Why gua sha is more than just a colorful Instagram trend

Chances are, you’ve seen at least one social media post that involved someone scraping colorful stones across their face. The practice is called gua sha, and it’s more than just a trend — it has roots in traditional Chinese medicine.

Sandra Lanshin Chiu, a licensed acupuncturist and founder of the healing studio Lanshin, spoke to In The Know’s Phoebe Zaslav about gua sha and its rich history.

She said that historically, the technique has been effective in helping people heal from illness and relieve pain as well as improve their immune systems.

It’s now being used with a focus on its skincare benefits, like softening wrinkles and decreasing puffiness.

Unfortunately, Chiu said that gua sha is becoming so popular, it has “lost a lot of its accuracy.”

“In people translating gua sha into the world, it’s lost a lot of potency of the true principles,” she said. Chiu’s social media accounts educate interested parties in what’s accurate and what isn’t.

For one, Chiu said it’s important to look for authentic materials. She stressed that you should make sure that your jade or rose quartz are real. She also recommended buying them from Chinese medicine practitioners or people that are experts on gua sha and East Asian culture.

She explained that much of Chinese medicine focuses on improving circulation and unblocking where it gets congested. One of gua sha’s benefits is that it restores strong circulation to the face, neck and wherever else you use it.

“When circulation is restored to healthy levels, you’ll see puffiness reduce, you’ll see pain relief. You’ll see tension like the melt and relax,” she said. “You’ll see complexions improve from dull to bright. You’ll see acne heal faster.”

Some people think gua sha is strictly a lymphatic drainage technique, but that’s not true. It also improves the circulation of your blood and your energy as well as your fluids and lymphatics, Chiu said.

She explained that people also tend to do their strokes incorrectly when practicing gua sha.

“You do not paint a wall up, down, up, down, up, down. That’s literally not what your technique is, not proper technique,” she said. Instead, do all of your upward strokes together, then do all your downward strikes together.

“If you’re new to gua sha and you want a really easy basic rule, just do everything upward on the face,” she instructed. “This is because we want to encourage lifting on the face.”

Chiu emphasized the fact that when you buy gua sha supplies from Chinese medical practitioners, you’ll get clinical support from them — which is crucial, because “it is a medical practice.”

“When you’re seeking support and guidance, you should seek it from Chinese medicine practitioners, not influencers and not other bodyworkers who are trained in something,” she said.

This will prevent headaches and make your treatment more effective. As a general rule, it’s always best to trust experts when it comes to medical practices, anyway.

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