Facial Gua Sha
Photographed by Taylor Souza
Because of my Chinese ancestry, I grew up with traditional Chinese medicine which exposed me to some of its ancient treatments from an early age. Whether it’s ingesting bird’s nest, ginseng, or various unmentionable “treats,” to physical therapies like tai chi, acupressure, cupping, pin rolling or gua sha, TCM involves a range of practices rooted in 2,500 years of Chinese medical culture that includes herbal medicine, massage, and physical movement.
Gua sha, in particular, involves scraping the back and is one of those practices that may seem archaic by today’s standards if a glance at the resultant bruised shoulders and backs are anything to go by. Therapists use a flat tool, usually horn or crystal, and rake it across the skin to stimulate blood flow and the lymphatic system.
Still, this ancient Chinese practice is enjoying a modern revival in the form of a facial massage with the aid of a flat stone (usually in the auspicious jade or rose quartz). The recent interest in this traditional practice has been fueled by a global trend to return to all-natural therapies, crystal remedies, and Eastern beauty and medicinal practices.
Facial gua sha moves lymphatic fluids, boosts qi (energy) to the skin, and increases the flow of blood and fluids. Better flow improves natural hydration, gives the skin a natural glow, and aids the skin’s ability to purge the dirt, sebum, and general buildup in the pores that leads to acne. We chat with Hayley, our friend and therapeutic skin coach, about her personal experience with this practice.
Hi, Hayley! What was your journey like with facial reflexology?
Gua sha really became a more popularized treatment over the last four years as it started to circulate around social media. I didn’t really step into the practice of it until a year ago when I met Sandra Lanshin Chui of Treatment by Lanshin. She did a class with Josh Rosebrook at the Detox Market on a beautiful self-care practice for home use. It really helped me reconnect with my own skin as I’m often a little more concerned with implementing new techniques for my clients before I do it on myself.
“The practice is meant to lift, tone, sculpt the face with soft and slow movements that help you connect to your breathe. It’s a wonderful practice for any skin condition because it allows you to support your lymphatic system and calm your nervous system.”
What is gua sha supposed to do?
Gua sha is Chinese for “scraping sand” which means that you use on the skin, as gently and easily as you would scrape sand. Gua sha has the ability to move and manipulate the face like you could with sand. That is my personal interpretation because the practice is meant to lift, tone, sculpt the face with soft and slow movements that help you connect to your breathe. It’s a wonderful practice for any skin condition because it allows you to support your lymphatic system and calm your nervous system as well.
What are your favorite tools to use?
I use a jade gua sha stone that is perfect to use on my face everyday. Its shape works beautifully with the facial curves and contours.
“I really believe that as physically impactful that an at-home gua sha practice is, it is also a really beautiful practice for self-care. I really get to reconnect with what my body… It helps slow down my breath and deepen my relaxation. It’s the perfect way to calm your nervous system before you go to sleep.”
What are the benefits it has brought you since beginning the practice?
I really believe that as physically impactful that an at-home gua sha practice is, it is also a really beautiful practice for self-care. I really get to reconnect with what my body is communicating to me whenever I take the few minutes to connect with myself and my skin. It helps slow down my breath and deepen my relaxation. It’s the perfect way to calm your nervous system before you go to sleep.
Do you have your favorite techniques?
I tend to hold a lot of tension on my forehead which in reflexology can be related to the tension in my neck and shoulders. As a facialist, I’m constantly looking down and leaning forward in my work. When I work on my forehead it helps relieve so much tension and helps prevent some migraines and headaches. I love teaching my clients this technique for during their work day or when they finally get a few minutes of downtime for a little self-love.