What are the benefits of Facial Gua sha?
Facial Gua sha has wonderful benefits for the face and body but maybe not what you think! In this episode of the Gua sha Show, Clive delves into the effects on connective tissue and blood circulation and what this means in understanding Facial Gua sha. He looks at modern Chinese ideas about the benefits and then gives his version based on ancient Chinese ecological principles.
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Hello and welcome to episode 11 of the Gua sha show. Today we’re exploring the benefits of Facial Gua sha. If we go back a few episodes to Episode 4, I talked about the benefits of Gua sha and in that show I promised to focus on Facial Gua sha in a later episode. So here I am.
Now, let’s just start off with a few things I want to make clear. I don’t approach Gua sha from a beauty background. I’ve spent years battling illness and balancing health and it was all about correct diagnosis, appropriate treatment and the skillful management of getting someone on the path back to good health. Around 10 years ago I started to apply the same analytical approach to the face, because there really isn’t any difference, and the appropriate treatment and the management on the path this time to beauty.
But hang on. Let me clarify what I mean about beauty because I often don’t mean the same beauty that people think I mean. Ecology in Motion, which is the Gua sha I created, is taken from the grand principles of the ancient Chinese and these were fundamentally ecological in nature. So whenever I talk of the face and body you’ll hear me use words that you might not normally associate with the face. More like you’re watching the natural history channel. I’ll often talk of the blooming flower which is the potential of every single human being on this planet. You plant a seed in the ground, you water it, you take care of it, you ensure it has enough sun and shade, and it slowly grows. At the right time, when cared for properly, a colorful flower appears and opens up to show us what the dark green plant had hidden inside it all the time. It just hadn’t shown it.
This is representative of all people who have this seed of potential inside them and when it’s allowed to bloom, their inner beauty shows itself.
If you’re interested in getting to this place of beauty then you’ve got to know what might nurture it and also might be preventing it. You’ve got to know how you might help someone get closer to their potential and glow like the last embers of the sunset hits your face.
So what I’m including here maybe isn’t what you’re expecting. I’m not interested in the unsubstantiated claims of how Facial Gua sha is going to create miracles on your face. The more I look into how Facial Gua sha has developed recently, the more divorced it is from where it came from. And just seems to be based around the sale of a tool and throw in a few scraping techniques and banal simplistic explanations.
So with my feet are still firmly placed in Chinese medicine, let’s take a peek at the benefits.
And where better a place to start than with what Chinese sources say about Facial Gua sha. It’s easy for you to see what’s said about the benefits of Facial Gua sha in English (or in your language if it’s not English). Just do a search on the internet. You’ll get all kinds of weird and wonderful stuff. So let’s give you something that may be a little harder to get, so here’s a quick run down of a range of Chinese websites explain the benefits of Facial Gua sha.
1. It opens up the meridians
Okay. It starts straight off with meridians, of course, which is the English term lots of people use to refer to the organised circulation system in your body. I’ve said this many times. I don’t use the term because I think it’s incorrect but you’ll hear it a lot. When I studied in China this was the word that was used. I’ll come back to this later but for now this is what they have to say…
Frequent facial scraping can open up the meridians of the hands and feet. For women with cold constitution, and with cold hands and feet, facial scraping can improve this situation. In Chinese medicine, it is believed that women will have such problems because of insufficient yang qi in the body, or poor circulation of qi and blood, and facial scraping can change this problem.
Well there’s actually a great deal of truth in this explanation but it would take me quite a while to go through it with you. So let’s go on.
2. Shrink pores
Facial scraping can increase the firmness of the muscles, and play a role in promoting qi and blood circulation, so that the water in the body can be discharged quickly and the skin metabolism of the body can be faster. It also speeds up the skin's absorption of nutrients and plays a role in shrinking pores.
The thermal reaction produced by scraping on the face can accelerate the metabolism of the skin and activate weak cells. In order to achieve a more ideal skin care effect, you will choose moisturisers that add skin care ingredients during the scraping process. The essence allows the skin to fully absorb nutrients and tighten the skin.
Okay. The first part is actually what I’m going to come on to in a minute and although it’s put a bit simplistic here, the basic idea is there.
3. Delay aging
Long-term facial scraping can make the passage of the skin surface smoother, and these nutrients can be better absorbed, so that the skin's ability to absorb nutrients is stronger, and it plays a role in delaying aging. It can also speed up blood circulation in the skin and reduce wrinkles on the face.
Yes, the basis of what they’re saying here is similar to what’s coming.
4. Whitening and spotting
Gua Sha on the face can promote blood circulation and remove blood stagnation, and accelerate the metabolism to better lighten the spots on the face. The use of Gua Sha therapy to massage the entire face can reduce the dullness and paleness of the skin. While the meridians are smooth, the brightness can be improved and the skin tone can be uniform.
Well, I’m sure you’ll be aware of the flush on the face from Facial Gua sha but they’re referring here to more of a permanent glow.
6. Clean the pores
Gua sha stimulates damaged cells, make them more vigorous, strengthens the secretion ability of skin cells, and quickly restore the cell regeneration function. This can also accelerate the excretion of some metabolic substances from the sweat glands, achieving the effect of cleansing the pores.
This is taking the general idea about removing things from the body which is the background of Gua sha and if you’re not sure about that, go and listen to the history of Facial Gua sha.
Okay. There are some nuggets of information in these Chinese explanations, so let me explain a bit more. I think there are two really important things to understand if you want to Facial Gua sha and understand what you’re doing.
The first is that you’ve got to think about the fascia or the connective tissue. An important area to look at in Facial Gua sha is the stretching of loose connective tissue and the subsequent response of things called fibroblasts. Now what’s a fibroblast? It’s a type of cell which forms the structural framework of tissues in our bodies. They’re the main connective tissue cells present in the body. When you do Gua sha on the skin you have an effect on these cells.
What happens is when you stretch them mechanically as you might with a Gua sha tool, they change size and shape. They’re not changing size and shape from the strength of brute force but by appropriate stimulation. Now this change is thought to affect the cell-to-cell signaling process within the connective tissue - so will change how the cells communicate together not only in the local area but further afield. So what this means is that as well as the cellular and biochemical changes, connective tissue may become tighter or looser in response to changes in tissue. This is pretty important to know, right? Think about those loose structures letting everything slip downward on the face.
And the fascinating effect of this in terms of Facial Gua sha is the possible changes that would also come as a result in interstitial fluid pressure (that’s basically body water) and transcapillary fluid flow (like a valve system to maintain fluid levels). The connective tissue change has a direct effect on these and is thought to help in the regulation of liquid. Think about puffiness or swollen areas in the face. This explains in terms of connective tissue how pressure with the tool can indirectly help drain fluid. Without actually touching the fluid area.
Another very important thing to consider is the changes in blood circulation and blood perfusion. Tissues and organs within your body are able to mostly regulate their own blood supply. An area of your body has a localized ability to increase its blood flow in order to meet any metabolic and functional need it has. After a meal, you need more blood to the digestive process, for example. This local blood flow regulation is something which changes after Gua sha treatment and is also something which will affect other local blood flow areas nearby and possibly also the main circulation system.
So there are two important processes at play with Facial Gua sha - one in the connective tissue and one in the local blood circulation. Both of them are going to have an impact on the skin on your face and the health of your body.
The trouble is that neither of them are in play if you’re just doing light pulling motions over your face without an understanding of what’s underneath. In order to affect the connective tissue changes, you have to understand the connection with the facial connective tissue and the rest of the body. Luckily the ancient Chinese already did this and gave us something called the sinew channels which are muscular-tendino connections which run throughout the body and are based on movements. You should be familiar with muscles being grouped - examples are the quadriceps, gluteals and hamstrings - but these groupings are far more extensive and believe it or not all based on the simple movements of plants.
And in order to affect the circulation system, you have to understand the blood circulation connection with the rest of the body. Guess what? The ancient Chinese already did this and gave us the river/channel system so we can see clearly which part of the face is connected to which circulatory system.
So if the Facial Gua sha you’re practising is too divorced from the origins of Gua sha, the benefits of Facial Gua sha are probably going to be limited in scope. Instead of aiming for the flourishing blossom of health and beauty in one beautiful package, you’re limiting yourself to a few wrinkles.
So my advice is break off the superficial shackles and open yourself to a fascinating world that transforms what you do with Facial Gua sha!
Okay so that’s it for another episode! I’ll be seeing you next week.
If I’ve piqued your interest, come and join me. This is what I do! All the links including the Gua sha Group on Facebook and Instagram are in the show notes.