to relax stiff muscles, boost circulation to facial tissue, and promote the excretion of toxins through lymphatic drainage. All of these benefits lead to brighter and healthier looking skin. According to experts, the massage should start at the neck and work your way up to the forehead. This way, you’re creating a clear path for the fluids and toxins in your face to drain. Immediately after, you will notice less puffy eyes and sharper cheekbones (don’t we love instant gratification?). If you come more often, it might even yield an improvement in acne, dryness and wrinkles. (During an election year, don’t we all need this?)
Take a quick check. Are your eyebrows sinking or forming a scorn? Jaw clenched? Shoulders tense? Gua Sha may help.
According to Katie Brindle, one of the foremost experts in Gua Sha facial massage, “We consider that beauty is the exterior manifestation of interior health. This stands to good reason as you never look your best when you are feeling unwell. The idea is, focus on your health and beauty will follow. Shiny hair, a healthy weight, glowing skin ― in Chinese medicine, these are all signs your organs are happy.” When increasing blood and lymphatic flow to your face with the Gua Sha stones, you alleviate stress that can cause aging. Gua Sha facial massage activates acupressure points along the major meridian pathways in your face.
The science behind gua sha
The folks at wilding.com reported on several studies as they looked at the immediate results of Gua Sha. “Both studies measured arbitrary perfusion units, which is a fancy way of saying blood flow, using Laser Doppler Imaging at the surface of the skin before and after Gua Sha treatment. One study found that circulation increased 400 percent on areas treated with Gua Sha scraping, and the increase in circulation continued for more than 25 minutes after treatment. In between visits, patients reported that pain relief was sustained to some degree. In another study that used Laser Doppler Imaging to measure blood flow to the treated area at different intervals, 0, 15, 30, 60, and 90 minutes after treatment, and found that the surface temperature and blood volume was significantly increased even after 90 minutes post-scraping when compared to a baseline of no scraping, which helps to improve circulation and energy metabolism.”
Reminder: in order to do Gua Sha right, you need oil on your face so the stone slides over your skin properly. But in order to get the most out of the procedure, you should moisturize and then use massage oil because if you just use massage oil, you will just feel greasy instead of actually moisturized. Nobody wants that!
Oh, and if you have Botox, injections, or fillers, this procedure may not be for you. Since Botox essentially puts your skin and muscles to sleep and Gua Sha does the exact opposite, it would be silly to undo what you’ve already had done!
What is the history of Gua Sha?
Gua Sha began to take its modern shape by way of traditional Chinese medicine, “with major medical records documenting its extensive use dating back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).” One Chinese translation is “scraping out the wind.” The wind, being pain, wrinkles, and swelling in this case. Old practitioners found that rubbing the skin’s surface is thought to help break up this energy, reduce inflammation, and promote healing.
While we now use pretty Jade or Rose Quartz stones for these massages, traditionally, the tool could have been made from any house-hold item such as a coin or a tin lid with a sharp edge to scrape the skin. They meant business back then.
And we mean business now. More than ever, folks are stressed and relieving tension through the facial muscles can help rebuild what stress-frowning or furrowing brows has done over the years to our skin. As Taylor Swift aptly put it: You need to calm down. Let this technique help.
At Wellnest Acupuncture + Holistic Medicine, we use facial Gua Sha and infra-red light therapy with all of our cosmetic facial acupuncture treatments. These techniques combined help your cells regenerate, allows your skin to soak up nutrients from increased blood flow, and boost collagen and elastin production in your dermis — making you look younger and refreshed.