Heard of Gua Sha but not sure where to start? We asked an expert to share with us her techniques and top tips for using this ancient beauty tool.
Intensive light therapy. Charcoal face masks. Jade rollers. Each of these tools have unique benefits to our skin. But, there is a natural self-care tool that aids in the relief of muscle tension and water retention, radiating a brighter, more radiant glow. Meet your new best friend, Gua Sha (pronounced “gwa sha”).
The term Gua Sha consists of two Chinese words, ‘Gua’, which stems from the art of scraping or to rub, and ‘Sha’ the redness that seeps as a result of the scraping. When put together, it is the act of rubbing the skin to remove an energy blockage. Since the seventh century, Chinese practitioners have used Gua Sha for medicinal purposes, acupuncture, massages and muscle relief. This fashionable tool has been highly spoken of and encouraged over the last few years, citing its benefits as a technique for a natural face-lift and to fight off signs of aging.
What is Gua Sha?
It is a tool, often indented or seen with a comb-like structure, used to create petechiae (red spots) in the skin. This petechiae is seen on the surface of the skin to remove inter-inflammation from our muscle-skeleton system. “Redness is the beauty of Gua Sha” says Francesca Canzano-Franklin, creator of the multi-award winning PRO Gua Sha Facial + The Eastern Facelift. “It almost creates a micro-trauma to the skin that is superficial. But this stimulates the skin in receiving nutrients, enhancing oxygen, boosting blood circulation and producing collagen.” The practice centres around lymphatic drainage, the flushing of bacteria and toxins from your body. By draining the lymphatic fluid and excessive nodes present under the surface of our skin, our body stimulates cell rejuvenation which results in more youthful, brighter skin. For other skin conditions such as acne, puffiness, eczema and dullness, lymphatic stimulation can resolve these issues by helping the body heal.
“It is about the flow of the Qi energy” adds Francesca. “Qi is your body’s internal wellness and essence”. When Qi is flowing beautifully through your body, it is a sign of good health. If you experience pain or sickness, your Qi is no longer flowing properly and your body enters into a stagnation of the flow of Qi energy. To remove that stagnation, Gua Sha is used to encourage blood flow and balance the internal wellbeing.
If you own a jade roller, you may wonder the purpose of buying a Gua Sha tool, but there is a significant difference between the two. The Jade roller does not assist in the scraping techniques like Gua Sha does. Whilst the roller is a quick way in draining puffiness, the size and shape of Gua Sha allows you to go much deeper into your skin contour, encouraging better penetration and absorption of skin products. More often than not, the jade quartz used in the roller is fake. If your roller is made of any of the following: serpentine, Xiuyan jade, new jade, Australian jade, Malaysian jade, or mountain jade… sorry to say, but it’s fake.
Which tool is best suited for your face?
On the internet, there are thousands of different types of Gua Sha tools in all shapes and sizes.
- The regular Gua Sha tool – this two-point indentation is effective for a simple Gua Sha facial and draining of lymphatic fluids. It is often recommended for beginners who wish to do a basic, regular Gua Sha treatment. Due to the lack of comb-like hairs, it cannot be used for scraping like the original Gua Sha treatment encompasses.
- The heart shaped Gua Sha tool – With its indentation, it helps with micro-circulation of our face and improves the immune system, increasing the production of antibodies that fight off infection and reduce inflammation in the body. “In light of the global pandemic, we are all experiencing elevated levels of stress.” says Francesca. “Using Gua Sha on your temporomandibular joints (TMJ) region, the two joints connecting the jawbone to the skull, can effectively destress facial muscles, releasing tension.” shares Francesca.
How do you start?
Before you begin, it is important to note that you must use feather light techniques. “If you go deeper, you are no longer dealing with the lymphatic system” says Francesca. Start at the neck area for optimal lymphatic drainage and move upwards. The Gua Sha board should be held at a 15-degree angle (almost flat against the skin), and should be gently glided along the skin using sweeping, upward strokes. Each motion should be repeated three to five times. The direction should always be down into the terminus region, the area where we connect all the lymph. “People usually use an upwards direction but what they don’t know is all that lymph that they drained away they end up taking it away from the exit site, rather than away.”
In regards to frequency of the treatment and after-care, if it is just the Gua Sha technique without the scraping, then gentle lymphatic drainage can be done every day depending on your schedule. The process normally takes around 10 – 15 minutes depending on how deep you wish to penetrate your skin. Post Gua-Sha, one can wash their beauty tool with warm water and soap. In terms of after-care, Francesca encourages the use of sunscreen with high amounts of SPF, especially in a place as hot and humid as Hong Kong.
If it is Gua Sha with scraping, it should only be done 1-2 times a week. “The micro-stimulation will create a micro superficial trauma that will activate collagen underneath your skin if practiced correctly” says Francesca. But be warned, it will inflame your skin ever so lightly which usually lasts 1-2 days. One should clean their tool with alcohol and allow it to dry before the next use. As the skin is so inflamed, a Vitamin C serum or any antioxidant oil can be used on your skin to absorb its products. “SPF is very important after scraping. I recommend patients to stay away from the sun after Gua Sha scraping as your skin is more sensitive than usual”.
Even though the practice is often used by younger individuals, the elderly and those with chronic pain can Gua Sha. “I recommend seeing a professional Chinese doctor or acupuncturist before you start Gua Sha” suggests Francesca, “The technique to the body is almost violent as there is a lot of heat and pain during the muscle tension release. If you have small tension, then it is okay to self-practice on your own. If it is more severe, I recommend seeing a professional before use to prevent any further injury”.
With repeated treatments, Gua Sha can facilitate the drainage of lymphatic fluid from face and neck, combat the formation of bags and dark circles under the eyes, firming up muscles of the face and neck by toning and sculpting them and reducing wrinkles.