My First Time: Gua Sha Facial

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In her new column for Just Bobbi, author, advisor and attorney Anjali Kumar is willing to try anything in the name of wellness (at least once).

I’ve been seeing rose quartz and jade facial tools popping up all over the internet for months now. Already glowing ladies massaging their faces with a flat smooth edged stone or doll sized rolling pin using gentle upward strokes and looking fresh, dewy and toned with curiously pronounced cheekbones a few frames later.

And then I started seeing the little tools sold across NYC and LA, everywhere from wellness emporiums to street markets in Chinatown to ads popping up in my inbox.

And then my eternally youthful (in mind, body, spirit, AND face) friend Michele Promaulayko told me about Gua Sha, an ancient technique used to create circulation in the skin promoting oxygen. Gua Sha is used to sculpt, melt, and lift the muscles (and can be specifically done for the face using the flat rose quartz tool I kept seeing everywhere for the same purpose) and Michele had been doing it for a while to incredible results. Michele said the person in NY to go to was Studio Britta. So after cyberstalking holistic facialist and Wilding Beauty co-founder Britta Plug’s tutorials on Instagram (which are oddly serene and calming to watch), I finally gave in and decided to see for myself what the hype was all about.

According to their website, Studio Britta offers “intuitive, massage-based facials and acupuncture treatments personalized to ease away your skin concerns using ancient and modern tissue transformation.” The description goes on to promise that their “high-vibing hands will set your skin on its natural course of optimal health and visible radiance.”

I wasn’t entirely sure what all of that meant but it sounded pretty good to me.

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Studio Britta is located on the second floor of a busy block of Spring Street, right in the middle of Soho, and looks like a quaint NYC apartment that might house a group of newly minted New Yorkers if the Real World was being filmed again today. Palm tree wallpaper, check. Millennial pink furniture, check. The faint smell of palo santo, check. Artfully placed crystals, check, check and check.

When I first settled into the small seating area in the back of the Studio, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and thought, “Whoa, looking good lady.” I was slightly tan from a few mid-winter days at the beach and holding on to a good hair day from a three-day-old blowout. It was like when you finally get it together to get a long overdue haircut and your hair looks amazing that morning and you think, “Perhaps I don’t need a haircut after all! I am the Breck girl!” That was my feeling as I looked in the mirror. I don’t need to get a facial today at all — my skin is looking great!

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Amy, my bright blue haired facialist, greeted me and brought me into the treatment room. She started the session by asking me to set an intention of self-care and self-love and then asked a few questions about any specific concerns I might have (dark under eye circles and skin dullness post the aforementioned few days in the sun). She spent a few minutes analyzing my face incorporating Chinese diagnosis for the skin (“this congestion shows some overindulgence in food and drink lately” — busted) and then got to work.

To be honest, about seven minutes in I am pretty sure I fell asleep. The face massage was so deeply relaxing and Amy’s manner was so calming that I couldn’t help myself. (Sorry if I drooled, Amy.)

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I asked Amy to fill me in on the specifics of what she did. “Manual lymphatic drainage to get rid of any lacklusterness and stagnation. After that we did Gua Sha. The masking portion was focused on renourishing the skin and replenishing it, introducing the skin with micronutrients,” she explained. “The tuning fork helped with the tension of the muscles to help calm the nervous system and bring down any neurogenic inflammation. Because you were away and a little extra sun-kissed, we focused on restoring and hydrating the skin."

All I know is I took a look in the mirror as I got dressed and couldn’t believe it. My skin was positively glowing (even more than when I caught a glance of myself in the mirror before the treatment!) and I felt like it was toned back to the taut days of my youth. Was I imagining it? Who knows. But I looked smooth and toned and I also felt great and really relaxed (if not a bit loopy from my unintentional cat nap on the table).

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As I left, I purchased a Gua Sha tool ($20) for home use (Amy said to pick the one that called to me; I then proceeded to spend the next five minutes picking up each one and then second-guessing myself and picking up a different one) and a subscription to Britta’s online videos to learn how to do it at home myself in between sessions. If my face can look this toned amazing from a bit of regular massage with a crystal, sign me up.

The Verdict: A wonderful hour-long facial (incorporating lots of face massage and natural products) that left me toned and glowing in a way I didn’t know was possible in my 40s. The experience merged a bit of spiritual with the treatment, but not in an off-putting “woo woo” way if that isn’t your thing. This is not a deep cleansing or extraction based facial, but will definitely be finding its way into my regular skin care regime through a combination of in studio and at home facial massage.

Studio Britta, 147 Spring Street, New York, NY 10012 (www.studiobritta.com)

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