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Putting gua sha to the test: We go all in

RW Rachel V Wall

Gua sha is a type of facial massage, with a flat sculpted tool, widely practiced in ancient Chinese medicine. It was traditionally used to treat chronic pain and heat stroke but, today, we’re drawn to tantalising promises that it can improve the firmness of skin, lessen the appearance of wrinkles and leave our faces glowing.

One facialist informed me that using tools to alleviate pain dates back to the Stone Age, but the practice of gua sha is having a trendy 21st-century comeback and a multitude of brands are releasing their version of the traditional tool.  Gua sha (pronounced gwahshah) describes a type of facial scraping – stick with me – using a tool traditionally made from jade or rose quartz. The technique calls for strokes across the face and neck and activates lymphatic drainage to reduce the body's toxins.

Think of gua sha as a workout for your face

Not only is this process believed to help move qi (life-force energy) around the body, preventing any blockages and the build-up of pain, it’s also said to offer a host of aesthetic benefits as it sculpts, lifts and tones skin to give a glowing, healthier appearance. Think of gua sha as a workout for your face. Using the tool is proven to improve circulation by up to 400%, which in turn boosts collagen, elastin and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. 

But it’s not all vanity. There’s also a body of research showing gua sha’s effectiveness in treating migraines, menopausal symptoms, persistent skin conditions and reducing neck and back pain. 

In 2017, a study published in The Traditional Journal of Chinese Medicine, recommended the regular practice of gua sha as an alternative recovery method after weight-training. The team behind the results think the process is driven by the additional blood flow and oxygen that gua sha encourages.

While there are a number of different massaging techniques, it’s recommended to follow the advice of a gua sha practitioner rather than going rogue. Also note that if you are menstruating, pregnant or suffer from rosacea, it isn't recommended to practice gua sha. Similarly, anyone undergoing chemotherapy should refrain from using their jade 48 hours before and 24 hours after treatment. 

I immersed myself in the world of gua sha with the help of the Hayo’u: Beauty Restorer Jade, a facial massage tool that promises “ancient wisdom for modern life”. Jade is a popular stone for gua sha tools –  it has a distinguished reputation as a healing crystal – and it doesn’t hurt that it is very aesthetically pleasing. 

The potential to relax my facial muscles reeled me in

Although the skin-boosting benefits of this practice are very attractive, it was the potential to relax my facial muscles that reeled me in. As a long-term tooth-grinder, I was seduced by claims that gua sha could ease my chronic jaw pain by adding this quick fix to my daily routine and, soon, I could yawn without fear of getting stuck that way. 

So I fully invested in cleansing my stone and then stored it in the fridge, ready for its premiere use. I applied facial oil and followed the Hayo’u video tutorial diligently. Admittedly, by this point, I was getting a little sore and a lot red, aka I was getting the hang of it. One session down and the sweet relief of facial relaxation was already setting in – my head felt lighter, my eyes looked bigger and my brow unfurled for the first time in six months. 

One month later I spent the night away and was already so devoted to my jade facial massager that I considered it equal in packing importance to my phone charger. I committed to using mine after my morning shower, when I sat down to work, and in the evening, and, thanks to some hideous 'before' photos, there was a marked improvement in the appearance of my skin. My general pallor was turning brighter and my under-eye bags were retreating. 

My verdict is that practising gua sha is ten minutes a day well spent. Whether it’s muscle tension or puffy eyes that need showing the door, the answer could be a perfectly polished crystal.  

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Putting gua sha to the test: We go all in

RW Rachel V Wall

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