What is gua sha?
Used in traditional Chinese medicine, gua sha involves scraping a flat, rounded tool, usually made of jade, over the skin. Translated, ‘gua’ means press or stroke, and ‘sha’ refers to a rash or redness, but while traditional Chinese therapists work hard and deep – skin can be left looking bright red afterwards – you need a lighter touch on the face for its beauty benefits. “Even if you have a facial once a week, you still need to do something every day,” says Katie Brindle, a Chinese-medicine therapist and founder of self-care brand Hayo’u. “Gua sha treatment relaxes the muscles, gets the energy and blood moving, and shifts any puffiness. It boosts the circulation – some studies show by up to 400 percent* – which takes away toxins and brings in oxygen and nutrients,” adds Brindle. Best described as a hands-on mix of massage and workout, it helps release tension (I find it amazing for headaches and a tight jaw) and leaves skin looking supple, radiant and healthier.
How do I use gua sha tools?
“You can do gua sha on the face, body and scalp, and it’s best to use with water (I do it in the shower) or with an oil, but never on bare skin,” says Brindle. “Hold the tool flat to the skin, under the eyes or over any redness, to soothe and de-puff. Then use the curved side and work it over the skin, always taking short strokes in just one direction, not back and forth,” she says. “Stroke it down the neck to drain, working it in small horizontal strokes over the brow bone to lift, or hold and press upwards between the brows to release tension. If you want to drain puffiness, work lightly to move the fluid under the skin, and then more firmly to relax muscles.”
Is there any research behind gua sha?
“For traditional gua sha, there’s plenty,” says Sandra Lanshin Chiu, an acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist and founder of healing studio Lanshin, which targets conditions like migraines, and neck and back pain. Indeed, notable clinical studies* show that gua sha has immune-strengthening properties, and can increase the blood circulation at the skin’s surface.
How often should I do it?
“The best time is whenever works for you,” says Chiu. “Find a time in the day when it’s easiest and most realistic – like a midday break, or while on the couch catching up on Netflix.”
Is it best to gua sha in the morning or evening?
“Facial gua sha doesn’t require a different technique or tool from morning to evening,” explains Chiu. That said, in the evening you may want to spend extra time on your neck and jaw to help boost sleep, and unwind tension caused by the stress and poor posture of a long workday. “Making sure your neck stays supple is really important for looking and feeling youthful and vibrant. Similarly, in the morning we often feel tired and may look puffy, so spending extra time on your neck, cheeks and eyes could be helpful.”
Which crystal gua sha should I use?
“Jade is known for its balancing effects and its ability to cool, so it helps de-puff features while clearing inflammation,” says Brindle. “Rose quartz relates to the heart, so it’s especially good to use on the neck and chest, but not at night, as it can be too stimulating. And while amethyst is associated with evenings and winter, citrine is good for summer and mornings.” The true crystal connoisseur knows to first cleanse their crystal of previous negative energies by washing it and then leaving it outside overnight during a full moon. Who knows whether or not this works, but the ritual provides a nice way to clear and cleanse your crystals and make them all your own.