It’s no secret that Gua Sha has become a skincare ritual for its ability to boost circulation and help with a variety of skin conditions, from puffiness and inflammation to wrinkles and other age-related issues.
The real secret is that this ancient technique has been around for much longer than you might think.
Meet the OG of Gua Sha – Sandra Lanshin Chiu
Gua Sha’s effectiveness in treating chronic and acute skin problems has been perfected through Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The contemporary OG in the TCM space – garnering millions of views on YouTube – is Sandra Lanshin Chiu.
Sandra is a licensed acupuncturist in New York, with a Masters in Traditional Chinese Medicine (MSTOM). She is also the owner of Lanshin, a Brooklyn-based holistic healing studio dedicated to transforming clients’ skin health, and a skincare line of the same name.
At the start of her summer, Sandra shared this before and after transformation of a client she worked with through a series of treatments – some we knew, like gua sha, and some we never had. seen before. We asked Sandra to guide us through the transformation…
According to Chiu, “It is important to note that it takes a great deal of specialized training to effectively and safely practice any modality of Chinese medicine. I stress this point because as these ancient modalities grow in popularity, many non-TCM brands and practitioners are claiming expertise in teaching or selling practices like Gua Sha, cupping, and herbal medicine. These practices come from a medical system that requires years of formalized education and training, and licensing by individual states to practice.
What were your goals with the client, Aya, in this before and after?
My goals for Aya were guided by her concerns, which she described as neck and jaw tension associated with a forward “hunched” posture and swelling in her neck and lower face.
Translated through my lens as an acupuncturist, my goals were to release the degree of tension in his neck from a level 10 to 2. I thought this would address 80% of his concerns as it would lengthen his neck and reduce the front curved posture of his spine. It also reduced the intensity of jaw tension, which made the lower part of his face slimmer.
Essentially, I viewed Aya’s neck tension and posture as a primary root of her aesthetic concerns, so my strategy was to use every resource in my toolbox and consider every tension pattern near and far from the area of concern. This would require me to focus some of his treatments on areas like his mid back and his arms, which for the most part may seem unrelated to his neck. In holistic medicine like TCM, these areas are often complicit in neck and jaw problems.
6 Ancient Beauty Techniques Behind This Impressive Before + After
01. Acupuncture with electrical stimulation —a modern innovation for acupuncture. Electrodes are connected to acupuncture needles to form a circuit. Electrical micro-currents are then applied which can pulsate the needles providing prolonged and stronger stimulation to the treated area. I use it when there is chronic stubborn tension that creates stiffness and hardness in the muscles.
Many wonder if this treatment hurts. My answer is always that you will and should feel something with acupuncture, and certainly when we add electrical stimulation to it. That something you feel isn’t necessarily pain, but it may feel “strange” or “weird.” I look for sensations like a dull ache or pain to inform me that the energy is activated at the point. We call this “qi sensation”. Sometimes it feels like a tingling or traveling sensation. Most do not consider them to be painful. Sometimes the needle will feel a little sharp when inserted like a bug bite, but that’s actually rarer than the qi feeling.
02. Cupping. Cupping is a type of suction therapy that has been used in TCM for centuries to stimulate healing for a variety of conditions ranging from pain to all kinds of internal ailments. I used it on Aya when I needed to strongly break down the stubborn stiffness in her muscle tissue that was causing a lot of what we call stagnation of blood and qi (energy) in her neck and shoulders, and even in her his back. There was quite a bit of pooled blood that I was able to remove from his neck. This gave him dark red circular sucker marks which faded completely over the next few days.
Many often ask if cupping hurts and if the marks are permanent. In general, most enjoy the feeling of cupping. However, it may feel a bit intense at first if a very strong suction level is used. It’s easy to adjust, or it often passes after a minute.
In Aya’s case, I used a high intensity on her that she could handle, and after the initial intensity wore off, she felt the sensation was as good as a massage. If there is a lot of blood stagnation in the tissues, which usually means there is already some degree of inflammation, then Cupping will draw a colored “sha” ranging from light pink to dark purple red if severe.
03. Sliding cutting technique. This is simply a variation of the cupping technique where instead of leaving the cupping still at a single point, you glide the cupping around the treatment area after applying some kind of oil or balm to produce an easy glide. Many find this technique as pleasurable as massage.
04. Infrared heat penetration + massage. I used our Lanshin massager from ACERA, which is a massage tool that delivers far infrared (FIR) energy when heated. This concept of using the power of heat for healing comes from the Chinese medical practice called moxibustion. It involves sending heat to acupuncture points and treatment areas by burning heat-penetrating medicinal herbs. Think of it as ancient far infrared heat therapy. I use it on virtually every patient because the FIR energy is so effective in removing stubborn tension. You can learn more in our YouTube tutorial.
05. Gua Sha Gua Sha is a Chinese medicinal healing practice with historical records dating back to the Paleolithic era. It was first used to help with an assortment of ailments like physical aches and as a more preventative approach to fighting the early onset of fever and illness. More recently, Gua Sha has been studied and found to resolve a variety of internal conditions like hepatitis, headaches, and neck pain.
Gua Sha often results in redness on the skin called “sha” or “petechiae” similar to the type of marks that many athletes have seen when using the cupping technique to heal and recover from injuries.
06. Gua Sha Facial Facial Gua Sha is a gentler form of Gua Sha that is applied to the neck and face. When practiced correctly, Facial Gua Sha can release stubborn tensions and knots in the face, neck and shoulders. This can be especially ideal for those who suffer from jaw or TMJ pain, headaches, seasonal allergies, and sinus congestion. Facial Gua Sha can also stimulate and improve the circulation of blood, fluids and energy (qi) in the skin and underlying tissues. This improved circulation can cause visible changes, such as reduced puffiness, smoother complexion, softened lines, more sculpting, and better skin hydration.
We are often asked, “Can Facial Gua Sha slim my face?” Facial Gua Sha cannot reduce fat or replace weight loss. It improves the circulation of blood and qi (energy) where it is applied, which can lead to smoother, more radiant skin and more lifted and sculpted features. Facial Gua Sha is a Chinese medical technique that improves the health of the skin and tissues, a true source of more beautiful skin and a youthful appearance.
Another common question is, “Can Gua Sha get rid of my wrinkles?” The Gua Sha facial practice should primarily be understood as a health-enhancing technique that increases the circulation of blood, qi (energy), and essential fluids in your skin and tissues. By doing this, the appearance of wrinkles may soften and become less noticeable. But results may vary depending on age, facial muscle tension intensity and skin type.