Sandra Lanshin Chiu on Why Gua Sha is the Original Self-Care Practice
Gua sha tools and jade rollers have been popping all over Instagram for a while now and gained a loyal following among skincare junkies. For the uninitiated, facial gua sha is different from jade rollers. Used in traditional Chinese medicine, the practice involves scraping a flat tool with rounded edges, usually made of jade or crystals, over the skin. Traditional gua sha is usually done on the neck and back to relieve tension in the muscle.
For Sandra Lanshin Chiu, licensed acupuncturist, herbalist, and founder of Lanshin, her informal “gua sha education” began in childhood and has since evolved into a passion. The skin connoisseur was formerly of the finance world before she made the switch and began her training in Traditional Chinese Medicine. After her extensive studies both in the United States and China (including a 4-year Master’s degree and 1.5 years in Beijing for an apprenticeship), Sandra returned to New York to begin her practice.
Her main focus? Applying acupuncture, herbs, and the major “tools” of TCM to treat skin disorders and rejuvenate skin cosmetically.
BEAUBIT caught up with Sandra to talk about Treatment by Lanshin, her take on ageing, and of course, gua sha tips.
For those out there who are not familiar with Treatment by Lanshin, can you describe for us what you do?
At Lanshin, we use the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat skin conditions and rejuvenate the skin. Treatments and services include Acupuncture (traditional and facial rejuvenation), Facial Gua Sha, and Chinese Medicine Dermatology.
We also have a rapidly growing e-commerce and wholesale business, selling our proprietary line of tools and a curated selection of high-end skincare products.
What first motivated you to become a healer, and why specifically Traditional Chinese Medicine?
I quit a corporate job and began graduate-level training in Traditional Chinese Medicine. After I completed my Master’s degree and postgraduate training in Beijing, I came back to New York and began private practice.
My work as an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist has always been dedicated to TCM. Now, I use my TCM experience and knowledge to focus on healing dermatological conditions and delivering results for cosmetic issues.
Where does your speciality lie when it comes to the skin and what makes your take unique?
In practice for almost 20 years, I initially found success in treating pain, infertility, digestive disorders, and more. Through my work, I realised the powerful impact that TCM has on patients’ skin and overall appearance. These days, my main focus is treating common, yet challenging skin conditions like acne, rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis.
Tell us more about your philosophy around the ageing process. How does Traditional Chinese Medicine address ageing?
TCM is successful in working with the common complaints related to “ageing,” yet it provides a more compassionate and healing-based perspective to understand skin issues and what it takes to heal them.
“TCM principles teach that our beauty is directly connected to our harmony with nature. That principle alone has the potential to transform our collective confidence in ourselves and our beauty.”
In TCM, a key principle is healthy circulation. Circulation not only feeds our muscles and skin with the nutrients needed to support healthy function, but it also carries away built-up metabolic waste. When that’s functioning properly, the body is healthy and skin looks glowing and youthful.
What do you look for in skincare?
My approach to skincare products (for acne treatment and otherwise) is to look for well-formulated products based on expertise in skin physiology, formulation chemistry, and ideally professional, clinical experience treating patients. There aren’t many brands that tick every box, but I’m interested in products that meet at least 1 to 2 of them.
Skin is a major organ and it reflects the state of health within our whole system, so it’s worth seeking professional support rather than playing around with anecdotal information found on social media. For those interested in a TCM-based approach, I recommend the worldwide practitioner database on tcmdermatology.org!
You’re a champion of gua sha and you have designed a few of your own. Why is this a central element in your practice?
Unlike acupuncture, facial gua sha is a Chinese medicine-based practice that can be practised as self-care. It’s a safe and effective way to achieve results and improve the quality of their skin and health without requiring the access or means to see a professional.
I also find that facial gua sha—when practised with good technique—is exponentially more effective at immediately improving skin’s appearance and restoring youthfulness in a way that topical products alone can‘t.
Facial gua sha is also a beautiful, calming way to reconnect with ourselves; not only do we feel good about our skin, we also feel more relaxed and at ease.
“In my opinion, to be beautiful is to be at ease.”
Any gua sha tips to share with our readers?
1. Don’t store your facial gua sha tools in the fridge or freezer. In TCM, we generally avoid using cold tools on the skin and body because cold constricts circulation. For most ageing-related concerns, acne, and skin congestion, using a room temperature or warm tool actually helps stimulate circulation, creating better conditions for healing and rejuvenation. A chilled tool isn’t wrong, it’s just not a common method used in TCM!
2. Practise facial gua sha at least 3 times a week—or as often as every day! This helps maintain the results of your at-home practice (and from professional facial treatments too).
3. The best time to practice facial gua sha is whenever works for you! Some people prefer to do it in the morning, others enjoy it before going to sleep… It pairs well with Netflix anytime! A quick gua sha session is my favourite way to prep skin before putting on makeup.
4. Use a hydrating mist (or alcohol-free toner), followed by a facial oil (or another moisturiser) to prep your skin and get the necessary “glide.” Skin that isn’t well-moisturised may cause too much friction, which is uncomfortable.
For more gua sha tips, check out Sandra’s video tutorials here.
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