What Exactly Is 'Gua Sha' And How Will It Help My Skin?

The anti-ageing benefits are real.

Images of gua sha tools and a woman having a gua sha facial.
Images via Instagram | @britta-beauty

Vampire facials and dermaplaning are just a couple of the things we’ve tried in the seemingly never-ending quest for good skin. Not to mention tamer pursuits like jade rolling, lymphatic drainage massage and LED light therapy. Safe to say, we’re pretty game for anything skincare-based. 

Turns out however, it doesn’t have to be performed at a high-end aesthetician’s or cost hundreds of dollars to work. All you need is a bit of ancient Chinese wisdom and one simple tool. Enter, a credit-card sized ‘board’—typically made from yak bone, crystal or jade—that is pressed along the skin to release fascial tension and move sluggish lymph nodes.

It’s called gua sha, and it’s pretty damn good for your skin. Here’s why you should be doing it, and how to started:

The why

No but seriously, this stuff is rumoured to be the natural answer to botox. Ageing occurs when blood circulation slows down, which inherently means that lymph detoxification slows with it; leading to sluggish skin-cell turnover. Because gua sha works to rejuvenate the skin and increase circulation, its the perfect antidote to Mother Nature’s wily ways.

Moving the lymph tones muscles, firms the skin, carries toxins away and stimulates chi energy. This is one of the biggest advantages of gua sha—not only does it visibly improve skin quality, it also puts you in deeply relaxing state; meaning they get all of the benefits of tapping into their parasympathetic nervous system to boot.

Gua sha goes deeper than jade rolling; it’s less about de-puffing (though it does that, too!) and more about applying medium to heavy pressure with a gentle glide and pull motion across the face. Directionality is key, as the practice is intended to work with the meridians of the body, which are a cornerstone of Chinese medicine.

The how

  • Apply a facial oil before you start your sequence; the technique will allow for great absorption of the product into the skin. Don’t forget to pat it in!
  • Holding the board in your dominant hand with the other hand ready to support the skin, start at the neck and work your way up to the forehead
  • Keep the board at an almost flat angle to the skin
  • Move from the centre of the face outward towards the hairline
  • Repeat each stroke 5 times
  • When you reach the edge, give an extra wiggle to stimulate the lymph centres to really get things flowin’. This also helps to release extra tension around the temples
  • Be super gentle around the eye area; going too hard will simply increase puffiness and you’ll bypass the lymphatic benefits
  • Apply more pressure around the jaw; such a strong bone can take a slightly heavier hand!
  • Incorporate into your skincare routine a couple of times per week as a 5 minute act of self-care

Oh, and just a friendly warning: do NOT google image search gua sha. It’s not as scary as it looks, we promise.

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