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 bright red – for its beauty benefits, you need a lighter touch on the face. “Even if you have a facial once a week, you still need to do something every day,” says Katie Brindle, who has been working with Chinese medicine for more than 15 years and has created the Hayo’u Method, which makes use of gua sha tools. “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.” Best described as a hands-on mix of massage and workout, it helps release tension (I find it amazing for headaches and tight jaws) and leaves skin instantly more supple, glowing and healthy-looking. “You are also creating a controlled trauma [that short-term flush of redness], which the skin then starts to repair by making new collagen.”
Gua sha: the expert advice
“You can do gua sha on the face, body and scalp, and it’s best to use water – I do it first thing, in the shower – or 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, then more firmly to relax muscles.” Your skin may look flushed after, but, like post-workout redness, this just shows a boost in circulation.
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. Research on the use of gua sha for conditions like migraines, breast distension and pain, nerve pain following herpes, as well as neck and back pain. Other notable clinical studies* show that gua sha is effective for treating hepatitis, has immune strengthening properties, and can increase the blood circulation at the surface of skin (also known as microperfusion).”
How often should you gua sha?
“The best time to do facial gua sha is when it works for you,” says Chiu. “Many of my patients share that they love the results, but tend to drop off when life gets busy. I encourage everyone to 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 practice it 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 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 to use
As with face rollers, there is a variety of tools to choose from. “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.