I’ve been using a facial roller for over a decade. In a previous business I had the opportunity to work with a family in India who owned a mining and design company for semi-precious stones and shaped stone items. I got turned onto crystal/stone rollers by them during that time and have been a big fan of crystal rolling ever since. For the last year or so I’ve been exploring Gua Sha stones (or boards as they’re often called) and I thought I’d chat about them a little today.
Gua sha, aka Karokan, is a traditional Chinese medicine practice in which a shaped stone is used to scrape the skin to form a lite petechiae. Practitioners believe gua sha releases unhealthy elements from injured areas and stimulates blood flow and healing. Now, before you start thinking this is purely metaphysical (which I don’t have a problem with because it’s just unexplained science in my way of thinking) there is scientific basis behind this…so let’s demystify Gua Sha and see how it can benefit you. There are medical journal articles on gua sha and scraping therapy at PubMed, NCBI, ScienceDirect, and a few other medical and geeky journal sites that I love. Let me know if you want links to any of those, too.
Gua translates to scrape, or rub. Sounds painful. It’s not when done properly. Gua sha body treatment, done properly result in a light petichia and the color of this can actually tell professional practitioners things about your blood and body condition. For example a light colored sha indicates blood deficiency (anemia) and this is solidly grounded in what we know about anemic persons through science. A dark red sha may indicate inflammation and this also parallels what we know from modern medicine.
We’re not doing that tho – There’s a big difference between the approach to body gua sha and facial gua sha. We’re going to focus on the facial gua sha as part of our facial care and self-care. Facial gua sha utilizes a lubricating oil that nourishes and is absorbed quickly into the skin while providing the glide needed to not create dragging and tearing. Remember from our past chats that skin is thin and facial skin is thinner than body skin. To keep it in tip top shape we want to nourish and protect – aka, get those oils with their fatty acid components in and remove toxins by sending them out of the body through the lymphatic system. This is why I love gua sha. That, and it’s super relaxing (and is known to lower blood pressure during treatments, too-bonus!)
But what does rubbing a stone over your face actually do and why should you care? It improves circulation of two systems in the body! Getting blood moving and engaging the lymphatic system delivers nutrients to the skin and removes waste from the skin. Unlike the circulatory system, the lymphatic system has no pump. This is why giving your lymphatic system a boost to rid yourself of fluid retention and to give movement to toxin removal is a good thing. And I want you to do it properly so that you reap these benefits.
There are many shapes of gua sha stones. Each will have at least a large flat side, a gently curving side, a somewhat pointed area, and a concave area. Generally the smaller shapes are for smaller area while large stones (some can be larger than a hand) are for the large areas of the body. For facial gua sha you’ll want something that’s around palm-size. I prefer the heart shape, and this is what I offer on our website. It combines all of the shapes needed for the face into one aesthetically pleasing shape that’s easy to manipulate in your hand and move from area to area on your face.
When you are practicing gua sha on your face you will keep the movements light. We are not after bruising! We are after movement of interstitial fluid. A little pinkness is normal, but if you are getting petichia you are scraping too hard. Lighten your hand next time. Light pressure is best.
Some practitioners say to keep your gua sha in the fridge and use them cold. No-don’t do that. That is a great practice for rollers, and we’ll explore them in another blog, but for gua sha you want to use stones that are warmer. You can carry it in your pocket or run it under warm water before you start. A warm stone will increase blood flow and get the lymphatic system moving.
You’ll want to gua sha with a cleansed and toned face. Apply a quarter sized pool of facial oil (I have made available on my website the oil I developed for my own rolling and gua sha) to your entire face and neck.
Using the diagram sweep each area a minimum of three times. You will drag the stone rather than push it. Pushing can cause microtears in the skin tissue. Remember to warm your stone and rub it between your palms after you’ve oiled your face. This wil help lubricate the stone as well. I start with the front of my neck, move to chin, cheeks, forehead, and finish with the sides of my neck. This way everything is being moved up, to the sides, and then channeled down to the lymph nodes in the neck. If your gua sha tool begins to drag then apply more oil. Use the stone at a nearly flat angle to encourage fluid movement and prevent bruising. Experiment with which contours of the stone fit the contours of your face – there’s no wrong way to match contours so don’t be hesitant to turn your stone to a different position.
There are some long term medical conditions that gua sha is being explored as a way of granting relief. Migraines are the front runner of conditions being helped by a 14 day targeted treatment of body and neck gua sha. Generalized chronic neck pain is being treated with gua sha in clinical trials of treatments daily for a week and while experts are undecided about the long term outcome, they are seeing improvement reported by patients as significant in regards to their pain levels.
Gua Sha is not just a beauty fad, it’s self-care that is grounded in eastern medicine. I for one am grateful this practice has been shared with the world and invite you to see what it can do for your skin and well being.
Let me know if you Gua Sha or Roller, and which stones you prefer! Until next time, have wonderful days, and thanks for hanging out with me!