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刮痧: gua sha, pronounced as “gwa shah”.
Most of us have seen the words gua sha when perusing online beauty blogs and facial menus, but what does the term actually mean? How do you practice it? Where did the practice even come from?! I did a deep internet dive to answer some of the most pressing questions around this new trend in skin care, so let’s get into it.
According the Health Magazine, gua means “to scrape” and sha refers to “sand or small pebbles” in Chinese, a the term that directly describes the traditional Chinese medicine practice itself. Gua sha dates back to as far as the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th century, according to Ping Zhang, DOM, L.Ac, a New York–based traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) guru, recently featured in Vogue. The practice was originally used as a home remedy to treat heatstroke and other mild illnesses, where practitioners would use knuckles, coins, spoons, and other tools on the patient’s back to increase circulation and supposedly draw out toxins. Because there was a significant amount of pressure used during the process, bruises would often form where the skin was pressed and intense red marks were left on the back. Gua sha relates to the Chinese belief in qi or chi, which needs to be balanced and flow freely to ensure good health.
Although the recent skincare trend has adopted the same name, westerners are practicing gua sha in a very different way. In western practice, skincare enthusiasts are using the practice on their faces to drain the facial lymphatics from excess fluid, relieve facial tension, and reduce the appearance of aging as well as sculpt the face. The practice is done with uniquely shaped stone tools, which are often made out of jade or rose quartz and, when applied to the face, is done with significantly lighter pressure as to not injure or bruise. Today, gua sha has been integrated into many facial treatments, where a skin oil is applied before the stone sculpting occurs and relaxation is the goal.
Speculators believe that the practice might have become more popular in recent years because of one’s ability to inexpensively purchase the tools and practice a gua sha routine in the comfort of their own home. As the trend of self-care has increased, so have practices like gua sha! Gua sha also shows visible results within a short period of time, which has added to the practice’s intrigue. What is great about gua sha is that it can be performed by just about anyone. However, if you are interested in giving it a try at home, make sure that you are practicing in good form!