Deep Dive Into Gua Sha: Techniques for Lifting Skin
Skincare is an arduous process that requires a careful hand and dedication to succeed, especially since some individuals have highly sensitive skin. This has led to a booming skincare industry marketed to people who want to enhance their complexions and lift their skin. Most individuals use modern skincare products and treatments to enhance their skin, primarily because we have been conditioned to believe that newer options are better.
Additionally, many think skincare is a modern concept since there were more pressing issues earlier in our society. While that might seem like a logical assessment, it is not accurate since skincare has been a part of human society for hundreds of years. In fact, certain treatments have cultural significance in certain parts of the world.
Several skincare tools and treatments have origins in ancient cultures and civilizations that innovated the original versions of certain modern techniques. Some of the earliest skincare techniques still exist and function identically to how they worked back then. The only real change is the tools used to apply them since modern manufacturing has made it easier to produce them in more advanced states.
One technique with a longstanding place in skincare is gua sha, which you might not have heard of before. While you might not recognize the name, gua sha is a common treatment you have likely witnessed or used without realizing it.
What is Gua Sha?
Gua sha is a Chinese term for a medical practice that was created 700 years ago during China's Ming Dynasty. Some studies suggest that gua sha goes back to the Paleolithic Age, but it was likely not named. The name "gua sha" is Chinese for "to scrape petechia," which is fitting since it requires scrapers on the skin. The treatment spread from China to Vietnam, eventually reaching France and America, though English speakers refer to it as "scraping" or "coining" rather than gua sha.
As for what it involves, gua sha is fairly straightforward and has been refined to suit modern standards. Gua sha involves taking the scraper device and performing repeated, pressed strokes over the skin. The skin should always be lubricated first, usually with skincare products, and the tool used to scrape the skin is a smooth-edged, blunt instrument made from one of several materials.
When the treatment was first created, spoons or coins were among the first tools used to scrape the skin and administer the treatment. As time passed, new tools were introduced in the form of animal bones and buffalo horns honed into smooth, blunt objects. Eventually, gua sha scrapers made from jade were among the most common options and remained traditional.
Modern resources have led to more refined materials used to create gua sha scrapers, though some choose to use the original materials. When the patient was fatigued, the scraper was replaced with a piece of ginger root soaked in rice wine. The modern version does not employ this particular technique and favors the scraper tools.
Once the skin is properly lubricated, the smooth edge of the scraper is placed against the surface, and the one administering the treatment presses down firmly. They then move the scraper down the muscles or along acupuncture meridians in strokes averaging 4 to 6 inches. Despite 700 years of separation, modern gua sha practitioners follow the traditional methods, even if the tools they use have changed. The question is: Does gua sha help improve the appearance and health of our skin?
Does Gua Sha Improve Skin?
Gua sha treatments are frequently cited as a method for lifting our skin and restoring the youth of our complexion. While this might seem like an amazing benefit for a simple treatment, that question has a bit of complexity. There is a lot of conflicting information surrounding the skincare benefits of gua sha because some studies have had inconsistent results. That said, there are studies suggesting that gua sha treatments can improve our skin's health and appearance by triggering certain responses beneath our dermal layer.
One of the first major benefits of gua sha treatments is blood flow, which is crucial to our skin's health and appearance. One study determined that gua sha treatments increased the circulation of small blood vessels in the area where the treatment was used.
The study involved 11 healthy subjects, and the gua sha treatment was applied to the backs of the individuals in the test group. The improved circulation was readily visible, but there was an interesting caveat with the results. The women in the test group responded better to the treatment than the men, which is an interesting distinction, considering there is not much difference in the circulatory systems of women compared to men. This is not the only skincare benefit from gua sha, but the situation becomes more complicated from here on out.
One of the main reasons gua sha treatments are used is because they allegedly possess anti-aging effects that make the skin look firmer and younger. These effects include eliminating wrinkles, reducing puffy skin, and sculpting the face, but there is one problem: very little research confirms these benefits. This is the most contentious part of gua sha insofar as researchers are concerned.
Therefore, tempering your expectations for this part of the gua sha treatment is recommended. That said, some research suggests that gua sha treatments, when combined with anti-aging cream and administered gently, can help reduce wrinkles and other age-related blemishes. The catch is that the combination is necessary to generate these results rather than relying on the gua sha treatment.
Gua sha treatments have been linked to other benefits that do not impact our skin but improve aspects of our health. One of the main health benefits of gua sha is that it can help relieve muscle pain, which might indirectly benefit the skin since muscle soreness can cause us to constrict our skin. Whenever we feel pain, we grimace or make a face to indicate the sensation, which wears out our skin's elasticity and can produce wrinkles.
Additionally, gua sha's ability to reduce muscle pain is believed to be because of its anti-inflammatory effect. Inflammation is a common cause of reddened or puffy skin, which means the treatment's anti-inflammatory effect might produce some of the results outlined earlier. With that in mind, one part of gua sha treatments is often overlooked but can impact how the treatment affects you and your skin.
The Scraper Material Matters
We have discussed how the early incarnations of gua sha scrapers were made from various materials, some considered unpleasant. Scraping your face with something made from an animal horn or an old coin likely deters you from employing gua sha. Fortunately, most modern gua sha practitioners have abandoned the old impromptu tools that helped the treatment become what it is today.
Jade scrapers became the norm for several years and remain one of the most commonly used materials. Jade stone has several characteristics that make it ideal for use as a scraper, similar to its prevalence in facial rolling treatments. The main advantage of a jade scraper is that the stone is naturally smooth and rolls along the skin without catching anything. However, it has another important benefit, making it an excellent choice for treating skin.
Jade naturally heats up when pressed to the skin, though not to the degree that you will burn yourself using it. Rather, jade warms up in response to human skin, allowing it to provide warm massage treatments without exposing the stone to flames. This is advantageous when your treatment requires a little extra energy to disperse your skincare products through the skin.
Unfortunately, jade stone has a vital weakness, making it less cost-effective as a long-term scraper. The weakness is that the stone is fragile and breaks easily, meaning you must replace scrapers and other tools more frequently. Fortunately, jade is not the only material refined into skincare applicators.
Recently, we have begun taking advantage of an extremely common mineral that can be refined into tools like gua sha scrapers and facial rollers. Rose quartz is one of the most common stones on Earth and is remarkably durable, making it a viable resource for otherwise disposable tools like gua sha scrapers. Rose quartz applicators do not have the same natural heating ability found in jade, but their durability means you will not have to replace them as often. Rose quartz scrapers are the most cost-effective and offer the same benefits as a jade scraper.
Unfortunately, the good associated with gua sha is not perfect, and there are issues beyond the lack of concrete information. Gua sha has become a controversial skincare treatment due to some of the side effects associated with it. Understanding these side effects is crucial since you do not want to subject your skin to something it might not recover from. Therefore, we must ask: What are the risks of gua sha treatments?
What Are the Risks of Gua Sha?
The name for gua sha scrapers is no accident since the scrapers do cause you to scrape your skin when applied with the appropriate force. In fact, the physical side effects of gua sha treatments led to a cross-cultural misunderstanding where hospital staff in California saw Vietnamese-American citizens with scrapes along their skin.
Due to a misconception, American doctors believed the marks resulted from abuse when it was just holistic medicine at work. This led to a few false alarms that resulted in the practitioners being detained, fostering distrust for American healthcare providers. Many states still consider coining and other gua sha variants child abuse and report the practice to the authorities when a child is discovered with telltale scrapes.
Despite this, gua sha is still used as a treatment for adults but is not without risk since you are scraping your skin. Fortunately, most of the side effects of gua sha are negligible and do not result in permanent damage. Some people develop dermatitis due to repeated gua sha treatments, whereas others have burns on their skin. These side effects are easily avoided if the one administering the treatment is a skilled professional.
Unfortunately, there is always a worst-case scenario that exacerbates otherwise minor risks. Rarely, gua sha treatment is performed so carelessly that it results in severe injuries. The scrapes can run deep enough that the patient must receive a skin graft to heal.
Fortunately, these serious consequences are rare enough to be almost irrelevant to anyone who goes to an expert. Gua sha treatments are still common enough that professionals can administer the treatment with only minor risks. You should not overindulge in this treatment since our skin can only handle so much damage within a short period. Give your body time to heal between sessions, and only undergo the treatment if you desperately need it. Otherwise, you can administer light treatments yourself if you have a gua sha scraper made from the right materials.
Finding the Right Blend
Gua sha is not a treatment that can be administered lightly; you must learn as much as possible before trying to do it yourself. With the right tools, performing gua sha treatments safely is possible, but you should opt for a modern material like rose quartz. Unfortunately, gua sha is such a niche treatment that finding a scraper made from a safe skin material can be difficult.
We at Teami have always believed in the healing power of nature, especially concerning the skin. Our bodies were designed to synergize with nature; skin treatments like gua sha can be an excellent medium. We offer several natural skincare products, including oils and balms, for your gua sha treatment. That said, one of our more unique products is our Gua Sha Facial Lifting Tool, made out of rose quartz.
This tool will enable you to perform gua sha treatments, though we recommend learning how to administer the treatment from an expert before trying it yourself. We encourage you to visit our website and try our products directly. After all, finding the right blend is a Teami effort.
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