It’s no secret that Gua Sha has been trending as a skincare ritual for its ability to stimulate circulation and help with a variety of skin conditions, from puffiness and inflammation to wrinkles and other concerns with aging.
The real secret is that this ancient technique has been around for much longer than you may think.
Meet the OG of Gua Sha – Sandra Lanshin Chiu
Gua Sha’s efficacy in treating chronic and acute skin issues was 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 degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine (MSTOM). She is also the owner of Lanshin, a Brooklyn-based holistic healing studio dedicated to transforming guests’ skin health and a skincare line of the same name.
Earlier his summer, Sandra shared this transformative before and after of a client she worked with through a series of treatments — some we were familiar with, like gua sha, and other we’d not seen before. We asked Sandra to walk us through the transformation…
According to Chiu, “It’s important to note that a lot of specialized training is needed to practice any modality of Chinese Medicine effectively and safely. I make this point because as these ancient modalities gain popularity, so many brands and non-TCM practitioners are claiming expertise by 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 licensure by individual states to practice.”
What were your goals with the client, Aya, in this before and after?
My goals for Aya were led by her concerns, which she described as neck and jaw tension coupled with a “hunching” forward posture, and a bulking of her neck and lower face.
Translated through my lens as an acupuncturist, my goals were to release the degree of tension in her neck from a level 10 to 2. I believed this would take care of 80% of her concerns because this would elongate her neck and scale back the forward hunching posture of her spine. It also reduced the intensity of jaw tension, which in turn would slim her lower face.
Essentially, I saw Aya’s neck tension and posture as a main root of her cosmetic concerns, so my strategy was to use every resource in my toolbox, and to consider every tension pattern near and distant from the area of concern. This would require me to focus some of her treatments on areas like her mid back and arms—which for most may seem unrelated to her neck. In a holistic medicine like TCM, these areas are common accomplices to problems of the neck and jaw.
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. Microcurrents of electricity are then applied which can pulse the needles providing a prolonged, stronger stimulation of the area being treated. I use this when there is stubborn, chronic 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 is not necessarily pain, but it can feel “odd” or “weird.” I look for sensations like a dull aching or soreness to inform me that the energy is activated at the point. We call this “qi sensation.” Sometimes this feels like a tingling or traveling sensation. Most do not regard these as painful. Occasionally the needle will feel a little sharp on insertion like a bug bite, but this is actually more rare than the qi sensation.
02. Cupping. Cupping is a type of suction therapy that has been used in TCM for centuries to stimulate the healing of a variety of conditions from pain to all kinds of internal diseases. I used this on Aya when I needed to strongly break through tough rigidity in her muscle tissue that was causing a lot of what we call blood and qi (energy) stagnation in her neck and shoulders, and even down her back. There was quite a bit of blood stagnation that I was able to remove from her neck. This gave her dark red circular Cupping marks which completely faded over the next few days.
Many often ask if Cupping hurts and if the marks are permanent. In general, most enjoy the sensation of cupping. However, it can feel a bit intense at first if a very strong suction level is used. This is easy to adjust down, or it often passes after a minute.
In Aya’s case, I did use a strong intensity on her which she could handle, and after the initial intensity wore off she felt the sensation was as pleasing as a massage. If there is a lot of blood stagnation in the tissues, which usually means there is already an existing degree of inflammation, then Cupping will pull colorful “sha” ranging from light pink to dark purple red if severe.
03. Sliding Cup Technique. This is simply a variation of the Cupping technique where, instead of leaving the suction cup stationary at a single point, you slide the cup around the treatment area after applying some kind of oil or balm to produce an easy glide. Many find this technique as enjoyable as massage.
04. Infrared Heat Penetration + Massage. I used our Lanshin Massager by 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. This involves sending heat to acupuncture points and treatment areas by burning heat penetrating, medicinal herbs. Think of it as an ancient far-infrared heat therapy. I use this on virtually every patient because the FIR energy is so effective at breaking down tough tension. You can find more in our YouTube tutorial.
05. Gua Sha Gua Sha is a Chinese medicinal healing practice with historical records going back to the paleolithic era. It was first used to help with an assortment of ailments like physical aches and pains and as a more preventative approach to combat 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 pulling out redness to the skin called “sha” or “petechiae” similar to the type of marks many have seen athletes show off when they use Cupping technique to heal and recover from injuries.
06. Facial Gua Sha 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 tough tension and knots in the face, neck and shoulders. This can be particularly ideal for those who suffer from jaw pain or TMJ, 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 tissue. This improved circulation can cause visible changes, such as reduced puffiness, a smoother complexion, softened lines, more sculpting, and better skin hydration.
We’re 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 result in smoother, more glowing skin, and more lifted and sculpted features. Facial Gua Sha is a Chinese medical technique that improves the health of the skin and tissue, which is the true source of better looking skin and youthful appearance.
Another common question is, “Can Gua Sha get rid of my wrinkles?” The practice of facial Gua Sha should first & foremost be understood as a health improving technique that increases the flow of blood, qi (energy), and essential fluids within your skin and tissues. By doing this, the appearance of wrinkles can soften and become less noticeable. But results may vary depending on age, intensity of facial muscle tension, and skin type.