What if you could get a firmer, smoother, more youthful complexion by massaging your face? Sounds like a pretty good deal, doesn’t it? And facial gua sha treatments promise just that.
Gua sha – pronounced “gwa sha” – is a traditional Chinese medicine practice that’s been used for years as a health remedy. And now, gua sha massages are springing up as a way to refresh the face. Proponents of the gua sha facials say its effects can increase firmness, add definition, and reduce skin dryness and breakouts.1
What Is Gua Sha Massage?
Gua sha treatments utilize a small, flat-edged instrument to massage the skin.The tool may can be made of a variety of smooth materials, like wood, jade, or rose quartz.
The gua sha tool is massaged into the skin, leaving small, reddish bruises. But the bruises and redness are all part of the practice: practitioners interpret them as evidence of toxicity in the body.2
Yes, it sounds a little off-putting – but don’t worry, gua sha performed on the face tends to be gentle.
Performed on the body, the massages are meant to do several things:
- Free up blood circulation
- Relieve muscle stiffness
- Reduce irritation
- Boost the immune system.3
And there does seem to be evidence that gua sha treatments have some real, positive effect. A study performed in 2011 showed that people struggling with neck pain experienced a temporary reduction in symptoms.4
And a very recent study – done in 2017 – showed that elderly patients exhibiting lower back pain experienced improved mobility and a decrease in irritation.5
Gua Sha For The Complexion
Gua sha treatments performed on the face are much gentler than treatments performed on the body. In fact, they shouldn’t leave bruising of any kind. The gua sha tool isn’t massaged into the face. Instead, it’s gently swiped across the surface of the skin in short or long strokes. The strokes are done in a specific pattern across the face to achieve the desired results.
But, does gua sha give the face a lift?
So far, evidence for gua sha facial treatments is mainly anecdotal. Many people swear by the treatments as a way to get a more chiseled look, while decreasing puffiness around the eyes, increasing skin hydration, and reducing the number of breakouts.6, 7
One of the most popular theories of why gua sha may give the skin a refreshed look is the drainage of excess lymph fluid. If the fluid builds up too much, skin problems may result.8 What’s lymph? It’s a fluid that exists naturally in the body and it’s made up of white blood cells, proteins, and fats.9 Lymph fluid is part of the larger lymphatic system, which plays an important role in your immune function and helps rid your body of toxins and waste. 10
Practitioners of gua sha theorize that the pressure applied during the massage releases tension in the muscles and connective tissue. And when tension is relieved there, it encourages the drainage of this excess lymph fluid. This release of tension also helps smooth the skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Practitioners (and clients!) say that skin looks immediately smoother after a treatment.11
As for scientific evidence, gua sha massages do increase blood circulation to the areas on which the treatments are performed.12This increase in blood circulation may be beneficial to the skin. Like any part of your body, the skin needs a steady supply of blood to stay in optimal condition. Blood transports nutrients and oxygen to cells, and transports toxins and waste away from cells.13
The Benefits of Relaxation
And certainly, massages are relaxing. And a relaxed disposition is great for the skin.
And did you know that stress actually affects your DNA? DNA are strands of molecules found in your body’s cells. They instruct your body on how to grow, develop, and function. And at the end of each strand of DNA are protective casings called “telomeres.”
Now, every time a cell divides, it loses some of its telomeres. Normally, your body can regenerate telomeres. But chronic stress and elevated stress hormones interfere with the process. And when those protective telomeres aren’t replaced, it can lead to cell death or irritation. This can accelerate the aging process.14
So, if you’re one of the many people who find massages and facials to be relaxing, then, yes – a gua sha facial massage may have some noticeable benefits on your complexion.
Of course, it’s best to visit an experienced, licensed traditional Chinese medicine practitioner who knows what they’re doing. They can evaluate your skin, and – if appropriate – teach you how to do the procedure yourself.
A Massage For Your Complexion
Facial gua sha treatments are still in an experimental phase. Will its popularity last the way acupuncture and other traditional Chinese medicine practices have? Only time will tell. In the meantime, consider giving it a try – a little relaxation never hurt anyone.