For thousands of years a tool by the name ‘Gua Sha’ has been a staple in the homes of Chinese peasants as well as in the clinics of Chinese medics. These days it is gaining traction as a popular beauty treatment, with all kinds of claims to its name. For me, it is a symbol of autonomous care as well a wonderful aid to facial massage. Whilst not truly holistic on its own right, paired with Facial Reflexology and healing gemstones we can each build our own personal arsenal for facial rejuvenation and overall wellbeing.
Gua means to scrape, whilst sha refers to the redness that rises to the skin as the body releases toxins. Simply put, this object has traditionally been used with the help of a household oil, or perhaps Tiger Balm, to vigorously rub against skin at the sight of pain or discomfort – then in loco – for fast and effective relief. It calls Qi or vital energy to the point in question and can provide instant and drastic release of blocked or stagnant energy.
Any honest user will tell you that you needn’t use a specialist tool, porcelain Chinese spoons or lids from a standard jam jar can and do make great substitutes in times of need. So, like many Eastern terms, gua sha is somewhat elusive, referring both to the name of an object as well as to a technique which is as simple as it is effective. Moreover, the shapes and design of gua sha are infinite.
Traditionally, this item is made from buffalo horn (sorry vegans), though it has for a long time been produced from natural stones such as jade, and can be found today in a range of materials including plastic, bone, china and steel.
So what is Facial Gua Sha? It is said that Chinese women have used jade gua sha to massage their face for hundreds of years, to achieve both anti-aging and beautifying results.
A keen advocate of facial massage, I believe this is more than likely true and fully endorse the sharing of this beauty key. It excites me to see more and more people discovering this tool, though I am concerned that few seem to know how they should be using it on the face…
Firstly, it should be obvious that ‘scraping’ of the face as we would the body is not suitable or necessary. Remember, this technique is applied to the body in times of pain or dis-ease, and that to scrape regularly otherwise is unwarranted. Moreover, the skin and structure of the face calls for a softer approach. Abrasive invasion of this delicate area is best avoided as it will cause extreme redness and may lead to bruising or worse, burst blood vessels.
Facial gua sha requires some natural oil, a light pressure, decisive movements and a good knowledge of the levels of the face. Just like reflexology, its results are cumulative: a daily practice is ideal.
Use of crystal gua sha adds a vibrational aspect to treatment and seals our beautifying intentions with each stroke as well as providing a divinely smooth texture (visualisation is highly encouraged). With many stones to choose from, it is wise to select one recommended for your skin type for added effect. The tool is swiped almost flat against the face and the sensation is splendidly relaxing.
So what are the benefits? At the top of my list is circulation which is crucial when working with any kind of troubled skin in order for it to heal and look radiant. Facial Gua Sha will boost circulation of blood, oxygen and vital fluids to your face, instantly encouraging a brighter complexion and in the long-term improving skin functions as it can more readily eliminate toxins and rejuvenate skin cells.
Next, it moves lymphatic fluid. To be clear, the movement of lymph around the body requires movement in the body – no amount of gua sha massage alone will improve lymphatic circulation in a sedentary person. That said, applied in the mornings there is a great opportunity to drain excess build-up acquired overnight, particularly in the cheeks and under the eyes, moving it on to the rest of the body. Done regularly, with the right pressure and direction, this can be a wonderful aid to reduce puffiness and inflammation. Effective lymphatic massage must be slow and gentle, another reason not to be over-zealous with your pressure.
The muscles on our face are, for most, long neglected, but vital to acknowledge when seeking to tame wrinkles and fine lines. By learning about the muscles of the face and how to tone them with the flat sides of your gua sha, you can break down any adhesions and hardness they might have, whilst lengthening, toning and relaxing. Relaxation of the facial muscles can, in some cases, also relieve chronic headaches and facial or neck pain. Over time, improved muscle tone will lead to tighter skin – just as toned biceps permit smoother skin on the upper arms. Furthermore, relaxation overall as a result of regular gua sha TLC can have multiple effects on your state of mind: used before bed this ritual calms, soothes and prepares you for restful sleep.
Next, is a favorite buzzword, that perhaps not everyone is familiar with yet. ‘Fascia’ is a medical term that refers to the connective tissue of the body which surrounds and infuses every muscle, bone, and nerve like a 3-dimensional web of fibers and fluid. Much like lymph, healthy fascia relies upon movement to stay hydrated and elastic. As before, facial gua sha can play a role to release fascia so skin can function better, and muscles can ‘find their place’ in the webbed lining. Note that when the skin is able to function better, specialist creams will finally be absorbed and put to use. Otherwise, even the most pure or expensive ingredients are wasted.
All in, gua sha is an unrivaled tool for facial massage. Used correctly it diminishes the appearance of wrinkles, reduces puffiness, offers more prominent looking cheekbones and a smoother jawline as well as treating dark circles and pigmentation. Side effects include: release of neck tension, fewer headaches, sinus de-congestion and improved sleep.
By toning the muscles and generating improved circulation you can expect a more youthful and slimmer appearance after just one session, with big improvements to follow within a matter of weeks. If you suffer from acne, hyper-pigmenation, dry skin, scarring, bumpy or rough texture, it is an extremely effective and helpful technique for your skin’s recovery often with dramatic improvements within just two weeks of regular use.
My own experience has been a reduction in breakouts and faster recovery from eruptions, a more even complexion and a changing face shape – generally less roundness. At 26 I don’t have many wrinkles to worry about, though my ‘computer scowl’ between the eyebrows has benefited significantly from daily gua sha. These kinds of ‘trouble areas’ can be targetted in addition to full facial coverage. Of course, I practice Facial Reflexology in tandem so the results cannot be entirely separated.
As we all know, real beauty comes from within. If I had my way, I would take any woman (or man) considering botox, cosmetic surgery, microdermabrasion or any other extreme methods and have them practice Facial Gua Sha for 10 minutes a day, followed by 5 minutes of Facial Reflexology (Dien Chan Zone®). The gua sha routine will transform your skin and the Facial Reflexology will change your life, aiding you to ‘balance and beautify from within. Reflexology effective hacks your nervous system and puts re-balance in motion to target the digestive/ hormonal/ respiratory/ emotional causes of skin disorders / marks… and that is just the tip of the iceberg!
The way that I teach and share gua sha elevates face care to the status of ritual because we invite a different energy and because it becomes a practice that brings pleasure. We engage with intention and connect to our power, healing wounded self perception, and cultivating self-love. Self-care is sacred because done right, we then carry that love out into the world wherever we go. Join me for a one of a kind workshop in Facial Gua Sha and Facial Reflexology around Europe throughout the year. All details can be found on my Facebook page.
If you are in to Milan, Edinburgh or London, I offer Facial Gua Sha with Reflexology. If you would like to experience a treatment email me to book. If you can’t meet in person you may be interested in my online gua sha tutorial and tools available in the >>> shop.
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