welcome to a guest blog post that I'm delighted to bring to you - an introduction to gua sha with Sara, the founder of Silver Bough Studio. Sara is an acupuncturist and holistic facialist with a real focus on Traditional Chinese Medicine.
She views skin care and self-care holistically - considering the full picture of an individuals health, not a one-size-fits-all treatment. Gua Sha features in both Sara's cosmetic acupuncture and facial treatments, so as someone who has practiced on hundreds of faces, I was keen for Sara to share her thoughts and her protocol.
Sara shares a wealth of knowledge on Traditional Chinese Medicine, skincare, hormone/ menstrual health and much more on her instagram page - a really valuable follow.
You can book a treatment with Sara every Thursday at Skynn London via their website or the link in her instagram bio. sara has kindly shared a discount code - use code "palmofferonia" for 10% off all facial treatments until 31st august 2022.
Recently, the practice of Gua Sha has taken over the skin care and wellness industries. This technique has been used in traditional Chinese medicine practice for centuries, but unsurprisingly, these roots and its cultural significance are being lost as it gains popularity.
What is Gua Sha?
Gua Sha can be roughly translated as “scrape” and “sand”. “Sand” in this case refers to the red, sand-like bruising it is intended to leave, called petechiae. This bruising is painless, at the uppermost levels of the skin. It is a sign of old, stagnated blood being released from areas of tension and pain in the muscles. Creating this “Sha” is the intention when treating the body, and can be used diagnostically to see where the issue lies under the skin. Often practiced with a spoon or the lid of a jar, you should be able to hear the scraping of the skin with this method.
So, why don’t we see this bruising on the face? Well, recent practice of facial Gua Sha has an entirely different approach, that is much more gentle. Tools with a smooth, curved edge are used to glide across the skin, not scrape. The intention is to increase fresh blood flow and rejuvenate the skin.
Fundamentals of Facial Gua Sha
You may have heard terms associated with Gua Sha, like lifting, sculpting, draining, defining… as the beauty industry re-packages it as a new trend, akin to Botox. Now, you may see these kind of benefits from your practise with committed use, but the aim should not be to drastically change your appearance. It’s really as simple as this: Gua Sha moves Qi and Blood.
That should be your intention; the healthy free-flow of Qi, and fresh, skin-nourishing Blood.
There are 4 main things to remember when practising facial Gua Sha massage:
- Pressure - Use very light pressure to avoid petechiae, and broken capillaries in areas of delicate skin. Especially around the eyes, apples of the cheeks, and forehead. Slightly firmer pressure can be used to target tight muscles of the jaw and neck.
- Angle - The tool should be less than 45 degrees on the skin, as flat as possible. The idea is to gently press the top layers of skin together as you glide across, creating a vacuum effect as they refill with fresh blood. A 90 degree angle is more likely to create bruising.
- Glide - Always use a face oil or moisturiser so the tool has some slip. As the increase in blood-flow will aid product penetration into the skin, this is best as the last step in your skin care routine.
- Temperature - The intention of Gua Sha is to move, so it requires warmth. Warm your tools in your hands or a glass of warm water before using them on your face. Cold tools cause stagnation of Qi and Blood - the only time this may be applicable is around red and inflamed spots or rosacea. In this case, just gently hold the tool flat against the area to draw out the heat.
Depending on the shape of your tool, there may be a multitude of ways you can use it on different areas of the face. This can be fun to play around with, but not necessary. I often recommend starting with a soup spoon (use the curved side flat on the skin) to see if the practise is right for you.
It’s simple, really. Start from the midpoint of the neck, and work upwards and outwards. Always aiming through the temples towards the top of the head. If your skin is pulling and stretching, use a little more oil or stabilise it with your other hand. One side at a time, slowly. Maintain good posture, don’t let the shoulders roll inwards. This is your base and from here you can target areas like the jaw, eye area or brows, by spending a little more time on them. That’s it!
Afterwards, remember to drink lots of warm water and keep your neck warm with a scarf or jumper. Wash your Gua Sha tool with soap and water after every use!
Finally, remember that facial massage and Gua Sha offer a special moment of self-care, and should come from a place of self-love and devotion. Move mindfully, remember it’s a full body practise. Set your intention on the free-flow of Qi and Blood for inner radiance. Visualise this as a golden ball of light. Take this time to quiet the mind and align the breath. With crystal tools, connect to the powers of the crystal. Explore and have fun!