Does Gua Sha work as a healing technique?


The idea of running a slate of jade or polished wood along your skin does sound heavenly if you’re a skincare junkie. But apply more pressure and you feel, well, a little exfoliated. This is Gua Sha, pronounced ‘gwa sha’, and eastern medicine touts this as a multipurpose healing technique. It’s now going West.

It uses a tool to apply pressure and scrape the skin to relieve pain and tension while causing light bruising, which often appears as purple or red spots, known as petechiae or sha. We haven’t seen much of Gua Sha, but the reason it’s been on the rise is the vanity benefits. Huda Kattan, founder of Huda Beauty, and blogger-doctor Dr Mona Vand vouch for the contouring and puffiness-reducing qualities of Gua Sha. Dr Kiran Kaur Sethi, dermatologist and founder at Isya Aesthetics in Delhi, uses Gua Sha herself, explaining it’s an addition to her recommendations of skincare and treatments. “I like that it can be done at home; it’s cost-effective; and that people see a difference when they do it.” But what about the science? In the ‘Effect of Gua Sha therapy on perimenopausal syndrome: A randomised controlled trial’, the researchers conclude, “The results of this study suggest that Gua Sha therapy was effective and safe in relieving perimenopausal symptoms (sweating, headache, insomnia) and improving the quality of life in participants with perimenopausal syndrome.” However, studies are limited.

Well aware of the scepticism, Dr Sethi says that the method improves circulation. “Since there is no risk to people who don’t have a medical condition, and it can be done at home, most people can try it.” Avoid it if you’re on blood thinners, have skin or vein conditions, or any kind of implant.

That said, it’s not a technique one can learn simply by visiting YouTube. Look up specialists who are qualified and understand the direction in which you should do it, how to handle the tool, and exactly how much pressure you should exert where. One wrong move, and you may be in for a world of pain.

In this column, we decode health trends and decide if it’s all just ‘hype’ or actually ‘happening’


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