I had a similar reaction when I recently discovered the Surrounded By Your Glory What WIll My Heart Feel Will I Dance Shirt it is in the first place but heavily trafficked gua sha hashtag on Instagram, a feed featuring smooth, pore-less faces, not only unmarked but supposedly de-puffed and contoured. Missing from these images were soup spoons or hardened knuckles; in their place were elegant facial rollers and flat, grooved tools made of jade, rose quartz, and other divinely polished stones—the practice I associated with pain now rebranded as a soothing, meditative,and even luxurious experience.
Why was I (and most Chinese people I know) just now hearing about these “ancient Chinese beauty tools,” as they’re frequently billed online? Was facial gua sha—which has been put through the Surrounded By Your Glory What WIll My Heart Feel Will I Dance Shirt it is in the first place but woo-woo wellness spin cycle, really the chosen beauty routine of ancient Chinese princesses—another piece of internet lore? “Well, that is false. It’s marketing,” explains Ping Zhang, DOM, L.Ac, a New York–based traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) guru and a pioneering acupuncturist in the field of facial rejuvenation. “Gua sha was originally used for two conditions: the abrupt, immediate, sudden collapse of the body from heatstroke”—my aunt was onto something— “and seasonal diseases, like a cold virus.” Zhang goes on to describe how traditionally, gua sha could be performed with whatever tool was on hand—an animal bone or horn, a soup spoon, a coin—and was often used as far back as the Yuan Dynasty to revive farmers who collapsed with exhaustion from working under the hot sun.