GUA SHA

Hey Dr, Annie!

I’ve recently read a few articles and seen a few videos about the technique of Gua Sha facial massage. I’ve read that doing this consistently can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and puffiness, improve circulation and provide relaxation and acupressure. What do you think about Gua Sha? Is it a scam or do you think it offers actual benefits? Thanks Annie!

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A great question and a welcome dive into the world of self-care.

I hardly ever touch my face. Even before the start of Covid-19 when we were instructed specifically not to touch our face. Honestly, I splash water on it twice a day followed by a moisturizer. What I do know is that I carry tension in my face. When we are reminded in yoga to “relax the face, relax the jaw”, I have to consciously adjust. I need the reminders.

I clearly need to be paying more attention. The idea of facial massage with a natural healing stone, like jade or rose quartz? That got my attention.

Welcome to the world of Gua Sha.¬† Gua Sha treatments have ancient roots in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), dating back to the Paleolithic Age. ‘Gua’ means scrape and ‘Sha’ means ‘sand’ which doesn’t sound very soothing. Indeed, a natural stone is used to treat pain caused by inflammation by ‘scraping away illness’. Chinese medical practitioners believe that stagnant qi or chi (energy) is a root of inflammation. Rubbing the skin surface gets the qi moving, resulting in a reduction of inflammation and promotion of healing. ¬†Traditional Gua Sha body treatments can be quite dramatic because of the degree of pressure used. In a Google search you will see some startling images. Always go to a practitioner knowledgeable about Chinese medicine and the direction of movement.

For those interested in the societal perspective, see the Chinese film directed by Xiaolong Zheng. The Gua Sha Treatment tackles the cultural misinterpretations between TCM and the West encountered by a Chinese family in the USA.

NOT for women only!

Gua Sha on the body and the face are very different. The stone is used very tenderly on the face and neck, applying gentle yet effective pressure. The tool is used only while almost flat against the skin, not using the edge of the stone. After prepping the skin with a facial oil, the smooth surface of the stone is used to glide along the face and neck with deliberate soft upward movement.

Gua Sha practitioners claim that this stone massage decreases muscle tension, increases blood/lymphatic flow and can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. It can reduce puffiness and improve the overall appearance of the skin. And the best part? It feels really delicious.

A “natural botox” like Instagram claims? Not so sure, that might be a stretch. It is certainly less invasive and painful. It is not a scam – it is a centuries old pampering massage you can do to yourself at home, once you have mastered the technique that feels best for you. Don’t forget to massage the neck and back of neck, a problematic area for wrinkles and muscle tension.

I have had a jade roller in the freezer for years. I love it but just don’t use it enough – not paying attention! Experts suggest using the roller after Gua Sha treatment to cool the face. Bottom line, Gua Sha goes deeper but both are loving ways to be good to your skin.

There are loads of videos out there on technique. I would recommend using them at first for guidance.  This was one of many I watched.

Enjoy the “me time” and let me know how you feel.