“The purpose of gua sha is to unblock and restore flow to Qi– or energy– in the body,” Director of Education at THE WELL, Laura Conroy tells ESSENCE. As an ancient technique, gua sha is one of the oldest recorded forms of traditional Chinese medicine. However, gua sha (meaning “scrape away illness”) has seeped into contemporary practices, which makes the traditionally intense body treatment– less so. Today, gua sha is most popular for the face, with crystal-infused tools often used in daily skincare rituals.
But what are the benefits of the technique? “If focusing on the face, it can be used for sculpting, lymphatic drainage, or to reduce fine lines and wrinkles,” Conroy says. In addition, the scraping motion is known to stimulate meridians in the skin– similar to cupping– which allows the body to detox. With more than just aesthetic benefits, gua sha may be your new go-to treatment to rebalance your skin, body, and energy just when you need it most.
Below, Laura Conroy takes us through how to gua sha in just 5 steps.
Before you begin, cleanse and lubricate your face to add slip for the gua sha tool. This will not only reduce your skin from pulling, but allows the tool to glide on your skin.
“The tool should appear almost flat,” she says. But “make sure you use the tool at the right angle. We never want to create ‘sha’ (red dots or purple hue) on the face,” she continues.
“Do not use deep pressure. Less is more,” she continues. “Work upward and drain into the lymph nodes behind the ears and down the neck,” she says.
“Always begin by opening up the lymph nodes and channels in the neck because lymph from your face drains down your neck,” she says. “Bring the tool from the bottom of the neck to the base of the skull three times and then reverse to flush down the neck three times.” Then, “work your way around to the front of the neck in the same way until your entire neck has been addressed,” she continues.
“To address fine lines or wrinkles, use the edge of the tool (or the comb if it has one) and lightly friction the line then flush out with lymphatic movements.”
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