Health + Beauty Benefits of Gua Sha

The gua sha has become the latest natural beauty aid to go viral, however this ancient “massage” method is much more than just a trend. Gu sha has a long therapeutic tradition for the skin and beyond. Let’s take a closer look!

So, you’re probably wondering, what is a gua sha?

Quite literally, ‘gua’ refers to scratching of the skin, while ‘sha’ refers to the texture that appears after scratching. It’s defined as repeated, unidirectional, press-stroke of the lubricated skin area with a smooth-edged instrument. 

Gua sha is a therapeutic technique for pain management using a tool to gently scrape or rub the surface of the skin, essentially providing a kind of massage to the targeted area, in order  to support blood circulation. It is used for pain relief in Chinese medicine, as well as having perks for your complexion.

Benefits for the musculoskeletal system:

There are three possible ways of using a guasha to relieve pain

  1. It increases microcirculation, which may relieve muscle aches/pains.
  2. Pain is decreased by stimulating the serotonergic (regarding a nerve ending that releases and is stimulated by serotonin), noradrenergic (regulates levels of the noradrenaline neurotransmitter) and opioid (pain-relief) systems.
  3. Reduces the effects of pain at pain receptor sites.

Benefits for skin health:

The skin is the largest organ of the body, where the surface is the most exposed to the external environment and it’s the first line of defense against many microorganisms. It serves as a powerful immune surveillance system. The therapeutic mechanism of gua sha is shown to be relevant to support the immunological functions of the skin. Plus, with increased blood flow, you may experience beauty enhancing effects such as:

  1. A natural, healthy glow to your complexion from oxygenation.
  2. Increased healing time.
  3. A less puffy face due to the stimulation of the lymphatic system.

I don’t have a gua sha, what can I use?

If you don’t own a gua sha, you can still harness the benefits of this technique by using one of these items you may already have at home:

  • A chilled glass jar
  • The back of a chilled spoon
  • A smooth stone

References:

Lee, M., Choi, TY., Kim, JI. et al. Using Guasha to treat musculoskeletal pain: A systematic review of controlled clinical trials. Chin Med 5, 5 (2010). 

Chen T, Liu N, Liu J, et al. Gua Sha, a press-stroke treatment of the skin, boosts the immune response to intradermal vaccination. PeerJ. 2016;4:e2451. Published 2016 Sep 14.