We're here to show you how and why Gua Sha (pronounce gwar shar) is on the cusp of becoming the most wanted, must-have facial treatment — and it may be your most therapeutic facial ever.
Gua sha is an Ancient Chinese massage typically done here on the body by herbal, acupuncture and holistic medicine practitioners to circulate blood flow to help with tight muscles and body pain.
Take that to the face and Gua Sha becomes a toning and smoothing technique that not only enhances beauty but improves the health, texture and condition of your skin, helping to minimize puffiness, fine lines, breakouts and even acne.
"It's a full facial treatment that's easy and inexpensive to do at home with great results," says Sandra Lanshin Chiu, L.Ac., whose high-end Treatment By Lanshin holistic healing and wellness studio in Brooklyn — offering holistic skincare, gua sha, face training, acupuncture, Chinese herbs and more — is a popular spot for magazine beauty editors and those in-the-know to get their Facial Gua Sha fix.
It's also an easy, inexpensive at-home, morning and evening facial treatment to add to your beauty routine.
"All you need are your hands, a jade or rose quartz Gua Sha tool, and a facial oil for smooth contact," says Chiu. "Done morning or night as part of your beauty routine, gua sha can take on any filler, Botox or modern medical anti-aging procedure. But the best part is, unlike those medical procedures, Facial Gua Sha will actually elevate the health of your skin while creating lift, improving texture and glowing your complexion.
"It's our gentleman's scotch," she says with a coy smile. "A little product, some Gua Sha, and we're good for the evening — not cranky anymore."
Image courtesy Nicola Bridges
Gua Sha Facial 101
And, wow, I'm glad I did. I've found my daily facial nirvana that relaxes and readies my skin for toning, moisturizing and smoothing, with visible and long-lasting results. Here's how to get your gua sha on.
Image via @thehayoumethod
Getting Your Skin Into the Gua Sha Zone
We use Rosebrook's eponymous Josh Rosebrook organic Skin & Hair Care Accelerating Hydrator to hydrate and prepare our skin. But he's not there to push product.
"For great results, you need to be relaxed and at one with your skin, mind and body," he says adamantly. "Gua sha is about the consciousness of how we're treating our face, skin and selves. If you put yourself in a calming place, it creates a holistic presence, when your cells relax and your skin responds really well."
Chiu nods: "Gua Sha is very meditative." "You need to be in a calm, no-thoughts place," interjects Rosebrook. "The repetitive motion settles the mind and calms the nervous system — it helps your intention come through," picks up Chiu. "We want to calm and uplift ourselves as well as uplift our skin".
According to Chiu, Gua Sha elevates beauty via a foundation of good health. "One of my favorite Gua Sha effects is not the beauty — it's the health benefits. If you practice Gua Sha in your daily skin care regimen, you'll have fewer headaches and less jaw tension — and you'll sleep better, which ties into health, and that ties into beauty."
Image via @joshrosebrook
Facial Gua Sha Tool Tricks of the Trade
The Facial Gua Sha tool is an oblong smooth, flat polished stone of jade or rose quartz, with one U-shaped end. "There's no difference in results," says Chiu. "But if you're looking for a certain energy quality, you should consider the qualities of each stone."
Jade is the most highly esteemed stone in China, where it's believed that it blesses anything it touches with grace and beauty and is valued for its protective and healing powers. Rose quartz has feminine energy. It's a heart stone of healing, nourishment, comfort, compassion, peace and unconditional love. If you just want to try it, Chiu says the glassy smooth Facial Gua Sha stones on Amazon are 'good enough,' but does not recommend those made with wood or animal horn. Chiu is working on designing one to ensure quality material as well as improved design. For now, she says Nefeli.com sells probably the highest quality facial gua sha stone — though it's a little more complicated to use.
Image via @pmnaturalskintherapy
The Correct Facial Gua Sha Technique
Gua sha is a meditative practice that releases the fascia and muscles underneath the skin. It's always done in an upward motion to uplift the skin, and always the neck first. "In Chinese medicine, the neck is the gateway to our head."
And that's where we start — the back of the neck, gliding the stone slowly and smoothly starting at the shoulder and sliding up to the base of our skull. Then to the front of the neck, stroking up from our clavicle bone to jaw bone — left side, right side, then gently up the center of our throat.
"Always use one hand to hold the skin taut at the base of the stroke to assist and maximize a smooth stroke. And use some pressure, not too hard and not too light." Chiu says the biggest mistake people make is vigorously sweeping the tool using strong pressure.
"Slow it down, focus, and be one with every single nano millimeter of your skin," Chiu guides us. Be at one with your skin," Chiu guides us. "Facial Gua Sha makes you feel calm, relaxed, and reduces tension. It's very powerful." And it is.
Moving the stone horizontally between two fingers and your thumb is tricky to start, but once you get the hand of it, you almost don't want to stop. If your hand starts to cramp, it means you're not holding the stone correctly — lightly firm but loose.
Image courtesy Nicola Bridges