An Introduction to Using Gua Sha
Gua Sha is an ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine healing technique. Aptly translated into “scrapping sand,” this non-invasive procedure is used to help increase circulation, relax muscle tissues, and promote lymphatic drainage to different parts of your body through a repeated press and dragging motion. Although it is mostly preached in the beauty arena as a natural facelift, it is a great method for boosting overall health throughout the body.
This procedure is quite soothing, if not for the pressure aspects alone. The repetitive movement of the tool along your body gives your brain the few moments it needs to reset. The scrapping motions is slow and steady. It is repeated between 3-7 times, depending on the area its covering and your skin’s sensitivity level. Gua Sha is never used directly on the skin without the help of an emollient barrier such as an oil or a serum. Some users of Gua Sha choose Vitamin C oil as their go-to lubricant because of the properties Vitamin C brings such as skin rejuvenation, hydration, and antioxidation.
What Tool Do You Use for Gua Sha?
The Gua Sha tool is typically made of a smooth blunt stone. These stones contain healing elements depending on the stone used. Jade, the most common, helps cool the face and provide energetic balance. Rose Quartz is another popular stone that is beneficial for sensitive skin types such as those who have hyperpigmentation, acne, eczema, or rosacea. Green Aventura aids in skin renewal such as eliminating wrinkles. Bian is great for decreasing bodily stress as its weight helps penetrate deep into the skin. Amethyst’s anti-inflammation properties help relieve muscle tension and can soothe breakouts. Gua Sha can come in the form of a stone with a dip in it, a one-sided or double-sided roller, or a comb (which is great for promoting healthy hair growth). Regardless of which stone you choose; they are all impactful in promoting great care.
When Do You Use Gua Sha?
Honestly, any time you have 20 minutes to dedicate to yourself! Gua Sha is a great way to start your morning by giving your body the fuel it needs for an energetic yet stressless day. Doing Gua Sha right before bed can also prep your body for a relaxing and impactful sleep as it drains your muscles from the tension it holds. Amidst Covid-19 pandemic, it is very natural to be reluctant to try this beneficial treatment, especially on our face. But Gua Sha can be performed in the comfort of your home! You can order Gua Sha from your local TCM practitioner or on Amazon.
Before You Proceed
1) Make sure you put on a beauty oil or serum to the area you want to Gua Sha. You should never do Gua Sha directly onto your skin!
2) Make sure when you are using the Gua Sha you are not pressing deep into your body. Although Gua Sha can cause redness, you never want to bruise yourself by pressing too deeply that you break a vein.
3) Gua Sha is soothing, not painful. Stop if you feel any pain.
4) If you have any open wounds in your body or inflamed skin such as acne, you want to perform Gua Sha under the infected area. Never over it. (Your blood cells should be directed into the infected area using the Gua Sha).
5) For Gua Sha on the face, drag it in an upward motion as you want to lift the skin up. For the back of the neck, you can stroke downwards along the nape of your neck. Do not press hard when you Gua Sha on the front of your neck as you don’t want to hurt your trachea. Do not scrap the Gua Sha up and down on one spot; pick a direction and stick with it throughout (as mentioned, the direction you choose will be impactful. Stick mostly to an upward and outward motion).
6) Some Gua Sha users put their Gua Sha Tool in the refrigerator to bring out its cooling effects while others heat up their Gua Sha with the palm of their hands. Check to see if the stone you have will not break if placed in standard refrigerator conditions.
7) Apply only the slightest of pressure when you are using the Gua Sha tool near your eyes.
How To Use Facial Gua Sha For Beginners
Although Gua Sha can be used on different parts of the body (legs, arms, chest, etc.), the more Westernized practice of it is on the face.
1) Apply a face oil or serum all over your face and neck.
2) Start the Gua Sha tool on the back of your neck and scrap downwards 5 times.
3) Move to the sides of your neck and scrape down wards, stopping right before your collarbone, 5 times.
4) Next, the front of your neck 5 times in an upwards motion.
5) Then scrap along the Jawbone area, upwards 5 times.
6) Cheeks, outwards 5 times.
7) Near your under eyes towards your temples, outwards 3 times.
8) Along your eyebrows, 3 times.
9) Finally, scrap your forehead one section at a time, upward 5 times.
Other Uses of Gua Sha
– One study found that Gua Sha significantly decreased discomfort induced by breast engorgement in breast-feeding mothers compared to standard massaging and heat therapy (Chiu, Gau, Kuo, Chang, Kuo, & Tu, 2010). In another study, perimenopausal women after a 12-week period reported a decrease in “hot flash/sweating, paresthesia, insomnia, nervousness, melancholia, fatigue, and headache” most likely due to the Gua Sha treatment they were receiving Meng, Duan, Zhu, Lou, Fang, An, Liu, Hu, & Hu, 2017).
– Gua Sha significantly helped manage patients diagnosed with chronic neck pain (Braun, Schwickert, Nielsen, Brunnhuber, Dobos, Musial, Lüdtke, & Michalsen, 2011).
– In a study with male weightlifters, Gua Sha significantly boosted their weightlifting ability contrary to weightlifters who did not use Gua Sha (Wang, Jia, Zhong, Huang, Chen, & Yang, 2019).
Side Effects of Gua Sha
Like all forms of treatment, there are side effects. However, it is very rare to get any devastating side effects from Gua Sha.
Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that there are pressure points throughout our body that can heal internal ailments. Gua Sha can activate those pressure points which is why many TCM practitioners find their patients’ symptoms and injuries are successfully treated. Whether you try it with a professional trained in the art of Gua Sha or trying it on yourself, Gua Sha is a wonderful methodology for self-care and healing.
11 Reasons to Add Vitamin C Serum to Your Skin Care Routine. https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/vitamin-c-serum-benefits#collagen
Braun, M., Schwickert, M., Nielsen, A., Brunnhuber, S., Dobos, G., Musial, F., Lüdtke, R., & Michalsen, A. (2011). Effectiveness of traditional Chinese “Gua Sha” therapy in patients with chronic neck pain: a randomized controlled trial. Pain Medicine; 12(3): 362–369. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1526-4637.2011.01053.x
Chiu, J-Y., Gau, M-L., Kuo, S-Y., Chang, Y-H., Kuo, S-C., & Tu, H-C. (2010). Effects of Gua Sha therapy on breast engorgement. Journal of Nursing Research; 18(1): 1-10. doi: 10.1097/JNR.0b013e3181ce4f8e
Meng, F., Duan, P-B., Zhu, J., Lou, Q-Q., Fang, Z-H, An, H-L, Liu, L-Y., Hu, Y, & Hu, Q. (2017). Effect of Gua Sha therapy on perimenopausal syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. Menopause; 24(3): 299-307. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000752
Nielsan, A., Knoblauch, N. T. M., Dobos, G. J., Michalsen, A., & Kaptchuk, A. M. (2007). The effect of Gua Sha treatment on the microcirculation of surface tissue: a pilot study in healthy subjects. EXPLORE; 3(5): 456-466.
Wang, X., Jia, B., Zhong, H. Huang, X., Chen, R., & Yang, J. (2019). Effects of Gua Sha therapy on weightlifting training: a randomized trial. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine; 39(4):575-581.