Scraping the Surface: Gua Sha 101

Gua sha is making a return to the spa scene. // Photo via Shutterstock

While the idea of scraping the skin with a smooth-edged instrument may not exactly sound like an experience most people would relish, gua sha is gaining widespread acceptance thanks to its ability to improve circulation by increasing blood flow. This ancient Chinese healing technique addresses stagnant energy in the body, which is thought to promote inflammation. Not surprisingly, inflammation, which is triggered by the body’s immune response, is a hot topic in spas these days. It can hasten aging of the skin and lead to chronic pain in the body. Gua sha is experiencing a revival, as spas and practitioners introduce this age-old therapy to today’s spa-goers.

“We are adding gua sha into facial and body treatments, focusing on not only beautifying and age-defying results but also, more importantly, the circulatory and beauty and health benefits to the skin and body,” says Trina Jefferson, global director of spa development at Kerstin Florian International. Sonja Anduiza, spa director of Amara Spa at Amara Resort and Spa (Sedona, AZ), recently introduced the limited-time Sedona Serenity Gemstone Facial ($150, 60 minutes) to highlight the healing properties of gemstones. She also incorporated a jade gua sha tool. “This gemstone facial is the first service in which I have introduced gua sha to Amara Spa, but I am certain, it will not be the last,” says Anduiza.

Gua sha may sound like a mouthful, but when translated from Chinese, its name provides a pretty accurate description of the therapy. Gua means scraping, and sha loosely translates to sand. It can also be referred to as coining or spooning. “The scraping action of gua sha creates a minor irritation, which leads to a rapid rush of blood circulation to the treatment area,” says Ada Ooi, founder and CEO of 001 Skincare London. “This boosted circulation, in traditional Chinese medicine terms, moves stagnated blood and qi.” Gua sha is performed with a light oil or cream to help the tool scrape across the skin.

Providing multiple benefits to the face and body, gua sha is proving to be a good fit for today’s stressed spa-goers.


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