A few months ago I took a wonderful course that was called “Japanese Facial Massage and Acupuncture”. I had a blast in the course – learning new massage techniques, finding out about new acupressure points on the face, and discovering how to use gua sha and a jade roller to help my clients’ skin. Some of my readers may have heard of gua sha and/or have seen pictures of red, bruised backs (or other body parts) that were treated with this Traditional Chinese Medicine healing technique and are already wondering just how this relates to the skin and to facials. It turns out that gua sha is wonderful for stimulating blood flow and lymph drainage in the face. But before I get into all those details let me first explain what gua sha actually is.
Gua sha is an ancient healing technique used by many clinicians of TCM. In this procedure, a lubricating medium, such as massage oil, is applied to the skin of the area to be treated. A smooth-edged instrument is used by the acupuncturist to apply short or long strokes on the skin, typically in the area of pain or on the back parallel to the spine. This stroking motion creates raised redness (petechiae) or bruising (ecchymosis).
Pain, both acute and chronic, is the most common indication for gua sha. In the TCM tradition, pain is oftentimes caused by the stagnation of blood in the local area of discomfort. The guiding principle behind gua sha is that this technique has the ability to break up stagnation, to promote the smooth flow of blood in the area, thereby relieving pain.
While gua sha is most commonly used to treat pain, it can also be utilized by TCM clinicians to address conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, colds, flu, fever, heatstroke, fibromyalgia, strains, sprains, and muscle spasms.
There are several theories that may explain why this ancient technique works: gua sha increases blood flow (microcirculation) in the soft tissue, potentially stimulates the body’s natural pain-relieving opioid systems, and it may block the pain response pathways so you feel pain relief.
But how does this work with facials and skincare since you definitely don’t want to bruise the skin or cause long- lasting redness? When it comes to facials and treating the skin gua sha is modified and the esthetician is much less aggressive when rubbing the skin. While you still want the skin to get red you don’t want to leave marks that can last for days. During a facial gua sha actually feels nice as the tools gently glide across your face after the esthetician applies a cream or oil. Gua sha is used during a facial to increase blood flow to the face and to move lymph. In order to do both of these things there is no need to be aggressive. I was even taught in the course I took to gently rub wrinkles and lines with the gua sha tools in order to stimulate collagen synthesis in those areas. Following the gua sha treatment the esthetician can gently roll a jade roller all over the face in order to calm the skin. Jade helps to soothe the skin.
You don’t need to wait to have a facial in order to benefit from gua sha. If you have the tools you can do gua sha on your face for about 10 minutes a day if you want in order to enjoy the benefits of this traditional treatment.
Resources and Further Reading:
- Integrating Eastern Techniques from ASCP Skin Deep. Be sure to watch the video of how gua sha is performed during a facial
- Benefits of Gua Sha – Beauty from Within
Image from http://www.buychinaherb.com