Gua Sha; what is it, how do you use it and does it work?

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What is Gua Sha?

Gua Sha (pronounced 'gway-shah') is one of the oldest forms of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and is said to date back to at least 1368 - 1644 (Ming Dynasty). A tool is used on the body to scrape the skin and move 'Qi' (energy) along the meridian lines, a bit like acupuncture.

It can be used firmly and deeply to help relieve pain and tension and the skin can be left red or even bruised afterwards. Gua Sha on the face is done with a much lighter touch, although it can still leave your skin looking flushed. Green People Jade Gua Sha massage tool is perfect for the face at £10.

What is a Gua Sha tool made of?

You can get Gua Sha tools made from different gemstones such as clear quartz, amethyst (which is said to be good for the release of muscle tension) and obsidian, but the most common ones are made from rose quartz and jade. There are also traditional Chinese ones made from Sibin bian stone which contain pyrite, anatase and graphite.

Rose quartz is said to help open the heart chakra and is therefore good for use on the chest and body. Jade is said to be cooling and calming and have similar 'Qi' energy to the human body and is used for health and beauty purposes. Jade is harder and can be cut thinner than rose quartz and is therefore easier to work with on the face.

Gua Sha tools comes in many shapes and sizes but are mostly flat and curved and have scalloped, wavy or shaped edges.

TIP: For extra cooling pop your Gua Sha tool in the fridge or in a bowl of iced water before using.

What does Gua Sha do?

The benefits (when carried out properly) of using Gua Sha on the face are said to be:

  • Improved firmness and elasticity of the skin. This is said to be because the firm movements cause sight trauma to the skin and it reacts by producing collagen to repair itself.

  • Relaxes the muscles and helps to reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles.

  • Promotes lymphatic drainage which helps with puffiness.

  • Improves blood circulation which increases skin radiance and brightens the complexion.

  • Releases tension and stress helping you sleep better.

  • It can be a real help in relieving jaw tension and is said to help migraine and neck pain.

  • Aids with the penetration of facial oil or moisturiser.

  • Helps develop a more defined facial structure and sharpens the jawline (due to toning of the muscle).

How do you do Gua Sha on the face?

*Don't use a Gua Sha tool on broken or irritated skin or skin that is having a reaction of any kind*

You must use a Gua Sha tool on clean skin but it must be oiled to provide enough 'slip', it must never be used on bare, dry skin.

I use either Green People Nordic Roots Organic Marine Facial Oil - £28 for 28ml which helps boost collagen production or Neals Yard Organic Argan Oil £17.50 for 50ml, which is non greasy and absorbs beautifully.

At night I like to use Aurelia London Cell Repair Night Oil - see The Happy Sage full product review on Cell Repair Night Oil HERE.

Thoroughly cleanse the face and neck.

  • First apply either Nordic Roots facial oil or Neal's Yard Argan oil. Put a few drops of oil in the palm of your hand. You need to be using just a little more than you would normally apply.

  • Rub your hands together gently to spread the oil over the palms of your hands.

  • Press your palms over your face and neck, making sure to cover all areas, including under the eyes.

  • Now you can use your Gua Sha tool. If you buy the Green People Jade Gua Sha it comes in a small bag with an instruction card inside. I found that watching someone use a Gua Sha tool on themselves whilst I copied at the same time was the best way of learning and I love this video which shows you how to utilise acupuncture points at the same time for an extremely relaxing self treatment. Click here for video instructions on how to use a Gua Sha tool.

  • Once you have finished your treatment thoroughly cleanse your Gua Sha tool (I just wash it in organic soap and warm water and dry it) and pop it back in the bag.

I do this twice a day, once in the morning before I shower and once in the evening before bed. Once you have done it for a week or so you will be able to remember the movements off by heart. Obviously there are times when I just don't get time to do it but strangely I really miss it so now try to make sure that I have enough time to do it at least once a day.

I found it harder to do in the morning because I am in more of a 'let's get going mode' but it makes me slow down a bit and that few minutes self care sets me up in the right frame of mind for the day ahead. I tend to do about three strokes per movement in the morning but at night I do five and put some relaxing music on whilst I do it as well - my bedtime treat!

TIP: If you suffer a tight jaw or face at work you can always use the acupressure points shown in the video to help release tension.

Does Gua Sha Work?

I had read a lot about this method of facial massage and the acupressure points you can use so was looking forward to trying it. I have been doing this for about a month now and there are definitely benefits to using it.

  • I'd say my skin elasticity is better and it looks a bit plumper but I would not call it firmer yet.

  • It definitely relaxes the muscles in the face which I think translates through to fine lines and wrinkles looking less pronounced. I think my face looks more 'relaxed' when I have used it.

  • I can't comment on puffiness as I don't really have any.

  • My face looks slightly flushed afterwards so there is obviously a boost to the blood circulation.

  • It definitely helps relieve tension in the jawline. I think I hold a lot of stress around this area and it is the one part of the face that I notice it in the most.

  • I can't say that I have a more defined facial structure or a sharpened jawline but my neck is looking much better.

You need to start with a delicate touch with this method. Don't be tempted to go really hard, it's better to start with light strokes and work your way up to find the right level of pressure for you. You certainly get to learn the contours of your face and where your knots of tension are and I have found the jawline and the neck movements to be really beneficial. I just love doing it on my neck, particularly at the back (see video instructions above for details on the acupressure points).

This is one of those things that now I have started I don't want to stop because it feels so good. You could really boost the relaxation experience with some essential oils in a diffuser and some candles, lovely music and then a nice bath. You'd probably sleep like a baby afterwards.

I have not been able to find any firm scientific evidence for the benefits of Gua Sha on the face but there is evidence that Gua Sha works well on the body. It increases microcirculation local to the area it is used on and gave an immediate decrease in muscle and joint pain when used on the back in both men and women. Women appeared to have a significantly higher response in that they got more relief, although that may be because their skin is slightly thinner and probably has less hair on it than men.

Either way it's a keeper for me!

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