Gua sha tools from Lanshin. (Photo: Courtesy of Lanshin)
It’s all over TikTok: gua sha.
In videos that are surging in popularity, people are seen gliding a smooth, stone tool across their faces and then relishing in the outcome. The effects show a range of results, from decreased puffiness to newly chiseled features.
What is gua sha, and why is it on the rise now?
Sandra Lanshin Chiu, a licensed acupuncturist who founded the healing studio Lanshin, believes the pandemic played a part in increased interest surrounding gua sha, a skincare and wellness technique that originates from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The uptick in video calls and Zoom meetings has magnified interest in our faces and skin health.
Chiu also believes it is becoming more popular because some are impressed with the results when they give it a try. And they’re taking to the internet to sing its praises, showing off before-and-afters of their cheekbones, jawlines and neck.
TikTok user @alicia.goonetilleke shared her results, writing, “Seriously can’t believe how well this worked!!”
“Thank God for Chinese medicine,” wrote @harperkaminski, showing off progress photos of her jawline. “I’m in love with my gua sha now.”
Others have been less impressed. User @spacexluvvvx commented, “I’ve done it for months now and doesn’t work someone pls pls help.”
“My gua sha isn’t doing anything and I’ve been using it every day for three weeks now,” wrote @sammrorkeydork.
Either way, people are paying attention to the practice. The hashtag #guasha has been used on TikTok more than 379 million times and Google trends shows a spike in searches last month.
What is gua sha?
Though gua sha has gained popularity in the United States recently, it is a practice that has been used for thousands of years, explains Angela Chau Gray, co-founder of skincare line Yina, which is rooted in TCM.
Gua sha was initially practiced on the body, Gray explains, and it was first used to help with an assortment of ailments, from pain to early onsets of fever and illness.
“‘Gua’ just means scraping and ‘sha’ just means the kind of the redness… that forms,” Gray explains.
Facial gua sha is a technique that was formed out of the body practice and does not aim to create an intense “sha” or redness on the skin.
Chiu describes body gua sha as “more aggressive” and generally only performed by licensed TCM practitioners or in an East Asian family, where as facial gua sha uses a “much gentler, softer touch and can be learned for self-care.”
Gray adds that facial gua sha is being used by a lot of people because of its accessibility.
“I’m very happy that there’s more interest and… that people are aware of this amazing modality that’s been in existence forever,” she says.
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What does gua sha do?
When practiced correctly, Chiu says, facial gua sha “stimulates and improves circulation of blood, fluids, and energy (qi) in the skin and underlying tissue.”
“Improved circulation creates visible changes including but not limited to reduced puffiness, smoother complexion, softened lines, reduced sagging, sculpted and lifted appearance.”
One of her favorite uses for facial gua sha is releasing built up tension and knots in the face, neck and shoulders.
“Many of the benefits are immediate, making it an ideal DIY technique for jaw pain (like TMJ), headaches, seasonal allergies and sinus congestion,” she explains.
For the best results, Gray says consistency is key.
“If you’re consistently doing it, consistently bringing circulation to your skin, you’ll feel the glow,” she says. “(You’ll) feel more vibrant… lustrous and glowy and the skin turnaround will be promoted as well.”
Tips for gua sha beginners
- Prep your skin. “Use a hydrating mist (or alcohol-free toner) followed by a facial oil formulated for your skin type. You need enough to get the necessary glide” Chiu suggests. Gray says to avoid any “dragging or grabbing of the skin.”
- Use slow, gentle strokes and light to medium pressure. “Practicing facial gua sha too hard or fast may result in some “sha” or red marks,” Chiu explains. “Sha isn’t permanent, but it’s not what you’re going for with facial gua sha.”
- Use lateral and upward motions on your face. “I usually hold one side of my face and do half my face at a time and glide the tool in an upward direction,” Gray says.
- Use downward motions in certain areas. “On the side and the back of the neck, go downwards, because that just helps with draining the lymph nodes,” Gray says.
- Avoid chilled tools. “Don’t store your facial gua sha tools in the fridge or freezer,” Chiu says. “In TCM we generally avoid using cold tools on the skin and body because cold constricts circulation.”
- Take advantage of tutorials. Chiu makes YouTube videos for her subscribers on the Lanshin channel filled with tips about gua sha. Yina also offers masterclasses for those looking to learn more about gua sha and other TCM subjects.
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