I Tried It: The Great Guasha Experiment

I am always fascinated by international and cultural skin care treatments and was very intrigued when my plant sister, Sherry, sent me a link to an article on "Guasha," an ancient practice of cleansing and purifying the skin to promote overall wellness.

Historically, gua sha, is a traditional Chinese practice of using a tool, usually a spoon, a bone or pieces of jade, to vigorously scrape a prepared paste or oil off of areas of the body to release stagnant energy. This is thought to open up pathways of healing through the skin. In practice, the treatment sometimes can cause abrasions and bruising. This is a very simplistic explanation, of course, and does not honor the rich history and background of the practice of this treatment.

After more perusing the interwebs, it seems an alternative form of guasha is being practiced in the form of more of a body scrub delivery system, using baking soda and vodka (and sometimes crushed shells and minerals). The premise is that this treatment kills unwanted bacteria, fungus, etc. on the skin and opens up the pores to promote healing of the whole body by allowing skin to purge toxins more efficiently. 

Hmmmm....I have put stranger things on my body. Let's give it a go!

Well, I happened to have both items at the ready so I whipped enough aluminum free baking soda with vodka to make a thick paste. All I had on hand was premium vodka that was a gift, so, hey, fancy for a body scrub, huh?

My gorgeous guasha paste.
The process to perform the treatment is to shower for a moment, then turn off the water and apply some of the paste spread onto a loofah in vigorous circular motions to the body, starting at the feet and moving up.

The slight smell of a distillery was a little odd, but, since I'm taking one for the team here, I forged ahead, while pondering offering this as a spa treatment alongside a shot of vodka and a caviar face mask... 

Anyway, after a thorough scrubbing, including my face (gently for 30 seconds only, rather than the 3-5 minutes I saw recommended), I rinsed, got out of the shower and applied a light layer of coconut oil to my entire body, as suggested.

Here is my verdict on this treatment:

  • Although I expected the paste would be brutal, it actually had a nice creamy feel.
  • The thorough scrubbing was very invigorating and my skin felt very smooth and toned afterward (I suppose the vodka had the same toning effect as an aftershave on skin tissues). I felt peppy and ready to start my day!
  • My skin did feel dry and tight afterward, even with the application of coconut oil, as I suspected it may, using alcohol as a body cleanser.
  • My skin was smooth, but not moisturized, as it would have been with a traditional oil-based body scrub.
  • It smelled like I was at the bar. Should I ever try this again, I may add a drop of essential oil to cut the booze odor.
  • It is advised to perform this treatment several days in a row, which seems excessive and so drying/irritating, that it makes me want to cry a little.
  • By scrubbing vigorously with a treatment containing alcohol, a strong solvent that strips the skin of lipids and protective moisture, how much are we compromising our skin's natural protective lipid barrier, resulting in damage to the skin?
  • Since skin houses good bacteria, are we effectively killing them off, also, causing an upset of the natural bacterial balance of skin? 
  • Is the excessive scrubbing reaching a tipping point of over-exfoliation, thus compromising the skin's healthy balance and function?
Arguably, I am looking at this from the perspective of a skin care therapist without any actual facts or experience regarding the treatment as a wellness application. This practice has been going on since ancient times and I trust the healing foundations for it. 

But, this is the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night.

So overall, I'm not sure I would try this again. I would much prefer to exfoliate with a treatment that, removes unwanted dead skin cells and debris, allowing pores and skin to function optimally, while still moisturizing and protecting the skin and it's delicately balanced lipid barrier.

Would you try this treatment? Although, I would not recommend it, if you do try it or have tried it, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Yours in exfoliation,
Camille xoxo

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