"People keep telling me I should tell you guys my age before these classes," said Sandra Lanshin Chiu, founder of wellness center Treatment by Lanshin, to a room full of skin-care novices. She starts each of her gua sha classes (a Chinese facial massage technique designed to contour and lift the skin) by posing one question: "How old do you think I am?"
Chiu doesn't wear a stitch of makeup (save for a little Kjaer Weiss lip pencil in Mauve), and she doesn't need to; her skin is crystal-clear and naturally dewy. I wouldn't have guessed she's a day over 32. She's 43.
Some attribute Chiu's skin to genetics, she says, but there's no denying a strict skin-care routine has something to do with it, too. A licensed acupuncturist, herbalist, and expert in Chinese medicine for over a decade, Chiu has made a name for herself in the holistic beauty world.
Recently, facial acupuncture has gone from fringe beauty technique to relatively common practice, namely for its ability to significantly lift and brighten the face. I found myself not only on her table, but attending one of her gua sha classes earlier this month. Two weeks later, I'm floored by the results: clear, dewy skin and next to no redness.
For those of you who are new to acupuncture, here's a quick crash course: Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine practice that involves placing ultra-fine needles on systematic points to improve tone and increase the circulation of blood and lymph. The practice has been shown to help with a host of issues, from depression to arthritis to carpal tunnel. On the face, it can help clear congestion, minimize acne, and reduce redness and inflammation.
Unlike most facials, Chiu's treatment doesn't involve masking or extractions — instead, she focuses on needling the neck and face (with a few needles placed in strategic points on the body) catering her technique to each client's skin concerns. In all honesty, facial acupuncture isn't relaxing during the procedure. According to Chiu, this is completely normal. She says it's common for people to experience discomfort during the treatment, but intense relaxation after. She finishes each treatment with an ultra-soothing 15-minute session of gua sha and cupping.
Still, facial acupuncture isn't for everyone, but gua sha is an easy way to contour and lift the face from the comfort of your own home once you understand how to correctly do it (although I highly recommend booking a professional treatment to see maximum results). Chiu conducts monthly classes to teach clients how to maintain their results at home with gua sha and even has a video explaining the entire process and an online shop where you can buy a jade tool.
I've been using gua sha almost daily since learning about it and I can attest to its ability to tone the face. Sure, it's not like I can skip contour powder, but it does wonders to reduce inflammation — especially after a long night of tequila sodas. Curious to see acupuncture and gua sha in action? Check out the video above and subscribe to Refinery29's YouTube channel for more videos like this.