A Traditional Chinese Medicine technique is being embraced by 21st-century wellness seekers looking to reduce tension, ease stress, and fight aging effects in a more holistic manner. It is known as gua sha, which means to “scrape away illness.” While you may have seen influencers on social media praising its ability to dissipate wrinkles, gua sha's origins involved scraping the whole body.
“Gua sha was originally used for two conditions: the abrupt, immediate, sudden collapse of the body from heat stroke and seasonal diseases, like a cold virus.” says Dr. Ping Zhang, DOM, L.Ac. in a Vogue interview.
Traditional gua sha is drastically different from today’s fresh-faced influencers who glide smooth jade rollers across their glowing faces. However, the benefits of this ancient practice have not changed; self-massage can ease stress and pain in facial muscles caused by jaw clenching or squinting, and it improves the appearance of skin by pressing into acupuncture points that battle aging, wrinkles, and redness.
The Benefits of Gua Sha
In the Chinese Yuan Dynasty era, gua sha utilized ox horn, bian stone, wooden spoons, or whatever was on hand to scrape the skin and “activate blood circulation to dissipate blood stasis,” according to TCM theory. Tiny red dots of blood stasis resembling a bruise are often the result of vigorous scraping, but the result is relief instead of tenderness.
In 2015, Japanese beauty company Shiseido partnered with Osaka University to study the connection between skin and lymphatic vessels and found that skin sagging was a result of reduced functioning of dermal lymphatic vessels. Gua sha can also drain excess lymphatic fluid, which contributes to puffy and dull skin.
“Lymphatic drainage treatments accelerate the absorption and transportation of lymphatic fluids, which contain toxins, bacteria, viruses, and proteins,” certified lymphedema therapist Lisa Levitt Gainsley told Healthline. These treatments can help conditions such as acne and eczema, reduce water retention and swelling, and firm up the skin. A 2007 study that found gua sha improved microcirculation within the treated area of skin during and following treatment.
Choosing a Gua Sha Tool
But which tool is right for your facial treatment? According to Sandra Lanshin Chiu L.A.c. in a TikTok, jade rollers and gua sha stones both relax the nervous system, stimulate blood flow, and improve complexion. Gua sha stones are more effective in stimulating blood flow, releasing muscle tension, shaping and contouring the face, and plumping fine lines and smoothing texture, while jade rollers are easier to use for a facial massage and require no tutorials for people with less time on their hands.
“A jade roller is not going to hit as many energy points with the same accuracy that the gua sha tool can with its curves,” Dr. Zhang said in an interview.
How to Practice Gua Sha at Home
It’s easy to conduct facial self-treatment at home with a roller or gua sha stone. First, wash your face and prepare a moisturizer, serum, or a high-quality CBD oil that allows the tool to glide easily across your skin. Take the tool and gently drag it across your face, starting from the center and moving outwards in one direction only.
Watching tutorials online from licensed TCM practitioners through YouTube or TikTok will help you achieve optimal results without resulting in irritated skin. If you have sensitive skin, visit a professional to receive personalized treatment and tips that can help combat your problem areas.
Pairing facial massage with CBD, whether it’s a facial oil or a digestible gummy, can melt away your stress more effectively to help you achieve a sense of calm and a clear mind.