28 June 2021

All you ever wanted to know about gua sha

With time, all skin closes its density, firmness, and elasticity. We can’t avoid this process — but we can slow it down! How? One way is gua sha, a kind of self-massage offering a relaxing, firming, and anti-wrinkle effect. It’s one of the best ways to care for your facial muscles … with no need to change into exercise clothes!

Gua sha is a type of massage found in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). You’ve probably heard about this technique at some point — it involves a stone, tile, or roller. But do you know how it can benefit your facial muscles, and even help delay how fast your skin ages? We’ll tell you all about it. At Facegroovin’, gua sha is one of our favorite facial techniques!

Why? Consider the long list of benefits gua sha has to offer: reduced swelling, lymphatic drainage from the face, facial slimming, smoothing of the nasolabial fold, releasing facial tension, relaxing the cheeks and preparing them for further facial exercises, facial lifting, reducing the appearance of jowls, and relaxing the masseter muscles (the latter can significantly impact nighttime teeth-grinding!). Is it any surprise we love gua sha so much?

The origins of gua sha

Gua sha involves scraping, rubbing, or scratching, as the name suggests. It’s a technique based on applying pressure, and working with the muscles, in order to relieve tension in the body. This form of self-massage is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and was originally designed to treat muscle and joint pain. It’s also been used to work with scar tissue, and even to treat the common cold! According to TCM, gua sha aims to improve the flow of chi, or energy in the body — when chi is out of balance, it can lead to tension and pain.

Interestingly enough, the first gua sha massages were performed with animal bones, horns, spoons, or coins — essentially, any hard, everyday item that people had on hand. In its early form, the massage was intended to stimulate a physical reaction by encouraging blood flow to specific areas of the body. In this way, the body would receive “instructions” to regenerate certain places, and to lend them greater “attention.” Cupping therapy works in a similar manner, stimulating the body’s immune response. Today, you can still sign up for a traditionally intense, therapeutic gua sha treatment under the care of a physiotherapist. Unfortunately, it’s not always the most pleasant experience — we’ve tried it ourselves!

Gua sha today — you can do it yourself!

Over the last several years, gua sha has dramatically increased in popularity. This is especially the case when it comes to face care — and we couldn’t be more thrilled about it! Performing gua sha properly and regularly supports firming and builds elasticity, and it also has an anti-wrinkle effect. Applying pressure to our facial muscles in this way improves the flow of lymph fluid, and also helps to drain our tissues. Over time, it can tighten and and oxygenate our skin beautifully, reducing wrinkles and even shrinking our pores. All this in the comfort of your own dwelling — and at very little cost! All it takes is commitment and a little enthusiasm. 🙂

From theory to practice — how to do gua sha

Regular, at-home gua sha self-massage can provide great benefits for your face. You should be able to notice the effects after just one month of doing it on a regular basis — but before you get glowing, it’s important to learn how to do it right.

Stones, tiles, rollers… Drugstores and online shops offer lots of different gua sha options. Choose the tool that suits you best — opt for rounded edges, not sharp ones. Keep it close to your evening face-care products. Eventually, you’ll want to try storing your massager in the fridge — at a cool temperature, it can target swelling more effectively, and this also provides a pleasant, refreshing effect. When you’re just starting out, though, you’ll want to keep it with your other cosmetics — this will make it easier to develop your regular evening massage practice.

Gua sha is best done with a cosmetic product that gives a gentle “glide.” So, first, apply your favorite facial serum, oil, or cream. (If you have oily skin, however, you can work without it!) Start at the neck. You’ll want to apply gentle pressure here. Press the roller or stone against your skin. Then, with a gliding, but steady motion, move it outwards from your collarbone toward the lower jaw and ears. Massage each area several times this way. Feel free to adjust the pressure to your needs and where on your skin you’re working — remember, stronger pressure will provide a better massage, but at the risk of red marks or even bruises. There’s a reason why the “sha” in gua sha literally means “red rash!”

Have you massaged your whole neck? Then it’s time to move on up! Move to your chin next. Place your instrument in the middle of it, apply some pressure, and stroke outward, now toward your ears. Repeat this a dozen times or so, and change sides. Now, you can massage your nose, cheeks, and forehead in the same way — always from the center of your face outward, where your lymph nodes are. Moving the tool correctly helps with swelling. (By the way — if you tend to wake up looking puffy in the mornings, check out our article on lymphatic stagnation here!)

How often should I do gua sha?

Gua sha self-massage only works if you do it regularly. Thankfully, it’s easy and simple enough to do at home! Consider it a kind of workout — aim for at least four times per week, or roughly every other day.Or how does a nightly face massage sound? A daily, five-minute gua sha session is the perfect addition to your evening skincare routine.

In the Facegroovin’ app, our teacher-trainer will suggest several gua sha-based programs — depending on the amount of time you have to invest, as well as what you’d like to work on. Gua sha can also be part of a larger training plan when combined with other exercises. At Facegroovin, we’ll introduce you to the basic techniques of self-massage — and then show you how to master it.


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