You may have read some of my articles about beauty, beautiful skin, and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). This is one of my favorite topics and readers seem to like it a lot too. When there’s a new post on skincare and Chinese beauty secrets the response is swift. People want to learn about all the wonderful things that are TCM aesthetic treatment can do for them, and no wonder. The benefits are numerous and wide-ranging, and the techniques are aesthetically pleasing and a joy to experience. What’s not to love here?
Jade instruments are particularly enchanting. Have you ever tried a TCM beauty treatment that involves jade? One of the tools your practitioner will us might be a jade gua sha tool and/or a jade roller. Both have their place in the treatments that I will discuss here, and I’d like to interject some history and information about the material itself, jade, into the conversation too. It’s a beautiful stone, and one with such a rich history. Depending on your feelings about stones as holding healing properties, you might already know that jade is revered as a nourishing substance, one with purifying energy and a capacity to cool, soothe, and enhance whatever it touches. Jade also has a storied history and a lengthy connection with China and Chinese culture.
As a technique, gua sha also has a lengthy connection with China and Chinese culture. You may have heard of gua sha as it is used for things like colds and flu or muscle ache. It’s also valued as an aesthetic modality too, of course.
Gua sha is a light scraping treatment that is probably most commonly associated with a metal instrument or with a spoon, as you can see from the photograph. When there are tight muscles, heat retention from colds, or pain from a range of causes, gua sha treatment is magical and I’ve written about its benefit elsewhere, including here. It’s an ancient practice that is common in Asian cultures and very well-known in its connection with Chinese medicine. A beauty treatment is going to be somewhat different than a therapeutic one delivered via the metal tool. Aesthetic treatments rely on an instrument made of jade and make use of gua sha’s capacity to de-puff areas that show signs of fluid retention. It is also possible to minimize scars and stretch marks. I’ve had some great results with skin lesions that were growing until I worked on them with the jade gua sha tool. (Mind you, we knew that this was not a case of skin cancer and, if you have suspicious skin lesions, your best bet is to ask your dermatologist first. As for me, I do not hesitate to send clients to their MD when warranted). A jade gua sha tool can smooth your skin, it can enhance the contours of your face, it help reduce the signs of fine lines, and it can brighten your complexion.
Have you ever wondered why jade is used for this purpose, and not some other material or stone? Why is it that beauty and healing combine and flower by way of this particular substance?
~~~A Digression: A Brief Discussion of Jade~~~
Jade has a long and storied history in connection with Chinese culture, and a treatment using this stone is not an accident. Jade is comprised of two minerals: nephrite and jadeite. In ancient China, the mottled green stone was considered the height of beauty, purity, and goodness. In the Han Dynasty period (206 BC to 221 AD), jade was thought to possess the virtues of benevolence, honesty, wisdom, integrity, and bravery. This vision of jade has endured over the course of centuries. If you wish to learn more, take a look at this infographic of the stone’s history, here. Some of the history it explains is amazing. Being buried in a jade suit? Starting wars over especially wonderful pieces of jade? Or this proverb, also in the linked article: “Gold has a price; jade is priceless.” Chinese artisans created marvelous carvings and other works with this stone, from the most simple (a circle with a hole in it, known as a Bi, which symbolizes eternity) to the most complicated. (If you would like to see some wonders of Chinese artistry with jade, go here and here).
The word itself as we know it in English comes from Spanish and resonates with colonial history. “Piedra de la ijada,” or “flank stone” was the term Spaniards used to describe jade because of what they observed. Aztec and Mayans believed that jade had healing properties and thus held it against their sides to cure their ills (source). In these cultures, too, jade was imbued with value and strength.
However, jade is associated primarily with Chinese culture and history. As you can see, “Chinese people love jade not only because of its aesthetic beauty, but also because of what it represents in terms of social value.” Its worth, as the linked essay explains, is outlined by Confucius, in part as: “The wise have likened jade to virtue. For them, its polish and brilliancy represent the whole of purity; its perfect compactness and extreme hardness represent the sureness of intelligence; its angles, which do not cut, although they seem sharp, represent justice; the pure and prolonged sound, which it gives forth when one strikes it, represents music” (source).
~~~The Jade Roller~~~
The gua sha instrument has a sharper edge, relatively speaking, in comparison to the jade roller. Instead of light scraping, as in the first case, your jade roller treatment uses the smooth, rounded cylinder to cool, soothe, and rejuvenate the facial skin. A technique employed by the aristocratic classes in China over the centuries, a jade roller treatment on the facial skin can minimize puffiness around the eyes, smooth fine lines, and finesse the contouring set in place by the gua sha instrument. Jade rollers tend to feel cool or almost cold, as the stone retains a certain temperature level that is improved by a short period of refrigeration. This can help improve the appearance of redness and blotches, in addition to smoothing the surface of the skin.
My experience giving jade roller treatments? Clients tell me that they feel calmer, soothed, and more relaxed than when we started. Their glowing skin makes them look like they’ve been on vacation. A treatment that consists of facial massage, or tui na, plus some cupping and then a finish with jade is truly magical.
Have you tried traditional Chinese beauty treatments yet? If you have rough skin, fine lines and wrinkles, puffiness surrounding your eyes, or a softening jawline, the ancient practice of tui na (similar to massage and akin to acupressure) followed by cupping, and then gua sha and the jade roller can improve the health and look of your skin and revolutionize your skincare. It’s also really, truly relaxing. When I give a facial treatment, I am looking not just at the face itself, but the neck too. I also integrate treatment to include overall constitutional wellness. Like anything else related to traditional Chinese medicine and practice, balance and a holistic approach predominates. The ideal is to effect change not just on the surface but, instead, from inside to outside. Treatments should leave you feeling like you’ve had a mini-vacation.
Jade, its history, and what we can do with it, is just that magic. Try it yourself, and see!
Paula Bruno, Ph.D., L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, an AOBTA-CP traditional Chinese bodywork therapist, and a wellness educator. She maintains an active and growing practice at her Austin, TX offices. Dr. Bruno is also available for distance appointments for wellness consultation or coaching.
In her first career, she was a Spanish professor.
Dr. Bruno’s specialties as a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner include: • Musculoskeletal health (acute or chronic pain relief; Ehlers Danlos syndrome & hypermobility support) • Digestive support, gut health, and weight loss • Aesthetic treatment, including scar revision • Men’s health • General preventative care and immune support for all persons.
When you are ready to discover what traditional medicine plus a vibrant and engaged approach to holistic health can do for you, either contact Dr. Bruno or book an appointment online.
Note: Material on this web site is not intended to replace your treatment or care provided by an MD. It is for educational/entertainment purposes only. A TCM practitioner in Texas identifies syndrome patterns but does not diagnose illness. Always consult your primary care doctor for health concerns.