Facial gua sha is a much more gentle version of the technique that is typically used on the body in Traditional Chinese Medicine. On the body, the aim is to break down tissue blockages and stagnation and release toxins. The way we are using this technique here on the face (specifically to drain puffiness) is extremely light in comparison.
What we see as puffiness in the face is fluid retention, specifically lymphatic fluid. For optimal health of the skin, the immune system, and the entire body, we want lymph to be circulating freely. When lymph is draining and refreshing optimally, puffiness goes down. In addition, the proper circulation removes toxins from the skin, which helps to clarify the complexion, and rejuvenates skin cells for a healthy glow.
The main causes of fluid retention are inflammation in the body, lack of movement, or too much salt. Inflammation can have so many causes, but some common ones are poor diet; foods such as sugar, gluten or dairy; too much alcohol; illness; and chronic illness. The lymph system relies on external movement for its circulation, so exercise or massage help to move the fluid, and being sedentary, or being stationed behind a computer all day, contribute to stagnation—this is why we're usually puffiest in the morning, after we've been lying in bed all night.
This is where facial gua sha comes in. With gentle pressure, in the correct directions, we encourage the lymphatic fluid to move along its pathways and drain into the body. A guan sha made of pure Jade, is a cooling and cleansing stone used in Chinese medicine for centuries to aid the body's filtration organs and lymph system to expel toxins.
Gua Sha 101
- Use light pressure with the jade gua sha tool. If the skin starts to get pink or red, it's too firm and not working on the lymph. Lymph responds to light pressure because it is close to the surface. If your pressure is too firm or vigorous, you risk bruising, or "sha" coming up on the skin, so please be gentle with your sweet face!
- Keep the gua sha tool at a 15-degree angle to the skin—almost flat but not quite. This covers more surface and gives a gentle pull on the skin, which is also necessary for the correct technique.
- All of our lymph drains into an area called "terminus" in the little dips right above the middle of each collarbone; we can think of this area as the "dump." The direction of the lymphatic pathways on the face are from the center of the face, out toward the hairline, so we want to move all of the stagnant lymph, or the "trash" out to the outer sides of the face and then sweep it all down the neck to the "dump" above the collarbone.
How-To Do A Gua Sha Facial Lymph Drainage
Starting on the right side:
- Down the neck: Start at the outer corner of the jaw, near the earlobe. Sweep down to the dip above the middle of the right collarbone. Repeat 3-5x.
- Under the chin: Sweep from the middle of the soft under-chin (where a double chin would show up) out to the bottom of your earlobe. 3-5x
- Chin: From the middle of the chin, under the lower lip, sweep out to the earlobe. 3-5x
- Cheek: Sweep from the corner of the nose out to the middle ear 3-5x.
- Under-eye: Be especially light and slow here, sweep over under-eye area, where "eye bags" would show up, and out to the temple, all the way to the hairline. 3-5x
- Under eyebrow: Avoid any pressure on the eye or eyelid itself and stay on the brow bone. Sweep from inner corner out to temple again. 3-5x
- Third eye: Stroke from center of eyebrows up to hairline. This one is especially relaxing for the nervous system and great for insomnia, so do more strokes if it speaks to you! 3-10x
- Lower forehead: Stroke from center of forehead above the eyebrow out to the temple. 3-5x
- Big sweep. Here we bring everything we've moved to the outer edges of the face all the way back down to the terminus, the collarbone dip located between the center of the neck and the shoulder. Start at the center of the upper forehead, and trace down the hairline, over the temple, then curve behind the ear, and down the side of the neck to terminus. 3-5x.
- Repeat the whole routine on the second side!