I Tried It: Gua Sha From a Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner

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Chiu always moved her tools in an upward motion, sweeping with long and short strokes, using different levels of pressure. There was a rhythm to how she moved the stones that was so calming, I felt like I was falling into a trancelike state. (I would have completely dozed off had I not been chatting with Chiu.) As she worked up my neck, the lower third of my face, and forehead, she used a lighter hand; along the curves of my jawline and cheekbones, she used medium pressure. It was never painful, but my cheeks did feel warm (as they do when blood rushes to them when blushing) with her repeated kneading.

My Gua Sha: Before and After

Board-certified dermatologist Neda Mehr, MD, has previously told Allure that gua sha helps decrease puffiness through lymphatic drainage. I found this to be true to an extent, but my visible results were subtle.

In the above images, you can see what my face and neck looked like immediately before and after my gua sha treatment. (The bruises make the cupping portion of the treatment seem brutal, but again, it was intense for only a few minutes, at most.) If you look closely at my chin and cheeks, you can see the areas were ever-so-slightly lifted. “Gua sha moves the fluid similar to a lymphatic massage,” says Dhaval Bhanusali, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. But he adds that it’s important to set realistic expectations. “Know that this effect isn’t permanent.”

You may also notice that my double chin did not disappear. A reminder: Double chins are totally normal. They may appear due to a lack of healthy diet or exercise, while some people have a genetic disposition for it (*raises hand*). The point: Gua sha is not enough to get rid of your double chin.

The day after my gua sha treatment, I put on makeup. While taking a selfie in the car, I noticed my jawline did look more defined. My face was depuffed, ever-so-slightly lifted, and glowing. My skin looked great. Overall, I felt great.

Common Misconceptions About Gua Sha

With gua sha’s social media boom, the question of whether or not it is being appropriated has come up among TCM practitioners. “In some ways, I do feel that gua sha is being appropriated,” says Stephanie Zheng, esthetician and founder of Mount Lai, a line of gua sha tools. “A lot of wellness and beauty practices, like gua sha, are rooted in culture and heritage. Because gua sha has grown in popularity, we’re seeing many brands launch gua sha products of their own without having a tie to the practice.” She adds, “It’s important to understand the origins in order to celebrate the roots and the rich history that these practices come from, rather than just treating it like a ‘popular trend.'”

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