By: Melissa Cugliari
Gua Sha is a type of massage used in Chinese Medicine to detoxify the system. Traditionally, Gua Sha massage is done over the body— most commonly to the back, shoulders and limbs. The massage is done using a tool made from wood or natural stone that has been lubricated with oil. “Gua” means scrape and “Sha” refers to redness of the skin, the desired reaction from this type of massage. Most individuals experience bruising, the severity of which is said to indicate how ‘toxic’ or ‘stagnant’ your system was at the time of massage. Ancient Chinese beauty rituals apply this type of massage over the face in a much gentler fashion with the goal of promoting healthy complexion and radiance.
Facial Gua Sha is a technique typically paired with cosmetic acupuncture and involves the above mentioned massage tools, more typically a natural stone like jade, which is said to have healing properties. The oils selected are meant to promote healthy cellular turnover, hydration, and tone the skin; organic jojoba oil is a personal favourite because it is gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin types. Stroke type, direction and pressure are selected specifically based on the underlying anatomy of the face and are meant to promote circulation of blood and lymph, and tone the skin by working the underlying musculature. Facial Gua Sha softens fine lines, decreases puffiness, heals and prevents breakouts, and ultimately gives the skin a more refreshed appearance. Bruising and redness are very rare when this massage is done appropriately.
The two main systems Gua Sha massage targets are the circulatory system and musculoskeletal system. When gliding the Gua Sha tool across the face and down the neck with specific strokes and with light pressure (using sufficient oil to ensure there is no pulling of the skin, but also not enough for the tool to slide), the circulatory system is targeted; blood circulation is stimulated as well as the circulation of lymphatic fluid. When we stimulate our vasculature, fresh blood rushes to the tissues; fresh blood is rich in oxygen and nutrients, and nourishes the skin and improves its luster. The lymphatic system, a subset of the circulatory system, consists of vessels that carry clear fluid containing white blood cells - an integral part of our immune system and healing response. While our blood has the heart constantly pumping it through our bodies, the lymphatic system does not have a pump; because of this, manual ‘pumping’ is tremendously important to maintain optimal lymph circulation. When we do not stimulate its circulation, we begin to see swelling and puffiness over the body and face; if left for long enough, we will see the effects of this congestion in the form of impaired healing times, breakouts, and discolouration to the skin. Some individuals are more predisposed to this than others but by stimulating the circulation of lymph, we will all see benefit in terms of less puffiness, improved healing times, fewer breakouts and less congestion.
Gua sha is also excellent at working the musculoskeletal system by targeting the muscles and tendons that live just under the skin. When we don’t work this system in the face regularly, tension may build which can pull the skin in various ways, giving the appearance of sagging, tired, or aged skin. By applying moderate to deep pressure using various stroke techniques in strategic areas we can relax and tonify muscles, giving the skin a more relaxed, lifted and refreshed appearance.
When used regularly, Gua Sha is a great way to naturally promote healthy complexion now and through the lifespan. It is also incredibly relaxing and a great way to incorporate some meditative self-care into your daily beauty routine.