It’s All About That FLOW! Gua Sha: what it is, where it came from, and why you should practice at home!
If you are tapped into the wellness space, chances are you have at least heard of gua sha, maybe you have your own stone, maybe you even use it sometimes! This treatment can be done at home and/or professionally in the spa, or by an acupuncturist. This treatment is super hot right now, but it’s hardly new.
It’s the hottest thing popping up in your Instagram feed, but gua sha did not just appear out of nowhere. While the lifting, contouring, and depuffing facial version is relatively new, gua sha is part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). During the Ming Dynasty, the practice of gua sha was officially entered into the medical text, however, it is thought to have been used much further back than this, records date it back to the paleolithic age.
The FACIAL gua sha of today’s spa treatments is much different from the gua sha of this original Chinese folk medicine. When I tell my clients about gua sha and that it translates to “scraping rash,” after their eyes get big, I laugh and quickly let them know that is not my plan for their face. This is how it has been used for centuries, scraping the skin with horns, spoons, jade, really any tool on hand. This friction created from the scraping promotes fresh new oxygen-rich blood to the area. It is believed in TCM that blood stagnation is pathogenic. This friction promotes healing and recovery for the body. Along with ridding the body of pathogens, gua sha aims to move qi or chi. Qi is the vital life force or energy that we all possess. When qi becomes blocked, pain and stiffness can occur, and as this is moved and balanced, the body returns to homeostasis.
This isn’t too different from the goals I’m working toward in my facial treatments when performing the rhythmic gentle gua sha facial. One of the main goals of gua sha is to break up stagnation. Stagnation of energy or Qi, stagnation of lymph, stagnation of blood, stagnation in the fascia- the connective tissue below the surface of the skin. By doing all of this simultaneously you see dramatic results with depuffing, reduced wrinkle depth, reduction of dark circles under the eyes, improved tone, improved skin texture, lift, and contour. Over time you can see results that include reduction of hyperpigmentation, and reduction of breakouts.
Gua Sha has been called a natural alternative to Botox. I do agree with this, but I think it’s important to be realistic. To have dramatic results, just like with any physical change, whether it’s weight loss, muscle gain, posture realignment, or anything else, it takes time and commitment. One gua sha treatment is not going to yield Botox-like results. Gua sha is more like the opposite of botox, where botox creates stagnation through the paralysis of the muscle, gua sha promotes flow.
If I could give just one piece of skin advice, it would be to massage your face at home regularly. It is in my opinion, the best thing you can do for your skin (aside from eating a healthy diet and living a healthy lifestyle that is)! Facial Gua Sha is an extremely eco-friendly beauty regimen, and I think, the antidote to our modern consumerist views on beauty and the need for more. All you really need is a stone and your favorite oil. Gua sha is a chance to slow down, to really feel your skin, when is the last time you took the time to do that? The ritual of gua sha is slow, repetitive, fluid, meditative. It is a time to connect and check-in with yourself. Additionally, as you are working the stone on your skin, you can get in touch with the tool. This beautiful piece was created by the earth, mined, cut, polished. Hard work went into it. It has a vibration. Not all stones are created equal. It is important to find a stone that is eco and socially conscious, as the world of gemstones has become shrouded in conflict and exploitation of those involved in mining, as well as the earth. (This is the biggest reason I steer those interested in purchasing a gua sha stone away from Amazon.)
One of my reasons for writing this blog post is to give homage to where gua sha came from, I think when we forget about the origins, the history, and the intention, it starts to become appropriation. I am so grateful to those who have used this practice for centuries and grateful for folk medicine such as gua sha. Folk medicine is basically medicine for the people, I love this and the sovereignty it provides. This is just one more way we can take our wellness literally into our own hands.
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Below you will find directions, but also be sure to follow along with me here, and you can shop for your perfect stone here!
Follow the directions below to be sure you are correctly using your stone.
Emily Davis is the owner of Stratum Aesthetics and has been a licensed esthetician since 2007. She is a holistic esthetician specializing in cannabis skin care.