WHAT IS GUA SHA?
Quickly gaining momentum, the technique of facial gua sha has been sweeping across social media. Unknown to many, gua sha is a healing technique that has been around for centuries. Originating in East Asia, gua sha was and still is a treatment meant to cleanse the chi of an individual. Healers would use any number of different tools to scrape across a person’s legs, back, arms, neck, etc. to allow their chi to flow freely.
Britta Plug, a holistic skin-care expert in New York City, explains the original gua sha method saying, “[Gua sha is] traditionally done on the body as a vigorous scraping technique using anything from an antler or horn in its early days, to a jade stone, to porcelain soup spoons when this technique is performed on and by family members.”
It was believed that when a person’s chi became blocked it would result in tension, inflammation and pain in the muscles and joints. Furthermore, gua sha aimed to move stagnant blood throughout the body bringing a fresh supply of oxygen to the cells in a particular area. Today, gua sha is still used to relieve common aliments such as muscle and joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, inflammation, colds, fevers and other lung issues.
The more commonly known method of gua sha is done on the face and is a much less aggressive treatment. Plug continues on to say, “Don’t worry, the version of facial gua sha that’s swiftly gaining popularity is much more gentle than the traditional version done on the body. It doesn’t involve antlers, and is more of a gentle gliding over tissue using a small stone or crystal board.”
Facial gua sha utilizes a smaller scraping device pulled across the skin of the neck and face. Unlike standard gua sha, the treatment to the face is not meant to cause bruising of any kind. When done correctly facial gua sha delivers a multitude of benefits.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF FACIAL GUA SHA?
- Relives tension
- Instant slimming and contouring
- Promotes blood circulation
- Breaks down scar tissue
- Lymphatic drainage
- Faster healing
- Skin tightening
Plug mentions, “What we see as puffiness in the face is fluid retention, specifically lymphatic fluid. For optimal health of the skin, the immune system, and the entire body, we want lymph to be circulating freely. When lymph is draining and refreshing optimally, puffiness goes down. In addition, the proper circulation removes toxins from the skin, which helps to clarify the complexion, and rejuvenates skin cells for a healthy glow.”
WHICH GUA SHA TOOLS TO USE
Facial Gua Sha tools are popping up in every shape, size and material. Don’t let the seemingly unending array of options discourage you. When it comes to choosing a tool it is really based on personal preference. Due to the different angles of the face you will want to choose a tool that has a few different edges. Ideally, look for one with a long straight or slightly curved edge to use on areas like the neck, cheeks and forehead. You will want a smaller curved side to use on the sensitive areas around your eyes and preferably a “V” shaped side to use along the jawline.
When it comes to materials you will find there are gua sha tools made of jade, quartz and even plastic. Again, the material you choose is really based on preference and personal beliefs surrounding the properties of each material. Although, plastic should be avoided as much as possible due to the many unnatural and harmful chemicals present.
HOW TO PERFORM GUA SHA AT HOME
Although gua sha performed by a trained professional can be incredibly beneficial and relaxing one can absolutely learn how to do a shorter, at-home routine and still see improvements. A few critical notes to remember when performing gua sha on yourself are as follows:
Do not apply too much pressure! Remember, facial gua sha is not meant to cause any bruising.
- Be extremely gentle when massaging areas around the eyes. The skin around your eyes is the thinnest and most sensitive skin on your body so treat it like the delicate flower it is!.
- Always, ALWAYS start your facial gua sha from the neck and work your way up. Because you are releasing fluid build-up you must open up the passageways for the fluid to flow. If you do not begin at the bottom, fluid can build up and actually worsen puffiness and sinus congestion
- Facial Lounge Esthetician Elle recommends using organic sesame seed oil when doing any kind of facial massage: “I always use organic sesame seed oil because it is the only oil that can actually detox all the way down to the bone marrow.”
Here is a step-by-step method of at-home gua sha Britta Plug suggests:
Starting on the right side:
- Down the neck: Start at the outer corner of the jaw, near the earlobe. Sweep down to the dip above the middle of the right collarbone. Repeat 3-5x.
- Under the chin: Sweep from the middle of the soft under-chin (where a double chin would show up) out to the bottom of your earlobe. 3-5x
- Chin: From the middle of the chin, under the lower lip, sweep out to the earlobe. 3-5x
- Cheek: Sweep from the corner of the nose out to the middle ear 3-5x.
- Under-eye: Be especially light and slow here, sweep over under-eye area, where “eye bags” would show up, and out to the temple, all the way to the hairline. 3-5x
- Under eyebrow: Avoid any pressure on the eye or eyelid itself and stay on the brow bone. Sweep from inner corner out to temple again. 3-5x
- Third eye: Stroke from center of eyebrows up to hairline. This one is especially relaxing for the nervous system and great for insomnia, so do more strokes if it speaks to you! 3-10x
- Lower forehead: Stroke from center of forehead above the eyebrow out to the temple. 3-5x
- Big sweep: Here we bring everything we’ve moved to the outer edges of the face all the way back down to the terminus, the collarbone dip located between the center of the neck and the shoulder. Start at the center of the upper forehead, and trace down the hairline, over the temple, then curve behind the ear, and down the side of the neck to terminus. 3-5x.
Repeat the whole routine on the other side!
Below is a brief video of Britta discussing gua sha and demonstrating a few of the strokes mentioned above.