When I was in graduate school studying Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, my friend who grew up in Vietnam, went home for a visit and brought me back a beautiful jade Gua Sha tool. I learned that when my friend was a little girl, she would get a Gua Sha treatment on her neck with a similar type of tool whenever she got sick with a fever. Her grandmother would feel her forehead, look at her tongue, and then forcefully scrape the back of her neck until dark red spots appeared on the skin. These red marks were an indication that the heat and toxins making her sick had been pulled from her body to the surface of the skin, and that she would soon begin feeling better. “Gua” refers to the scraping motion, and “Sha” refers to the toxins being pulled out.
Today I, and many other acupuncturists, use Gua Sha in a similar way to treat painful areas of the body like tight and sore neck and trapezius muscles. Gua Sha therapy relaxes the muscles, improves blood flow to the area, brings toxins to the surface, and relieves pain. Another area in which Gua Sha has become very popular is facial rejuvenation. When used on the face, Gua Sha massage improves blood flow, brings oxygen and nutrients to the skin, and helps reduce inflammation.
Whether you use a Gua Sha tool or just your fingers, facial massage has a couple of key benefits. 1) When you massage the muscles in your face, it reduces tension and improves muscle tone. You get a tightening and smoothing effect between your brows, around your eyes and lips, and along your jawline. 2) When you massage the lymph nodes under the ears and along the neck, you encourage movement of lymph fluids and drainage of toxins, which can reduce puffiness. Unlike muscles in your body, which are attached to bone, the muscles in your face are attached to the skin, so when you massage and strengthen these muscles, your skin benefits; strong muscles won’t sag as much and the skin will appear healthy and resilient.
A facial massage at home can be a nice addition to your self-care routine, to make you feel better and improve the health of your skin. All you need is an inexpensive facial Gua Sha tool (there are many jade and quartz tools on the market), and you can follow these steps for your at-home facial massage:
- Cleanse your skin and remove all makeup.
- Rub an oil or oil-based serum into your skin before you begin, like Vitamin C or E oil, coconut oil, or jojoba oil.
- Activate the lymphatic system with the tips of your fingers by massaging the area under your ears and along the sides of your neck in a circular, downward motion.
- Gently but firmly move the Gua Sha tool along the skin in 3 areas:
- Using the indented side of the Gua Sha tool, move it along your jaw from your chin up to your ears 10 times on each side.
- Using the curved side of the tool, move it under your cheek bone from your nose up to your temples 10 times on each side.
- Using the flat side of the tool, move it from the top of each eyebrow and between your brows to the top of your forehead 10 times in each area.
We hope you enjoy the benefits of this simple at-home practice to benefit your skin, and we hope you continue to get acupuncture to improve your overall health!
Kathy Schoenberger, L.Ac., MSOM