the top 10 gua sha *mistakes* to avoid
The gua sha tool. We see it everywhere, we all want to love it, and what's not to love? The promise of renewed skin and glow. The allure of sculpting and anti-aging. All from a simple 10-minute DIY routine. Sounds good to me, but can we actually *trust* the promises? Do you have a gua sha tool that's fallen to the bottom of the bathroom drawer because your results weren't on par with your expectations and you stopped using it? Don't fret.
Today, I am going to tell you the top 10 mistakes you may be making in your routine that could be impeding your results.
Let me preface this article with a couple points.
Gua sha is a practice that has been used in many cultures around the world for thousands of years. It has stood the test of time and this is important to remember. It's not a modern As Seen On TV gimmick, but an actual tool. I see amazing results with gua sha daily for both facial rejuvenation, and for body care and general health (think sore muscles, coughs, congestion, sore throats. But that's for another blog post).
Gua sha isn't botox nor fillers, so it won't restrict facial movements or freeze fine lines. Gua sha is a tool for promoting healthy glowing skin, increasing blood flow, tonifying facial muscles, moving lymph fluid, and smoothing the facia that become wrinkles.
Alright, now let's talk about best practices and gua sha tool mistakes to avoid.
1. Don't Use Your Gua Sha Tool On Dry Skin
Gua sha and facial massage need to be done on clean, well-hydrated skin with a medium to create slip, i.e. a good quality oil. This will help the tool and your hands glide over the skin without creating friction. The skin is delicate and you want to preserve it without causing irritation. The quality of your facial oil matters because you will be nourishing your skin with this oil during the routine. Our skin is like a big sponge and you want to make sure it is soaking in clean and quality ingredients.
If you avoid oil because you have oily or acne prone skin I can understand your concern. Later in the article I talk about cleansing the skin after the routine to remove the oil and the clear any toxins that may have been drawn to the surface during the routine.
Gua sha can benefit acne prone skin by increasing circulation and detoxification. It is important to avoid areas of active breakouts and it may be appropriate to just begin your routine by sweeping along the edges of the face and neck to just focus on detoxification rather than anti-aging properties.
2. Avoid Applying Too Much Pressure
This is something that is easy to do because we often think "more is better." However, to reduce puffiness from the face and under the eyes we want to move stagnant lymph fluid toward lymph nodes. Lymph fluid responds to gentle pressure. So to maximize results start gently and apply the amount of pressure you would to check the ripeness of a peach.
Pay attention to any color that may be brought to the skin. A gentle gua sha routine can elicit some redness, but you don't want to be applying so much pressure that the color remains more than a few minutes after you finish your routine. Each person's skin is unique and I encourage you to find your happy place in terms of pressure. If your skin becomes red easily, start gently. Over time gua sha can help to reduce redness (heat) in the body by bringing that color to the surface and releasing heat through the surface capillaries.
3. You're Not Moving Your Gua Sha Tool In The Right Direction
You want to move upward and outward. Beginning at the center line of the face and swiping laterally toward the ears or sides neck. From a Traditional Asian Medicine perspective we are moving the energy upward (the opposite of gravity).
There are clusters of lymph nodes at around the sides of the face, at the ears and down the sides of the neck that clear the fluid and blood flow stimulated during a routine. End each routine with a few gentle swipes down the side of the face and down the neck to the collarbone.
4. Avoid Holding Your Gua Sha Tool at the Wrong Angle
The angle at which you hold your tool is important because the action of gua sha is essentially smoothing the skin rather than pulling on the skin. This means avoid a 90 degree angle (tool perfectly perpenticuar) to your face and close the angle by dropping as if it is almost laying flat against the face. This increases the surface area of the tool and makes for a more gentle motion on the skin.
When gently breaking-up the bound facia of deeper lines and wrinkles it is ok to be at a perpendicular angle. Using an "eraser" type motion go back and forth over the lines (perfect for forehead lines) then drop the tool to a flatter angle and sweep upward and outward to smooth over the lines.
5. Your Not Using Your Hands
A facial gua sha routine is about increasing circulation to the skin and promoting the health of the facial muscles. We often think the only way to do this is with a gua sha tool, but our hands are just as important and useful. While holding the gua sha tool in one hand support your skin with the other hand. As you sweep the tool on one side of your face, smooth behind it with your hand.
I encourage you to explore facial massage for yourself. What movements feel good and relaxing to you? Incorporating facial massage to your gua sha routine will add to the nourishment of your skin and muscles and has the added benefit of being sooo relaxing.
If you are afraid of touching your skin because you have acne, make sure your hands are clean, your skin is clean, and see below when I talk about how to clean-up after your gua sha routine.
6. Avoid Being Inconsistent With Your Gua Sha Routine
Gua sha takes consistency, at least to start. It is recommended to so 10-minutes daily for three weeks or so. Once you begin to see the results you want you can reduce this (see below), however, for best results creating a regular and consistent gua sha routine is best. It is truly a self care habit, not impossible to begin, but it does take some initiative.
If you are using your gua sha stone once a week and not seeing the results you want, to using it every day for a week and see how you feel? Experiment and get curious about the results you experience. Do you see a change in your facial appearance? Do you feel more relaxed after your routine? Do you have headaches and does gua sha help them? Do you like to do your routine in the morning or at night? Have you noticed any reduction in neck pain or tightness? Etc etc.
7. Avoid Overdoing Your Gua Sha Routine
I know, I just said consistency is key, but everything in moderation. 10-minutes every day for a few weeks is really enough to get the ball rolling. You can skip a day here and there in that time, but once you start getting in to your routine fine a maintenance schedule that works for you. That could be incorporating gua sha twice a week and see how your results feels.
8. Not Rinsing Your Face After Your Gua Sha Routine
A gua sha routine will invigorate the circulation to the face and move lymph fluid below the skin. This is kick-up the natural detoxification process of our body and cause the skin to release oil, sebum or toxins. It's a great idea to gently rinse the face after your routine. It doesn't have to be a clarifying facial cleanse, I suggest using a gentle cleanser and then rehydrate with your preferred facial oil or moisturizer.
9. Not Cleaning Your Gua Sha Tool
While most gua sha tools are pretty delicate it's important to remember to properly clean them between use. They come into contact with oils and dirt so it is so important to wash your tool with warm soap and water after each use. After washing, dry the stone and store it in a safe place, they can break if dropped.
10. Get Curious About This Practice And Make It Your Own
I am often asked if gua sha really works. My answer is usually Yes! And in many ways and for many things, but it does take some initiative. If I had one thing of advice to give it would be to Get Curious About Gua Sha! Read articles, ask your acupuncturist, watch tutorials and don't just give up on it. Once it becomes more of a habit you may begin to learn about how useful these tools really are.