In this packed episode on the face, Clive Witham presents the techniques you need to know in Facial Gua sha. He starts with the traditional techniques used on the body in China and then shows you how facial treatments differ. He introduces the sweep, press and circle techniques and you get to follow him as he shows you two treatment points on your face to push with a Gua sha tool. He then goes through the depth of knowledge anyone serious about face treatments should know, including points, channels and musculo-tendino connections throughout the body. This is not to be missed by anyone interested in Facial Gua sha!
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What is the best Facial Gua sha technique?
Understanding Traditional Gua sha Techniques
Gua sha traditionally has a great deal of slapping, pricking and scraping. It's famous for it and it's what brought it to prominenance in East Asia. If you search for images of Gua sha, you'll probably see the aftermath of a good strong technique with an image of red lines on someone's back or neck looking like a rather nasty injury.
The Evolution of Gua sha Techniques
The pricking part of Gua sha has long since fallen by the wayside and also the slapping is pretty rare (it's actually great - it sounds worse than it is) but scraping is now what you see in Gua sha. So scraping when you see these videos from Chinese hospitals where they treat serious disease is a little misrepresentative about what you're going to do with Gua sha. I mean you may be treating serious disease, in which case you would treat like that, but most people don't. And anyway comfort isn't one of the overriding concerns for those types of treatments. They want to get you better from illness not wonder if you like their organic lavender balm.
I recall quite clearly the grimacing on the face of patients when I used to visit different departments in the hospitals in Hangzhou, a city south of Shanghai. They were clearly in a great deal of discomfort but the bar of discomfort seemed to be a lot higher so that despite the clear pain, they were physically still. The only way you knew was looking at their face which was almost comical as their features moved from one side of their face to the other as they fought to maintain their calm. As soon as the treatment was over you would never have imagined that it was the same person. They instantly relaxed, smiled, laughed and chatted as if nothing has just happened.
Adapting Gua sha Techniques for Facial Treatments
So in Gua sha, technique is relative to your goal. This means if you have different goals, you must have different techniques. Now if you're treating the face, I wouldn't expect you to be doing much scraping and definitely no pricking and slapping. So you've got to use other techniques which aren't like those of the body.
Well do you? Let me come back to that. Well, at least you don't want sha to appear on the face. That wouldn't be ideal, to put it mildly.
So if you have a look at what people do with facial Gua sha there's a big mish-mash of techniques, tools and ideas with little but a rudimentary understand if any about what's happening. Do this, this and then this. In an episode coming later I'm going to look at the history of the development of facial Gua sha - so check out that episode because it's fascinating.
Exploring Facial Gua sha Techniques
So back to techniques on your face. If not scraping, then what? The obvious choice is a sweeping motion which holds just enough of the soft tissue to cause slight friction but not enough to produce sha. This is what I call it. I have no idea if other people use this term or not. All of the techniques I refer to came out of my North African clinic and I just gave them the names that I thought were appropriate. That's why I have wide stroke, narrow stroke, press, circle, vibrate and a few others. So sweep is one of these.
People think though that the sweeping motion which is usually following the contours of your face across and upwards, is about the reshaping of the physical structure of the tissue underneath. Kind of like sculpting. But it isn't. There aren't two types of Gua sha - one for your face and one for your body. There's only one. It's the same principles which underlie all treatments anywhere on the body for any reason. It's about optimizing blood circulation in the tissue bed and allowing space so that the body can perform its function at the maximum capacity possible. This is how studies show that Gua sha can reduce inflammation and cause an immune response. So in the face, you're doing the same thing but you're changing the style of doing it.
The Importance of Points and Zones in Facial Gua sha
So along with sweep, we can add in press and circle techniques and these are particularly effective when we incorporate the knowledge of points with Gua sha. 'Points', or terms of Gua sha these are 'zones', are tried and tested areas which have a deeper impact on the internal working of the body that the tissue around it. They're often presented simplistically with "this point does that and that point does this" which is fine in terms of facial Gua sha but they are a great deal more than this. So pressing is a technique which is very useful and actually feels great.
Practical Application of Facial Gua sha Techniques
Let's try some of them. How about the area called 'Yuyao' or 'Fish waist'? Let's press that. Look straight ahead and find the middle of your eyebrow above where your pupil is looking. That's the area in the eyebrow.
Okay, press it.
Right - I'm doing that now and I'm actually using the back of my spoon.
It feels somewhere in the middle of pleasure and pain and when I take it off, I still fell the pressure.
It feels good.
Okay now keep the tool in place and rotate your hand a little - that's circle technique. This area is in the supercillii muscles and where the big forehead frontalis muscle attaches. It's usually tense and is traditionally used to affect your eyes.
Okay let's try another one. Let's come down to 'Juliao' or 'Great Crevice' which is known as Stomach 3. Keep your eyes looking straight forewords and this time follow a line coming down to below your cheekbone, This is the area on a line with the bottom of your nose.
Okay. Push here.
That feels weird.
Again it's a kind of a nice discomfort.
Circle the point. So the zygomatic muscles are underneath, which hold a lot of tension too. Stomach 3 is used to treat so many areas in your face.
So if you're not using the areas on the face in treatment, then you're missing something really big. And these points are connected with a bunch of other points remember? These are the channels. So if you're just happily sweeping away on your face but don't know where the face channels are, what you're missing is basically Gua sha. You're doing a face treatment but it isn't Gua sha.
Understanding the Connection Between Facial and Body Gua sha
And then if we throw another layer on top of the points and the channels, and we look at the musculo-tendino connections so that I know that point we did on your eyebrows called Yuyao is affecting the depressor and corregator supercilii muscles which affect the frontalis muscle which connects with the galea aponeurotica over your head and the occipitalis at the back of your head and the nuchal fascia at your neck and the interspinal muscles down your spine and the glute muscles at your buttocks and the hamstrings at your thigh and down through the calf muscles to your foot. So then if I know that all of these have a fascial connection based on a specific movement in the body, then that opens up my face treatment and the technique I'm using.
The Role of Scraping in Facial Gua sha
So I can use widestroke technique which is the typical technique of scraping with the long side of the tool and I can scrape harder at the occipitalis, at the back of your head, knowing that this will treat the frontalis muscle, the supercilii muscles and the procerus muscle at the front.
So if you were doing a beauty treatment on the forehead and your goal were to make changes in this area, perhaps you're trying to prevent worry lines or frown lines, then your technique wouldn't be sweeping, it would be scraping. It's the same for the neck, shoulders, upper back etc.
If you don't do those to affect the face - it ain't Gua sha!
The Best Techniques for Facial Gua sha
In summary, the best techniques for the face are when treating on the face, gentle movements like sweeping, pressing and circling but when off the face, scraping with the knowledge of Gua sha. There is so much you can do which is not on the face which will affect it.