facial gua sha: what is it and does it work?

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If you scrolled through your Instagram feed or read beauty articles any time this past year, you would have seen the jade roller. This gadget that faintly resembles a razor and made of the green gemstone has been gracing (and grazing) the faces of bloggers, celebrities, and beauty enthusiasts alike. More recently, facial gua sha has been riding the coattails of THE trend of jade rolling. So what is gua sha? Does it actually help to smooth fine lines, improve skin elasticity, brighten skin, decrease acne, and all the other extravagant claims it promises? I tested out this ancient Asian practice and share my thoughts.

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What is Gua Sha?

Although gua sha has had a recent resurgence in popularity, this technique has been practiced in Asian medicine for many years. Translated in Chinese, gua sha means “scraping sand.” This refers to the technique used with the tools, previously made from horn, bone, or crystal. Practitioners would “scrape,” or apply medium to heavy pressure, across the body to promote lymphatic drainage and increase blood flow, relieving tense muscles and stimulating the chi.

Facial gua sha operates under a similar mechanism and reasoning, however, requires a very light pressure. By applying this mild pressure in a certain sequence and direction, it causes the toxins in the lymphatic fluid to drain, improve circulation, and rid of excess fluid. These toxins are responsible for breakouts and congestion in the skin. Under the care of a trained practitioner, who is often an acupuncturist, gua sha claims to improve skin elasticity, minimize acne, revitalize the complexion, smooth lines, rid of puffiness, and sculpt/shape the face. Sign me up!

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Gua Sha Techniques & Tools

So what are the techniques for facial gua sha? I studied a handful of articles and learned how to perform it the way we all learn how to do things nowadays…YouTube. But really, I found this video that talked me through each step in a simple and succinct way. The instructions are provided by an acupuncturist/herbalist that specializes in Chinese medicine; she incorporates gua sha in her holistic medicine practice based out of Brooklyn. In addition, there are also workshops available for those looking to better understand the principles and practice of gua sha.

From my research, the gua sha tools vary in size and shape with most common ones looking like a rounded rectangle with a notch on one end (similar to mine in the photo). The tools should be made of jade or rose quartz and be skin safe. Irritations may occur with use of non-skin safe counterfeits made from dyed acrylic to resemble crystal. Two reliable suppliers can be found here and here.

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My Gua Sha Experience & Facial Oils

Besides looking beautiful on my vanity, how did gua sha hold up? Following the specific techniques of the video mentioned above, I began a regime for 4-5 days per week for over a month. Cleanse and tone as one normally would. Apply facial oil prior to using the tool in order to have the “slip” necessary to glide over the skin; it also helps the oil to penetrate deeper into the skin to maximize its benefits. I alternated between the Squalane and Vitamin C Rose Oil from Biossance and the all-natural, jam-packed Phoenix Oil from Herbivore. The entire routine from application of oil to tool use varied from 7-10 minutes, depending on how long I chose to focus on certain areas.

The first time I finished the entire sequence, I noticed a very slight lifting and sculpting. With regular practice, there was minimal improvement with the contour of the cheekbones and eyes. I also noted that the dreaded hormonal breakouts did not linger for as long as it normally does. The jawline also looked a bit more defined (YES, please), and the skin felt softer (maybe attributed to better absorption of skincare products). Because I had more time, I completed the gua sha routine in the PM. However, when completed in the AM, it helped with waking up my skin by de-puffing the skin and improving circulation under the eyes to lighten dark eyes.

Like any healthy routine and exercise, maximal effects occur with consistent and correct practice. If I neglected gua sha for a few days and engaged in health and skin-harming practices (i.e. poor diet, lack of sleep, stress), my complexion showed it. Also, I am a novice in the skill of gua sha. A clinician that would perform this (along with other holistic techniques), would yield more positive results. Overall, I found the routine relaxing, a definite means of self-care. I have been incorporating it into my skincare routine, and hope to be more disciplined in it.

Are you interested in gua sha? If you’ve tried it, what was your experience? Subscribe below to follow along with my beauty and style adventures.


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