Facial gua sha (pronounced "gwa sha") is a holistic treatment rooted in ancient Chinese medicine that involves scraping a flat jade or rose-quartz stone over the skin in upward strokes to relax stiff muscles and promote tissue drainage—not to mention healthier skin and an unparelled glow. Gretchen Oppenheim, owner and esthetician at Wildflower Beauty Bar in Port Moody, B.C., is one of the only gua sha practitioners in the Lower Mainland and possesses a wealth of knowledge on the method. Read on to learn more about this wonderful treatment (and enter to win!). —Noa Nichol
Hi Gretchen! Please tell us a bit about yourself to start.
I'm a mom of two young kids with a passion for finding sustainable ways to care for one’s self. I became a licensed esthetician 16 years ago and since then have had the pleasure of working in a wide range of skin-care facilities, ranging from the traditional spa to a dermatology clinic. Through this I have learned that, regardless of the type of beauty treatment sought, what people really want is to find good, knowledge-based care. I opened Wildflower in the summer of 2017. I was looking for a creative outlet and the freedom to express self-care and beauty the way I saw it. After becoming a mom I realized how important it was for me to spend time doing what I truly love and believe in. I wanted to create a space that really reflected my vision and, just as importantly, allowed for me to connect with my clients on a deeper level.
What is facial gua sha?
Facial gua sha is rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In TCM the approach is holistic, meaning that the body is seen as a sum of its parts. For skin care this translates to moving beyond isolating treatment of the skin solely with creams and topical treatments but rather by kick-starting the body’s innate ability to re-balance itself from the inside out. Facial gua sha achieves this by stimulating Qi, the body’s vital energy, as well as blood flow and lymph flow. Working over specific meridian lines and acupressure points along the neck and face, gua sha encourages lift and vitality from the inside out. It’s very gentle and relaxing but also extremely effective and powerful. With the right techniques and maintenance it truly can transform the appearance of skin. Plus, it stimulates collagen production to tone and tighten the skin, ultimately smoothing out wrinkles and also reducing the appearance of pigmentation. As you can tell, there are many reasons to love gua sha!
What are the differentiators (from other facial treatments)?
The biggest difference between facial gua sha and other facial treatments is truly in its holistic, gentle, yet super effective approach. Historically skincare transformation has been associated with invasive or aggressive techniques but gua sha is different in that it activates re-balancing from the inside out. By venting the flow of Qi, facial gua sha fuels the body’s vital energy and thereby its ability to function with ease bringing harmony to the skin. By increasing blood flow it delivers oxygen and nutrients to the skin cells and stimulates the production of collagen and repair processes. Bonus: facial gua sha also really helps to de-puff the face as it is able to help move metabolic waste by invigorating the lymphatic system. Best of all, the results are instant: it’s truly like having a gentle facelift.
Why are you so passionate about it?
Because of the results I’ve seen in the skin of my clients as well as myself. Over the last two years I’ve seen a drastic improvement in the de-puffing and contouring of my face, the reduction of stubborn pigmentation plus a permanent relaxation of stubborn wrinkles. I also love how it’s given me the feeling of control over certain aspects of my skin’s appearance. It really is one of the most effective “anti-aging” treatments I’ve ever worked with. I also love that it empowers the user's own beauty routine. When the skin is sagging, puffy or sallow, a few minutes of gua sha truly helps to alleviate those issues. It’s an easy, sustainable way to care for your skin between professional treatments.
Can it be done at home (and any tips on doing so)?
Yes! Learn how to do it properly! Learning the how and the why for your particular skin’s condition is where true transformation begins. I offer one-on-one gua sha sessions to teach people how to address their particular skin concerns and also have some quick how-to videos on my Instagram.
Win! A $205 Lift and Flow Gua Sha Facial at Wildflower Beauty Bar!
We have a winner! Congratulations Bettina N. of Burnaby, B.C., who will receive a $205 Lift and Flow Gua Sha Facial at Wildflower Beauty Bar!