Face rolling vs. Gua Sha : The benefits of Gua Sha Massage
Similar to face rolling, Gua Sha is a practice of scraping the skin to improve circulation and move lymph. The main differnece between the two truly comes down to preference. Where face rollers may be quick and convenient they are not ideal for use on larger areas of the body. Gua Sha tools can create a more intuitive process allowing the user to really get into the experience. You can go deeper with the tool and expand your practice of self care. I like using the wood tool for accessing pressure points as well as scraping.
What is Gua Sha?
Translated, gua means press or stroke, and sha refers to a rash or redness though a lighter touch is used on the face. This is THE at home tool for firmer, glowing skin. Practiced for centuries this ancient modality is seeing a resurgence in popularity as many folks are discovering its benefits.
What are the benefits of Gua Sha?
Predating acupuncture, Gua Sha treatment massages the skin, moves energy, blood and lymph. It awakens the meridian lines (body’s life force pathways) assisting the body’s own healing capabilities. It increases circulation, by up to 400 percent, which moves out stagnation and toxins and brings in nutrients and oxygen. Your skin will immediately be more supple and rejuvenated. You are also creating a controlled trauma (the skin redness) which the skin starts to repair with collagen.
Gua sha may also reduce inflammation so it is often used to address chronic pain ailments like arthritis and fibromyalgia. It is beneficial for joint and muscle issues as well including back pain, tendon strain and carpal tunnel.
Using the gua sha tool on the head and scalp can boost hair growth and skin health. This is also deeply relaxing and can contribute to an amazing night’s sleep.
How is Gua Sha performed?
It is practiced by using a tool and stroking or scraping the skin with long strokes and enough pressure to create petechiae or Sha. It is done gently on the skin of the face and vigorously on the body.
In traditional Chinese medicine the aim of Gua Sha is to balance qi or chi (the energy that moves through the body). When the chi is blocked it can cause pain or tension in the muscles and joints. Gua sha aims to move this blocked energy to relieve aches or stiffness.
Traditional East Asian medicine also views blood stasis or stagnation as a cause of pain and illness. Gua Sha can help break down scar tissue and relax connective tissue for better circulation and movement of body fluids.
Hold the tool flat to the skin, under the eyes or over any redness, to soothe and de-puff. Then use the curved side and work it over the skin, always taking short strokes in just one direction, not back and forth. Use strokes down the neck towards the lymphatic drains (not upwards like beauticians do), working in small horizontal strokes over the brows and pressing between the eyebrows to release tension. If you want to drain puffiness, work lightly, then more firmly to relax muscles. Your skin may look flushed after, but, like post-workout redness, this just shows a boost in circulation.
For body, work in sets of around six strokes in one direction to release tight connective tissue (ideal for cellulite and firming skin). This technique can be modified to suit individual preference and I find it easier than dry brushing.
How often Should you Gua Sha?
If you are looking to add a simple component into your healthy lifestyle routine, you can perform gua sha anywhere from once a week to daily. Gau sha can be practiced daily a part of your self-care routine. In the morning a firmer more invigorating stroke can be used to awaken and increase circulation in the skin. In the evening a gentler more massage like style can be used to promote relaxation and prepare for sleep.
If you are wanting to use Gua Sha to promote firmer, plumper skin and diminished wrinkles around the face, neck or jawline, then nearly every day would be ideal.
Consistency is key here. Results will come from a balanced routine approach. Nourishing the body is an ongoing process, we feed ourselves healthy food, exercise and practice good sleep habits. Likewise the most benefits from gua sha will be seen with repeated, routine practice.
Try to approach the practice of gua sha with some sacredness, this isn’t another to-do on your list. This is a chance to focus on your body, creating a time for self-care. Even if it is just a few minutes, take this time to set intentions and practice loving kindness towards yourself. With each stroke send loving energy into the body, thanking it for carrying you through this life.
Which Material or Stone is best for Gua Sha?
There are many tools available on the market and they are made from a variety of materials inculing brass, copper, wood and stones. Ceramic spoons were the original Gua Sha tools. Personally I love using my wooden tool with oil. It is lightweight and easy to use. The grounded calming energy from the wood makes a wonderful complement to the energetic stroking. Wooden tools are ideal for personal, home use. My tools are crafted from cherry and walnut wood by a local woodworker. They a smooth with plenty of small angles to use on the face or large sides to scrape the body.
How To Perform Gua Sha:
- You can use a gua sha on the face, body and scalp, and it’s best to use with water or an oil – but never on bare skin.
- Hold the gua sha tool with the curved side to your face and glide it gently up and out, starting with the neck, jawline, chin and around the mouth, between three and five times per area. Always take short strokes in just one direction, not back and forth.
- Next, press the tool flat to the skin, under the eyes or over any redness, to soothe and de-puff.
- Work the tool in small horizontal strokes over the brow bone to lift, or hold and press upwards between the brows to release tension.
- Stroke down the neck, never upwards, to drain fluid.
- If you want to reduce puffiness, work lightly, then more firmly, to relax muscles
Get the Gua Sha + Rivers Kit here
For more information check out the some of these resources:
a quick guide to types of Gua Sha tools