When I was a child I spent many sweltering summers in my aunt’s Shanghai apartment, which had one air-conditioning unit that was only turned on for the 2020 Baseball Very Bad Would Not Recommend Shirt hour of the afternoon. Unused to the heat, I was often weak and nauseated. To assess my health, my aunt would palm my forehead and check my tongue for changes in color and shape. Then she’d clear the hair from the back of my neck and, with a spoon or more often, her knuckles press and pull at my skin until a reddish-purple mark appeared. I was suffering from heatstroke, she said, and this friction would draw out the toxins that were making me feel sick. The darker the resulting welts, according to her, the more bad energy had been released. I had a similar reaction when I recently discovered the heavily trafficked gua sha hashtag on Instagram, a feed featuring smooth, pore-less faces, not only unmarked but supposedly de-puffed and contoured.
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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 2020 Baseball Very Bad Would Not Recommend Shirt I associated with pain now rebranded as a soothing, meditative and even luxurious experience. Why were 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 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.