The “Eastern Face Lift”

facial gua sha

After interviewing, Maria Vallella, co-founder and acupuncture specialist at Elysia Life Care, on her practice’s facial acupuncture program (read here), she gave me a Gua Sha to take home; a flat, horn shaped, jade tool they incorporate in their program and give to all their facial acupuncture clients. She instructed me to apply face oil and then use the Gua Sha in sweeping upward and out motions across my face nightly for anti-aging benefits. I happily accepted it, as I’m always up for trying new skin care products. Though, in the case of the Gua Sha, not really “new,” more like centuries old.

The practice of Gua Sha comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine and dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) when they used jade stones to scrape the skin all over the body to treat diseases. This process is believed to stimulate blood circulation to the muscles, tissues and organs; detoxing the body of stagnate “qi” reducing stiffness, pain and increasing mobility (Singapore TCM College).

While some may view Gua Sha as folk medicine, western scientific studies done by Harvard University and the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, have showed Gua Sha to show significant improvements in decreasing pain and increasing microcirculation. Arya Nielsen, director of acupuncture in the Department of Integrative Medicine at the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, explains on her website that by scraping the skin, minor hemorrhages from broken blood vessels appear. This creates an anti-inflammatory response stimulating the immune system to alleviate conditions in the body.

Though the treatment does not hurt, and in fact can be very relaxing, the skin post therapy can appear alarming to those unfamiliar with the treatment.

gua sha - body

The practice of Gua Sha facial (much gentler than the body therapy and does not cause redness) has recently become more popular. Many have dubbed it the “Eastern Face Lift” or “Eastern Botox,” for it’s abilities to smooth fine lines and wrinkles, plump, tighten and rejuvenate skin; even decrease dark under-eye circles and puffiness.

Similar to body gua sha, the gua sha facial application stimulates blood circulation and detoxification, while relaxing tense muscles that cause wrinkles to form.

After using my Gua Sha every night for 10-15 minutes, I have noticed my skin looking smoother and plumper. My nightstand has a bevy of skin care products (body lotions, oils, hand creams, etc); stuff I slather on before bed. I keep my Gua Sha there with my current favorite face oil, Arcona Wine Oil. Once I’m in bed, I pat on a few drops of Arcona oil all over my face and neck, then lay down and use my Gua Sha to sweep strokes across my face, following the below guidelines. It’s really relaxing and a great natural way to combat aging.

gua sha face

Here’s a tutorial video (yes, I know it’s in Mandarin, but the visuals are great).

And if you are looking for a face oil to go with your Gua Sha, check out our Face Oil Matrix to help you decide.

Written by Amy Chang; Main image photographed by author; second image photo credit – Kristen Horner Warner of Live Oak Acupuncture

For more: Read about how your face shape changes as you age…and what to do about it. Or how to turn back the clock with the “no knife face lift.”