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August 3, 2021 — 15:02 PM
Gua sha is an ancient healing modality in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) meant to increase circulation, move lymph, and clear stagnant energy (called chi). Historically and professionally, the technique is used to treat your whole body and aid immune function; but in the West, it’s frequently touted for its ability to sculpt the skin and rejuvenate the face.
It’s sort of a loaded question because, well, there isn’t one “right” answer. According to acupuncturist Paige Yang, L.Ac., DACM, MSTCM, doctor of TCM and founder of Yang Face, the time of day you gua sha depends on your intention for the practice. Below, she explains the benefits of gua sha in the morning versus at night.
“If I do gua sha in the morning, then my intention is to invigorate chi and blood and wake up the channels and meridians,” says Yang. “People may also find that doing gua sha in the morning can reduce puffiness and brighten the complexion. This is because gua sha is stimulating chi and blood circulation.”
If you do choose to gua sha in the morning, you’ll want to use upward strokes—this stimulates blood flow in the face, which can “wake up” your complexion and help you prepare for the day to come. “I stroke upward on the neck to bring chi and blood up and help awaken my shen, or spirit and essence,” says Yang.
It’s a similar reason facialists recommend applying your skin care products in upward motions for a morning glow: By floating your hands in this direction, you’re encouraging more circulation in the tissue, which helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to the cells.
On the other hand, some people prefer to gua sha in the evenings. There’s a practical reason for this: You might not enjoy slipping on an oil in the mornings—especially if you’re going to layer on makeup that day. (Remember: You should always apply a face oil before gliding your stone so you don’t tug at the skin.) While we believe high-quality facial oils are for everyone (and you can find fairly lightweight options), you might not feel as comfortable patting on a heavier occlusive in the a.m.
But the main reason you may want to gua sha at night, according to Yang, is to help break up stagnant chi that accumulates throughout the day. If the morning is about stimulating blood flow and awakening the skin and spirit, the evening is about calming everything down. “If I do gua sha at night, then my intention is so smooth chi and blood that stagnated during the day, reduce stress and tension, and calm the mind as well as spirit,” Yang notes. “The chi and blood can stagnate throughout the day due to stress, screen time, and ‘stuck’ emotions.”
That being said, if you do want to smooth chi with an evening gua sha, you’ll want to use downward strokes to encourage blood flow in that direction. “This helps calm the mind and spirit, as well as return any congested chi and blood to the body to then be processed by the other internal organs. I also imagine putting my face to rest/sleep when I do this,” says Yang.
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There isn’t one time of day that’s “best” for gua sha—it just depends on what you’d like to get out of your practice (and for what it’s worth: You can gua sha any time of day you like). But if you’re hoping to energize the body and stimulate circulation, perhaps gua sha in the morning using upward strokes; to break up congested chi and prepare your body for sleep, Yang recommends a nighttime practice.