Gua Sha skincare tool: Hit or miss?

(Image courtesy of Unsplash)

26th February 2021

By Isabelle Dick

When you’re looking at your face in the mirror, wondering if you’re destined to have the dark bags, pigmentation or fine lines forever, considering ‘scraping away the illness’ as a way to change your face’s destiny may not be the first idea that comes to mind.

Surprisingly, skincare gurus and influencers alike have been doing just that to combat these problems! And I promise, it’s not as brutal as it sounds. If you’ve even come across photos of green or pink, stone tools on your favourite models Instagram page, you’ll already know exactly what I’m talking about.

Gua Sha, which translates as ‘scraping away the illness’, is an ancient technique with origins in Chinese medicine. It involves scraping your body with a tool (also called a Gua Sha) in order to treat pain caused by inflammation. The idea behind this is that we have energy, ‘qi’, flowing through our body, which when stagnant can cause inflammation. By taking the Gua Sha to the skins surface, you can re-encourage the flow of this energy and promote healing.

Biologically speaking, the movement results in the breakdown of the thin connective tissue surrounding our organs, blood vessels etc, known as ‘fascia’. It also improves circulation, relieves tension in the muscles and promotes lymphatic drainage. In doing this, space is created, leading to ‘flow’. When the oxygen, lymph, and energy is free to flow again, our skin can start to function again as it should.

By adopting a gentler technique, experts have taken Gua Sha to their faces to reap a whole host of aesthetic benefits, as well as those under the surface benefits previously mentioned. After just one use, you will see an instant ‘lift’ of the face. Continued use will lead to reductions in under-eye discolouration, pigmentation and scarring, and the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. You’ll also retrain your facial muscles, strengthening and toning them, contributing to that youthful, smooth, lifted glow.

However, this technique is not for everyone. It’s recommended that you avoid brushing the tool over inflamed or broken skin, or if you have acne breakouts. Anyone who is prone to broken capillaries should also look for a different method to achieve their at-home face lift (think high ponytail!).

Once checking that these warnings don’t apply to you, and with all the benefits in mind, you are probably thinking that this is something really worth a try. As with any ritual, there is a right and a wrong technique, and in order to really get the amazing benefits, you are going to want to do this right. Fortunately, between YouTube, blog posts and Instagram videos there are so many explanations on how to do this ‘professionally’ out there. You can even search specific techniques to target your specific concerns, for instance Gua Sha to reduce dark eye circles (my personal favourite).

There are also ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ tools to use. Traditionally they are made from jade or rose quartz and you can find them on various websites, with cheaper options on sites like Amazon at around £10 and climbing all the way to £200 on professional sites! The skincare gurus of course recommend the pricier options, but the general rule is to ensure the stone you’re purchasing actually contains the stone that it’s supposed to, and this can be achieved even on the affordable side of the scale.

When it comes to choosing your stone type, consider your purpose for it and the time that you will be using it. It’s said that rose quartz is best if you’re looking to add this to your morning routine as the properties of the stone energise you. On the contrary, if this is going to be an evening ritual, go ahead and choose yourself a gorgeous jade stone, perfect for its balancing properties and for reducing inflammation.

Some key beginner tips to keep in mind when you’re starting out are as follows:

· Always apply an oil or serum. Our skin is so delicate, and we want this tool to glide smoothly along.

· Hold your Gua Sha at a roughly 15-degree angle to your skin. The more of the tool that touches the skin, the more effective the practise is.

· Start at the centre of your face and massage the tool upwards and outwards. When you’re just starting out repeat this motion over the same area 5 times; as you get to know your skin and how it gets used to the process, you can increase to 10 strokes.

- It’s important to only pull upwards and to start again from the centre, rather than dragging up and down.

- To prevent your skin from being dragged or stretched, take your other hand to the starting point and use it as a support.

- Not pressing too hard will also reducing dragging. More firm pressure is required for your neck and jaw, but anywhere else will need a gentler touch.

- As you’re promoting the blood flow, your skin may look flushed afterwards. This is normal and nothing to worry about, however pressing too hard can cause capillaries to burst so just remember to be kind and gentle to your delicate skin.

Now that you’re an expert in the do’s and don’ts, and you’ve got your YouTube videos on hand to help guide you through the techniques, all that’s left to do is to decide how often you’re going to practise this.

There is a debate among the professionals about often to add this to your routine. Some say that 5 minutes morning and night is the perfect amount, others recommend two to five times per week. Truthfully, even once a week is going to be beneficial if you’ve not been practising this at all, but it seems that the majority of people experience the benefits if they use it a few times per week.

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First published in 1965, InQuire is the University of Kent student newspaper.

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