Also known as ‘coining,’ Gua sha is an ancient Chinese healing technique, traditionally practiced on the body but now more commonly known in the West as a method of relaxing and reviving stiff neck and facial muscles. It’s an alternative therapy recommended for reducing inflammation and stimulating blood flow, and while the benefits are yet to be clinically studied, it’s gaining popularity and praise for its ability to relieve unresolved tension and improve elasticity in the skin.
The origins of Gua sha
‘Gua’ means ‘scrape’ and ‘sha’ means ‘sand.’ In ancient Chinese medicine, scraping the body with a massage tool was a way of encouraging the movement of stagnant energy, or qi (also known as ‘chi’), which many people believe is responsible for inflammation – the underlying cause of several chronic conditions. Gua sha is thought to break down this energy, reduce inflammation and as a result, encourage healing.
While smooth and beautiful Gua sha stones made from amethyst, jade and rose quartz are now widely available, traditional Gua sha tools included spoons, coins and animal bones. Using strong, scraping movements, people would typically use Gua sha to draw out the toxins caused by heatstroke or seasonal illnesses, like the common cold, as far back as the Yuan Dynasty. The use of Gua sha to improve general skin health was something discovered much later and is now one of the most popular alternative facial treatments.
The benefits of Gua sha
When used on the face, the gentle scraping action involved in Gua sha is key to boosting blood circulation, through the movement and drainage of lymph that can build up especially around our eyes. It can also help to relieve tension in muscles caused by frowning, improve skin elasticity and improve the absorption of oils and other skincare products.
According to one study, Gua sha helps to reduce some of the symptoms of perimenopause, including anxiety and fatigue. It’s also a technique that has been adopted by many who suffer from chronic pain, due to conditions such as arthritis, to help manage inflammation.
How to implement Gua sha into your skincare routine
Gua sha involves massaging your skin in long and short strokes, in an upward motion. The strength in your strokes will depend on the area of skin you are massaging and the general sensitivity of your skin.
Once you’ve cleansed your skin in warm water and applied toner, add a few drops of face oil to the palms of your hands, breathe in the scent and then work this gently into your face and neck area. Now it’s time to use your Gua sha tool. Hold the skin where you are about to start massaging with your opposite hand and then gently massage your neck and face in upward strokes with a light pressure that works for you. Make sure you hold your Gua sha tool flat to the skin. For more guidance, our founder, Sofia has shared a video of how she uses her Gua sha tool, which you can watch here.
Always complete your upward motion with a long glide of light pressure using your Gua sha tool down the sides of your neck, to encourage lymphatic drainage. Finally, complete your routine with a light moisturiser.
For best results, we recommend contacting a technician or professional for guidance. Particularly if your skin is sensitive, forceful scraping can break the tiny capillaries under your skin, resulting in blood spots and bruising.
An alternative healing therapy
As an ancient healing technique, Gua sha is rooted in wellness and has been used as part of Chinese medicine for centuries. While more research is being done to understand exactly how it works to reduce inflammation, Gua sha is a popular treatment and something that you can add to your skincare routine to boost circulation but also mindfully relieve facial tension at the end of a long day.
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