Gua sha may be the hottest new self-care and skin-boosting technique but why (and how, and how often) should we be doing it? And what is it, anyway? Here’s the low-down on the benefits of this ancient natural therapy.
What is gua sha?
Used in traditional Chinese medicine, the practice involves scraping a flat, rounded tool, usually made of jade, over the skin. Translated, gua means press or stroke, and sha refers to a rash or redness, but while traditional Chinese therapists work hard and deep – skin can be left bright red – for its beauty benefits, you need a lighter touch.
Gua sha treatment relaxes the muscles, gets the energy and blood moving and shifts any puffiness. It boosts the circulation – studies show by up to 400 percent – which takes away toxins and brings in oxygen and nutrients.
Best described as a hands-on mix of a massage and a workout, it helps release tension (many find it amazing for headaches and tight jaws) and leaves skin instantly more supple, glowing and healthy-looking. You are also creating a controlled trauma [that short-term flush of redness], which the skin then starts to repair by making new collagen and therefore improving skin elasticity and appearance.
Which tool should I use?
As with face rollers, there is a variety of tools to choose from. In Chinese medicine jade is known for its balancing effects and its ability to cool, so it helps de-puff features while clearing inflammation. Rose quartz traditionally relates to the heart, so it’s especially good to use on the neck and chest, but not at night, as it can be too stimulating. And while amethyst is associated with evenings and winter, citrine is good for summer and mornings.
Tools are widely available on the internet and cost between $20 to $60 dollars, depending on the tool’s size and the type of crystal.
As all natural crystals are porous, it’s important to give your tool a good wash in warm soapy water after each use to prevent any nasties building up.
How to do gua sha: Beginner’s guide
At last, you’ve received your shiny new gua sha tool and you’re ready to go! Here are the beginner steps:
1. Prime your skin with a bit of lubricant to ease friction. Moisturiser, serum, or essence will do just the trick. (Not a critical step, but definitely feels great.)
2. Starting at the base of your neck, take the flat side of the tool and move upwards towards your chin applying reasonable pressure. You don’t want the tool to be too blunt (as if you’re going in for a slice), so hold it as flat as you can while still maintaining a solid grip. Repeat this on all sides of your neck three times.
3. Move to the chin. From the base of your chin, take the same flat edge and sweep upwards towards your cheekbones. Repeat this step on each side of your face three times. If you feel particularly tense in your jaw, you might want to focus on this area.
4. Switching to one of the smaller angles on your Gua Sha tool (there are usually a few, you can choose the most comfortable for your face shape), begin on the side of your nose and sweep outwards over the cheekbones towards the temples. Repeat on each side three times. End with a few swipes up the nose towards the forehead.
And voila! Tension? Pressure? Stress? Where?
Although gua sha is done relatively gently (you’re in control of the pressure and the shape of tool you use), it’s not for you if you are prone to broken capillaries. It should also be avoided over broken skin or acne breakouts.