Gua sha is a practice that’s over 700 years old and has it’s roots in traditional Chinese medicine. It essentially involves using a smooth, flat tool on the face and body to release tension and boost circulation…but it’s important to note that it’s also been performed using hands, coins, spoons and whatever tools people had on hand. While at the moment we associate gua sha with skincare, it’s actually been used historically to help relieve tension and muscle pain, boost immunity and circulation, and even treat heatstroke. It’s skin benefits were just a side effect they noticed, and those effects are largely due to the ability gua sha has to support lymphatic drainage.
Lymph is interstitial fluid that collects under the skin, and needs to be flushed into our body’s natural detoxification system. The lymphatic system manufactures and carries white blood cells into the bloodstream, as well as removes cellular waste. But unfortunately, there’s no pump for the lymphatic system like there is for the circulatory system. Meaning that we need to actively work to keep the lymph fluids flowing. Gua sha is an amazing way to move lymph fluids into the lymphatic system. It’s also one of the most effective ways of moving lymph because more than 30% of our lymph nodes (aka lymph filters) are concentrated in the head and neck area.
The list of benefits of gua sha is staggering and the results of this practice speak for themselves. Gua sha can decrease puffiness, release tension, diminish dark circles, brighten complexion, reduce wrinkles, help produce collagen, decrease inflammation, sculpt and contour, improve skin texture and tone, decrease the frequency and intensity of breakouts and even temporarily tighten skin. There are plenty of different tools out there, but our favourites are from Wildling, Lanshin and Jing Well. Look for tools that have varying angles and contours on each edge, so there’s more ways for you to use the tool and fit the different curves and angles of your face. For example, tools that have a U or V shape edge help sculpt the jawline, brow and different areas of the neck.
There are also so many amazing experts that have videos demonstrating different techniques, like the brands we mentioned above as well as @noyskincare on Instagram. But, if you’re wanting to practice at home, always start with clean skin and a facial oil such as the Serum, Youth or Clear, so that you’re hydrated and the tool can easily glide on your skin. Use light to medium pressure with a slow smooth even strokes against your skin, in the direction of lymphatic flow. But get creative and play around with different techniques you see experts doing. You can start with doing it just once a week, then slowly work up to a daily routine once you become more comfortable! Daily use will definitely produce the best results. Gua sha truly is the extra skincare step you never knew you needed, but will have one of the biggest impacts on your skin health.
Julia Gibson is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner, functional foods recipe developer, and write currently based in Toronto. She hopes to inspire and empower others by creating nourishing foods, living a sustainable life, promoting holistic healing and sharing thoughtful writing.
photo by @unknown