Does gua sha offer the ultimate at-home facial?

If you Google “gua sha,” you’ll be met with photos of bruised and beaten human backs. You may wonder why anyone would willingly subject themselves to such treatment. It is important to keep in mind that many online photos show an unvarnished version of a whole body-based practice that ancient Chinese practitioners were using as far back as 220 CE. When used solely on a patient’s face, the practice is different and provides a host of other benefits, some of which have earned it the nickname “nature’s botox.” How does facial gua sha work and what are the results? We’ve got the details.

What is gua sha?

Traditionally performed on a person’s back, buttocks, neck, arms, and legs. Gua sha is an ancient Chinese healing technique that is believed to have many health benefits. During therapy, a trained practitioner uses a smooth-edged instrument (known as the “gua massage tool”) to stroke a patient’s skin, stimulating soft tissue and increasing blood flow. This stroke pattern is thought to awaken the meridian lines (channels that transport energy), activating the body’s natural healing power. It can cause bruising, but organs such as the liver, heart, and kidneys are said to benefit greatly.

Gua sha is different when used on the face

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Even though the gua sha images related to overall bodywork look absolutely brutal, facial techniques are far gentler. Facial practitioners even use a different tool, a flat rose quartz tool or a Chinese bian smooth stone. In addition, they use upward strokes (rather than downward motions) on the face to encourage toning and lifting. Lastly, there is no vigorous back-and-forth motion with facial practice — it’s more of a gentle glide. Many have even said that a facial application provides an extremely relaxing experience.

How does gua sha help?

When generally practiced, gua sha stimulates blood flow, addresses stagnant energy (called “chi”) in the body, and relieves inflammation. Rubbing the skin’s surface is also thought to remove standing toxins, reduce irritation, and promote overall well-being.

There are specific benefits to performing gua sha on a patient’s face. Because it allows inflammation to drain and muscles to relax, gua sha is said to promote collagen production in a patient’s face. This ultimately helps to fight saggy skin including jowls, reduces wrinkles, eliminates dark circles, breaks up hyperpigmentation, brightens the complexion, and can possibly even clear up stubborn acne, blackheads, and rosacea.

Creating a home routine

Britta Plug, a well-known New York City esthetician, says that “while it can take time, effort, and dedication to adopt a rigorous at-home gua sha routine, it’s essential for those wanting results.” What’s that mean? Consistency and regular practice — once or twice a week is ideal. It’s also important to choose the right tool: Experts suggest one made of real quartz or jade (not a cheap synthetic).
Most importantly, practitioners say that your pressure and intention are very important. The touch you use for facial gua sha should be gentle, and always in an upward motion. And it’s important to remember that lighter touches support lymph drainage, while more pressure supports muscular relaxation. You should NOT bruise or experience discomfort.

Consider a class

Experts recommend taking a live workshop, or at least watching a few online tutorials, before starting your own at-home routine.

As simple as it sounds (you just rub a stone on your face), gua sha actually requires a lot of finesse. From choosing the right oil to stroking your skin the correct amount of times, there’s a lot to know and remember. Experts recommend taking a live workshop, or at least watching a few online tutorials, before starting your own at-home routine.

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