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The Health Benefits of Gua Sha

This article will explore the rising prevalence and popularity of gua sha as well as its purported health benefits.

Over the last few years, gua sha (pronounced gwah shah), a lymphatic drainage technique that predates modern medicine, seems to have taken center stage in the skincare arena. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), gua sha is a venerable healing technique that is used to treat musculoskeletal pain and upper respiratory illnesses, improve circulation and tissue drainage, and boost immunity. To date, the practice is still widely practiced in China and Southeast Asia. Recently, however, gua sha experienced a revival when beauty influencers began raving about its supposed facial benefits. “What was once a relatively low-profile treatment is now a cult beauty trend,” one article expressed.

Like many beauty and wellness trends, gua sha has taken the social media world by storm, with tutorials and blog posts on the technique garnering millions of views on platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. Gua sha tools—colorful, crescent-shaped stones that are used to massage the skin—are now sold ubiquitously, gracing the shelves of upmarket medispas and grocery stores alike.

Alternatively known as ‘skin scraping’ or ‘scraping therapy,’ traditional gua sha techniques entail abrading the skin with a smooth-edged tool until petechiae, red spots resulting from subdermal bleeding, appear. This practice is believed to have considerable therapeutic effects including reduced muscle tension and improved blood circulation and tissue drainage.

Lately, however, gua sha has been lauded for its cosmetic merits. Purportedly offering benefits such as firmer, glowing skin, fewer wrinkles, and a more sculpted appearance, this beauty trend is believed to delay aging. According to Nichelle Temple, a New York-based aesthetician, gua sha offers “noticeable results while preventing and treating the signs of premature aging—namely in the appearance of wrinkles, dark eye circles and puffiness, and sagging and dull-looking skin.” Considering the various health and aesthetic benefits of gua sha, it’s no wonder the media has revitalized this ancient practice.

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