Is Gua Sha the at home Self care routine you need in your life?
A theme that has become synonymous with 2020’s quarantine lifestyle is self-care. With nowhere to go and rushing a distant memory, our clocks have slowed right down (our personal ones, not the one controlling the calendar). This has allowed us time to focus on the things we’ve always wanted to do but never had time to do, like taking better care of ourselves.
It is no wonder then that self-care practices involving at-home devices, have shot up in popularity [and our news feeds], implanting in our minds how much we need x in order to achieve y. So, in case we didn’t automatically turn into A-Type list checking superhumans as soon as our schedules cleared up, the advertising industry is great at delivering reminders.
This is how I finally actioned wanting to learn about and try Facial Gua Sha. If you aren’t familiar with the term, chances are you are familiar with the tools of the trade – irregularly shaped flat stones with a notched edged, most likely paired with a beautiful facial roller like in this set.
What is Facial Gua Sha?
Gua Sha (pronounced gwa-sah) originates from traditional Chinese medicine, the literal meaning being scraping. As this very interesting article points out, Gua Sha in its original form was used to treat heatstroke or viruses like a cold and was done with anything on hand (most definitely not a beautiful jade or rose quartz stone). The technique was also jarring in that it left red marks on the skin – the idea being that the firm pressing and pulling released toxins – the worse it looked, the better the release.
The Facial Gua Sha of today is actually quite different. Facial Gua Sha is a treatment used to improve the health of your skin and tissues. It is said to smooth, contour, decongest, depuff and brighten. It increases the blood and fluid circulation in your skin, providing a lymphatic drainage effect. It also removes tension by breaking down tissue knots (especially along the jaw) providing myofascial release. Not only has the technique birthed a whole market for tools and salon treatments, but I was quite surprised to learn that the method of doing it is incredibly gentle, think stroking as opposed to massaging.
I found it serendipitous [or a product of the same advertising beast] that at the same time I was educating myself on Facial Gua Sha, Melissa Alatorre shared a tutorial she uses to incorporate Gua Sha into her daily at-home facial routine. This tutorial by Sandra Lanshin Chiu turned out to be the best instruction manual on how-to Gua Sha that I have ever seen and I recommend it so much that this article is centred around it.
Sandra Lanshin Chiu is an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. Trained formally in Herbal dermatology, she has practiced for over a decade and owns a holistic healing studio in Brooklyn, New York. Sandra specialises in treating skin disorders (like acne) and rejuvenating skin using the tools of Chinese medicine. In an ideal world where travel was not banned and I had the type of budget that allowed for 16-hour flights for facial treatments (+ the cost of the treatments – A 75 minute facial Gua Sha with Acupuncture session with Sandra will set you back $295), I’d love to go to her. The more practical alternative is a condensed version of a 2-hour hands-on class that her studio, Treatment by Lanshin offers.
In the tutorial, Sandra demonstrates how you can do a short version of a professional Gua Sha treatment at home. But first you’re going to need a few things.
What do you need to do Facial Gua Sha?
1. The most important thing you’re going to need is a Gua Sha Tool. A jade one is most commonly recommended, but they come in rose quartz too. Jade is believed to carry healing energy which helps relax the nervous system.
2. The second thing you’re going to need is a facial oil, both to assist with hydration and slip for your gua sha tool. Gua sha is never to be done straight on the skin.
3. Then, if you’re following Sandra’s tutorial, you’re going to need a hydrating mist.
When sourcing this tool kit, my first choice was to go to Celluvac. Celluvac, a Cape Town based company, provides natural health and beauty alternative products that are easy to incorporate into busy routines, allowing you quality moments to practice self care.
Celluvac sent me this Gua Sha tool, sold in a set and this hydrating facial serum. When it came to a hydrating mist I selected this one from Avène. It is the most cost efficient one I have found and I’ve always thought of a mist as expensive water in a spray bottle. It turns out using one has completely sold me because it actually is incredibly refreshing and not in a way you can replicate by buying a cheap spray bottle and spring water.
How to use your Gua Sha Tool Properly
The most important technique tips to come out of Sandra’s tutorial, that I did not know beforehand were:
1. The correct angle of holding the tool is flat. You are not supposed to drag the pointy end across your face.
2. The correct pressure is light to medium. I had always thought of Gua Sha as a deep massaging action, but it is closer to stroking the skin.
3. The correct speed is slow and mindful. This is because slow and mindful relaxes the nervous system, which Gua Sha is attempting to do. This is not a routine you can race through hapharzdly and hope to see results.
How to do Facial Gua Sha at home
1. Start with a clean freshly washed face and then you prep your skin to build hydration and suppleness and to create slip for the tool.
2. Generously spray the hydrating mist and then press it into the skin.
3. While the skin is damp, apply your serum or oil. Sandra recommends 4-5 drops if using an oil. You rub the oil in the palms of your hand which helps with even application and you press it into the skin. She then recommends upward massage strokes to work it into the skin because she says “your face is open to suggestion. When you create upward massage stroke, you create lift.”
Once your face is prepped, you’re ready to begin and I highly suggest using Sandra’s tutorial over here. She guides you step by strep through every movement and area to tackle.
My Experience and Gua Sha Review
Firstly, I’ve only been doing Gua Sha consistently for 10 days. It took me 3 times of doing the steps while watching Sandra’s tutorial to feel like I had gotten the hang of it and now I feel very confident doing it on my own. So confident, I treated two of my sisters to a Gua Sha “facial”.
The very first time I tried it, I immediately noticed that my face look lifted – especially on the side that is “droopier”. The result was incredibly subtle, but I noticed it. It obviously is not going to alter your appearance as if you’d had a face lift or botox, but I do believe that over time it would impact the skin positively. Think about the actions that cause wrinkles; You crease your forehead continuously and eventually worry lines form, Gua sha stretches and smoothes the skin out and although it won’t remain stretched, as Sandra says:
The skin is open to suggestion
Whether or not in the long run my skin will appear more contoured and lifted is up for debate, but the routine is incredibly relaxing. That was the review I got from both sisters. It definitely does relax your nervous system and increase your circulation. Since starting this routine, my skin has looked brighter, ultra-hydrated and in general feels a lot happier. I am excited to see how my skin reacts with continuous use as increased circulation and boosted oxygen to the skin can only positively impact healing my skin issues.
The hydration levels I partly credit to Celluvac’s hydrating serum, however I believe the Gua Sha routine has helped the serum feed into my skin optimally. Celluvac’s hydrating serum contains Jojoba oil, Rosehip Oil, Pure Aloe Vera, Vitamin E, and essential oils. I was already using a plain Jojoba oil as my daily moisturiser, so this was a nice upgrade. I was incredibly impressed with how easily my skin took to it, thus far I have had no bad reactions. I love that the lid contains a dropper making application incredibly easy and I love how nicely it soaks into the skin. It doesn’t leave you feeling oily but nor does it absorb immediately leaving you dry, making it optimally suited for the slip required for Gua Sha. Do be warned though: it is very fragrant thanks to the essential oils, but once it has sat on your face for a minute or so, the smell does go away.
Gua Sha vs. a Jade Roller
Seeing as Gua Sha Tools most often come paired with a jade roller, I found it interesting watching Sandra’s video explaining the difference between the two. She says that the main difference is that using a jade roller is a lot simpler, intuitive and easy to incorporate if you’re short on time. Gua takes time and effort to learn how to do it properly. Jade rolling only creates slight pressure on small areas of your face, whereas gua sha covers a larger surface area, stretches the skin, and creates the right amount of friction that is not damaging but creates a bit of heat to promote your blood, fluid and chi circulation.
Do I recommend Gua Sha?
I really do. Whether or not all the claims are met, or what the long-term benefits might be, it never is a waste of time to take 10-15 out of your day mindfully focusing on you. The routine is incredibly relaxing and has become my go to way to start my day.
To follow Sandra’s tutorial, click here
To learn about the difference between Gua Sha and a Jade Roller, click here
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Celluvac sent us the Jade Gua Sha Tool and hydrating facial serum to test out. This article was not sponsored, previewed or pre-approved by Celluvac. Opinions are our own.
Feige is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to code things, design things, and all things beauty.