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instyle - 50 Available at YINA
instyle - 32 Available at Pink Moon
instyle - 28 Available at Sephora
instyle - 35 Available at Verishop
If you’ve been on TikTok recently, you’ve probably come across at least a few videos of people running green or pink objects across their skin in repetitive strokes. The practice is called gua sha, and the objects are tools made of stones like jade and rose quartz. While most of the “trends” that live on TikTok have shorter life cycles than that of a fruit fly, the Chinese practice has already been around for thousands of years — some people are simply just getting the memo.
Gua sha literally means “to scrape sand” in Mandarin, Lin Chen, the founder of Pink Moon, tells InStyle. And although the blitz of TikTok videos landing on your For You Page might have you believe the practice is just for facial sculpting, “its healing capabilities extend far deeper,” Chen says.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), gua sha is clinically used to treat ailments like heatstroke, gastrointestinal issues, and chronic pain, and it was originally used only on the body, Dr. Ervina Wu, a doctor of TCM, registered TCM Dermatologist, and the Co-Founder of YINA, explains. By applying pressure to specific areas of the body or face and “scraping” the stone up or down on the skin, you can increase lymphatic drainage, move stagnant energy, promote blood flow, and reduce inflammation.
Don’t let the word “scrape” scare you off, though. The slow strokes won’t actually tear or bruise the skin (bruising is typically saved for professionals), and Chen confirms that gua sha is not only safe but “amazing for sensitive skin.” That’s why many use it as a form of self-care today.
Dr. Wu recommends newbies pick a tool that feels comfortable and is big enough to use on both the face and body. “You don’t need a fancy tool to do gua sha,” she says. But you should look for one made with natural material. “Even a ceramic soup spoon works,” she adds.
Though expensive stones aren’t required, an understanding of practice should be. “I’ve seen a lot of content and brands claiming that gua sha tools are like ‘natural Botox’… which makes it seem like the tool was created for something it wasn’t,” Chen says. Believing gua sha will increase collagen in the skin is another common misconception, according to Dr. Wu.
While it’s certainly no Botox, gua sha is a relaxing practice with many practical benefits for the body and face. And with stress and muscle tension caused by a pandemic and poor laptop posture building over the last year, neither Chen nor Dr. Wu is surprised that more people are interested in gua sha right now.
If you plan to use gua sha tools on yourself, learning proper techniques is essential. Luckily there are plenty of resources at your disposal, whether you sign up for a workshop or follow professionals on TikTok, like Dr. Laurel Liu, the founder of Sunmooncare, who has amassed 1.7 million followers on the app.
A TCM doctor and board-licensed acupuncturist, Dr. Liu began posting videos on TikTok in March of last year when clinics closed due to the pandemic. “Many followers sent me messages and emails to tell me how much better they feel after practicing my gua sha and acupressure points,” she tells InStyle. Now that she has such a following, she wants to share even more information on the app “to inspire and help more people.”
The influx of gua sha videos on TikTok is beneficial for getting people “to notice the power of traditional Chinese medicine,” Dr. Liu says, adding that more people seem willing to try it now than they did when she immigrated to Canada in 2013. However, “getting training from a professional is very important because gua sha and acupressure are not just for facial anti-aging,” she says. “It benefits entire body health [and] it also has many precautions.”
If you’re interested in trying out the ancient healing practice after doing your research, you can shop gua sha tools from AAPI- owned and founded brands. Check out a few options below.
Shop now: $50; yina.co
Shop now: $32; pinkmoon.co
Shop now: $28; sephora.com
Shop now: $35; verishop.com