An Eastern Medicine Guide To Treating Forehead Lines With Gua Sha
With age comes changes to your skin—this I know and expect. For the most part, I find my skin transformations are welcome: In my 30s, I've finally figured out how to temper my breakouts and rosacea, fuel my skin so my complexion glows, and don't criticize it too harshly if I have a "bad" skin day or two. But, I do see faint forehead lines starting to etch in. Now, I don't begrudge or bemoan wrinkles. I know I will develop them as the years go by. But I'd be lying to you if I said that I wasn't actively trying to smooth them now as a preventive measure.
To do this, I use a combination of smart skin care supplements, topicals, and a diligently consistent routine. Part of that routine is facial massage and gua sha, which I do almost daily. So when I spoke with skin care expert Debbie Kung, DAOM, LAc, in a recent episode of Clean Beauty School all about gua sha, I knew I had to ask about the area. (A nice bonus of having your own beauty podcast is you get to talk to all of the best experts about your personal beauty concerns and call it work.)
As a recap—should you not know the benefits of facial gua sha—it creates microcirculation in the face, which has been shown to smooth fine lines and wrinkles and improve skin quality overall. Traditionally and historically, it is a full-body modality, but in its modern iteration in the West, it's most famous for its facial rejuvenation benefits. And personally, I'm a full-fledged believer. I consider it one of the most valuable parts of my skin care routine.
But back to the forehead: How is it best used in this particular area? Well, Kung's advice might surprise you—it certainly surprised me.
How to use gua sha to help forehead wrinkles.
To treat the forehead, you actually want to treat the scalp. As Kung tells me, in Eastern medicine there's the concept of treating something "local or distal," which essentially means you can tend to something by focusing on the exact area—or you can focus on a corresponding part of the body that is connected by meridian lines. "It's about being smart with your practice and knowing when to go local and when to go distal," she says. For the forehead, Kung recommends going distal.
"So for most people, their biggest concern on the forehead is lines, correct? So here's where it gets a little weird. To treat this, I actually don't focus on the forehead for a few reasons," says Kung. "The first is that the forehead tends to get red very easily because there's a lot of blood flow to the area since that's where the brain is. Number two is that there's bone there, so it doesn't feel very comfortable, especially as we age and that muscle starts to thin. The third is that if you really want to work those lines, facial gua sha isn't going to do the trick."
Right now you may be having flashbacks of beauty influencers aggressively pulling their skin trying to break up the lines. Scrap that idea, and instead take your gua sha stone to your scalp.
"There are meridians that run through the forehead that actually go into the scalp," she says. "What you are going to want to do is take your tool, and starting at your hairline right above your eye, go back like you're combing your hair." She notes that you'll want to keep your wrists loose and the stone flat against the hair—but you don't need to worry about applying oil to the hair as you're not pulling directly against the skin.
Finally, if your wrinkles are deep-set, Kung recommends acupuncture: "You might need to go deeper than gua sha. Something like facial acupuncture will get below the dermis and help with the muscles since those lines are formed by movement," she says.
We love gua sha around these parts. (I personally can't imagine my skin care routine without it!). And if you're like me and looking to treat forehead lines, you might want to take your stone to a surprising place.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.