How To Gua Sha
An expert shares her tips on how to practice this ancient beauty technique at home.
For centuries, traditional Chinese Medicine has used gua sha to improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and promote the flow of energy. More recently however, the practice has been adopted by natural beauty adherents, thanks to its ability to chisel out cheekbones and a sculpted jawline, instantly de-puff and brighten the skin, and even treat modern skincare concerns like tech neck. Gua sha literally means ‘scrape sand’. In practice, gua sha involves massaging the face and body with a smooth, often heart shaped tool made from semi-precious stones such as jade or quartz to stimulate blood circulation in the skin, ease muscle tension, and promote lymphatic drainage.
To learn more about the benefits of gua sha and how to incorporate this transformative treatment into our at-home beauty routine, we turned to Los Angeles-based shamanic facialist and author of the book Gua Sha & Crystal Massage: Techniques for Healthy, Clear, and Glowing Skin, Julie Civiello Polier. “I love weaving in gua sha massage with a facial oil or balm near the end of a treatment because the effects are harmonizing and relaxing,” says Polier, whose devotees include Miranda Kerr, Christy Turlington-Burns, and Kate Hudson. “The techniques and massage patterns of gua sha soothe the skin on so many layers, so if a client receives extractions and has the appearance of red, irritated bee stings, the gua sha assists the inflammation to completely calm. Even if an exfoliating mask brought a lot to the skin's surface, applying loving and gentle gua sha afterwards brings the skin back to homeostasis so the client can leave the facial room radiant and luminous.”
What are the benefits of Gua Sha?
While incorporating any form of massage into your daily routine can provide a much needed moment of relaxing self-care, this non-invasive facial treatment has a host of gamechanging skin health benefits. By stimulating the lymphatic and circulatory systems, gua sha can help increase collagen production, brighten the skin, and drain excess fluid in the face that causes puffiness. In addition, the action promotes muscle tone through the delivery of oxygen, which in turn creates a tightened and toned effect. Finally the practice has an exfoliating effect, sweeping away dead and dry skin cells to reveal healthier glowing skin. Polier adds, “Gua sha contours and lifts the face, and it improves circulation, which is the nutrient-dense blood that feeds the cells, skin, all organs, and systems. It aids the lymphatic system, which cleanses and eliminates toxins at the cellular level; rids inflammation and gray pallor in the skin tone, and releases tension from the muscles for a relaxed visage and flexible neck.”
How to pick a Gua Sha tool
A gua sha stone should always be made from a high-quality, pure, natural stone known for its healing and protective properties, ability to rebalance chakras, and harmonize the flow of vital energy. When choosing a stone you might also want to take into account your emotional needs and your skin type. Jade, for example, is known for its ability to promote relaxation, calmness, and balance, while Rose Quartz is associated with promoting self-love, healing, and reducing inflammation. Obsidian is a protective stone, known for its ability to block, absorb, and transform negative energy. Polier believes that selecting your facial massage tools should also be an intuitive process. “Choosing a gua sha stone can be such a personal preference, and I encourage one to lean into whichever they're drawn to first,” she says.
Gua sha stones also come in different shapes such as heart-shaped, teardrop-shaped, and rectangular, each designed to target specific areas of the face or body and provide unique benefits during the massage. Polier favors a stone with a toothed edge for its ability to “comb” through and even dissolve wrinkles, which are caused by patterns in the fascia or collagen matrix. “These combs help to lovingly break up scar tissue and allow for more movement in the skin, so the wrinkles don't dig deeper and deeper,” she explains. “We want movement in the muscles and layers so the fluids can bring the nutrients as well as flush the toxins.”
How to gua sha at home
When it comes to incorporating gua sha into your skincare routine, Polier says consistency is key, and it’s about quality over quantity. “I would rather you do a little bit of calm, quality massage a few times a week than massage for an hour and then take a month off,” she says. “But the truth is, you cannot do anything wrong. You will not ruin your face simply by intuitively moving a tool around on your skin.” She also recommends taking before and after photos so you can see the effects. “A fun experiment is to take a selfie in good lighting (facing a window) and then take another after two weeks of commiting to a consistent practice of loving and gentle massage. Watch your face transform into a glowier, healthier version.”
Below, Polier’s tips for creating a transformative gua sha practice at home:
Tip No. 1
"I love adding in gua sha massage just after I've massaged facial oil in my routine. After cleansing, it can feel lovely to layer a serum or two, maybe one with Hyaluronic Acid if you're needing more hydration, then slowly massage all of the treatment products and facial oil deeper into the skin with the gua sha stone. The loving press of the stone and your massage will help your skin to drink in the beneficial ingredients of the skincare you're using on a deeper level, rather than sitting on the skin's surface."
Tip No. 2
"Activating your breath can be a lovely way to round out your gua sha practice. With your inhale, you're visualizing all the feelings and goodness you're inviting into your life, as if your lungs are vacuuming joy, ease, fun, connection, abundance, into your very being. With your exhale, you are actively releasing anything you no longer wish to harbor within you or around you: fear, anxiety, scarcity, doubt, shame. This practice becomes a very active movement meditation and can really cleanse the emotional body as well as nurture the physical body."
Tip No. 3
"It is incredibly important to hydrate when incorporating facial massage into your routine. Drinking plenty of water will help your body to flush the toxins moved by the gua sha while also ensuring your skin be left with a bouncy glow."
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