Facial Guasha 101

By Barbara Poczyniak, R.Ac

min read

You probably know Gua Sha as the Traditional Chinese Medicine ‘skin scraping’ therapy. It quickly relieves muscle aches and typically leaves (temporary) red marks on the body.

What is Facial Gua Sha?

How is gua sha a completely different approach to skin care? This “new” skincare technique is not so new after all.  It is one of the bodywork modalities used in Traditional East Asian Medicine.

Here is a brief overview of gentle, non-irritating Facial Gua Sha. Discover how it works for almost any skin type and issue.

The way gua sha massage is used on the face is a very different approach to how it is used on the body.  Remember, the popular Chinese term for gua sha on the body is “skin scraping”. But this is NEVER what we want to hear about in facial skin care.

On the body, we use firm strokes of the traditional gua sha tools – in order to relieve muscle congestion and release toxins. But on the face, we use much gentler, flatter strokes. Moving the lymphatic fluid and increasing the natural circulation of blood and energy to the complexion. The aim of Facial Gua sha is to gently massage the skin.  Done correctly, it should never be pressed hard enough to leave a mark on the skin.

How does Facial Gua Sha work?

Facial Gua Sha works to help massage and stimulate the tissues of the face. While this may mean moving congestion or visible puffiness, it is also a way to naturally detoxify and clarify skin.  For this, it uses the body’s own lymphatic system. 

Lymphatic fluid does not respond to deep, harsh manipulation of the skin. It is important to use the correct tool, at the right pressure and only with gentle strokes. Correct Facial Gua Sha techniques can safely bring a rosy, natural glow to the skin while also helping to naturally refine skin texture.

A Non-needle Method to Rejuvenate the Skin

This traditional massage is often combined with Facial Acupuncture as part of a comprehensive professional treatment. It can also have a noticeable effect if used on its own. Traditional Gua Sha tools are made of cooling jade, and usually have smooth flat edges as well as gently rounded corners. Skin is smoothed with the flat surface and acupuncture points can be gently stimulated with the rounded corners.  It works like an acupressure massage. This can help to increase blood circulation, and the method is easy enough to use at home on a daily basis.

What to Expect with a Facial Gua Sha Treatment

  • Skin should be clean prior to massage. If coming in for a treatment it is best to avoid makeup. (Although eye makeup is not disturbed during the treatment).

  • A light oil or massage gel will be used on the skin. This is in order to provide glide, so that skin does not tug during the treatment.

  • Lymphatic fluid of the face “drains” into the area right above each collarbone. We always start the gua sha massage by “opening up” these areas with gentle massage. This helps the lymphatic fluid drain more efficiently from areas around the face.

  • Strokes are done starting from the centre of the face, working along the contours of the jaw and cheekbones. Long sweeps towards the hairline help encourage puffiness and congestion to move towards the lymph pathways.

  • Gua sha and acupuncture are also done on the scalp – gently activating points along the hairline, jaw and brow bone.  This can also help alleviate tension in the scalp, face and neck. Most people don’t realize how tense their scalp can be until they receive a relaxing, releasing scalp massage. 

  • After your Facial Gua Sha Treatment: remember to hydrate! Especially in summer months – it is important to arrive well hydrated, as well as replenish fluid after treatment.

Expect to have fresher, smoother looking skin after even one treatment. For most people it is recommended to have a number of professional visits to see more lasting results.

Who should avoid Facial Gua Sha

This type of treatment is suitable for most age ranges and skin types, however in certain cases it should be avoided. 

Do not book a treatment if you currently have:

  • inflamed skin (such as acne, rash or hives)
  • open cuts or injuries on the skin
  • a sunburn on the face
  • an active skin infection anywhere on the face (such as a cold sore)

For clients who are also using fillers or injectables such as Botox – we generally recommend waiting until the filler has worn off before attempting a full facial gua sha session.  Spot treatments may still be done in areas of the face that are not directly affected by the injectable.

What’s next?

Curious about Facial Gua Sha and how it can help your skin? I offer this as part of my Facial Rejuvenation Treatment, which can combine Gua Sha and acupuncture or remain needle free. Get a free 15 minute consult to see if this type of treatment is for you.

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cosmetic acupuncture, facial gua sha, facial rejuvenation, gua sha

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