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A Study of Stones in Beauty Therapy

By Renée Batchelor

 
 

To leave no stone unturned indicates a thorough approach to an endeavour or pursuit, but it just may as well refer to the use of stones in beauty therapy. From jade used in rollers to smooth basalt pebbles used in hot stone massages, people have found myriad use for stones for the face and body. Stones in beauty and wellness treatments dates back to 7th century China where practices such as gua sha, where a tool (today typically made from jade or rose quartz)  was used to scrape the skin in order to product light petechiae in order to remove “wind” from the body, a concept in traditional Chinese medicine. While today many of these therapies using tools are still widely done in Asia, the proper training and technique is essential in order not to cause injury to the skin. 

At Home

The jade or stone roller has taken off a home massage tool, probably because of it wide availability and relative affordability. Like gua sha, the jade roller — sometime made from marble, rose quartz or other stones instead —  has been used for centuries for lymphatic drainage, a form of massage that pushes fluids towards the lymph nodes in order to encourage drainage. Most aestheticians recommend applying minimal pressure when using a roller, as the natural weight from the relatively heavy stone will do the job. Too much pressure might result in skin irritation and broken capillaries. It is also important to sanitise the tool with alcohol before each use. Adding a serum or moisturiser reduces friction and also helps these products to absorb into the skin — a plus when using multiple layers of skincare. Following the principles behind lymphatic drainage, the neck must be rolled first, before starting on the face in order to clear the lymph passages.

Skin Therapy

While at home stone tools are good for daily upkeep, specialised facials that use these techniques can give users obvious results in a short time. Lily Kew, the founder of Kew Organics, a Singapore-based organic skincare brand that also does face and body treatments, has introduced gua sha massage into the brand’s Lumi Lift Detox Facial. According to Kew, gua sha techniques are a great alternative to injecting the skin with foreign substances or using semi-invasive techniques like threads inserted to lift the skin. With the use of gua sha, multiple issues can also be addressed. “Eyes bags, puffiness and dark circles are reduced and lightened during the process. Fine lines and wrinkles are also pulled taut to lessen the effect of gravity on your face, making it appear lifted and firm. The bonus is that is also stimulates collagen and elastin,” she says. 

According to Kew, gua sha has several benefits on the skin. “Gua sha releases tension that is present in your facial muscles. It also stimulates blood circulation and oxygen flow to your skin cells. Gua sha also energises your skin cells and deep tissues,” says Kew. The use of the gua sha tool, a curved stone with a pointed edge, also helps enhance the effects of the massage. “It is a great tool for salon treatments as the edge of the stone provides precision to target a specific area and reach the deeper layers of your skin. By pulling your skin taut, it helps sculpts your face and tighten sagging skin,” says Kew.  She says that by improving lymphatic drainage, gua sha helps expel accumulated toxins and fluids in your face. 

Kew says that the therapists who perform gua sha have to be well-trained. “Performing gua sha requires the right techniques and pressure to see real results. It is indeed vital that the strokes are all done correctly and in the proper direction which helps to bring the adequate flow of the energy in the facial tissues and clear the blockage. Or else, you might be just simply scraping the surface of your skin and not working on the real benefits of gua sha,” says Kew. 

Kew also weighs in on the difference between gua sha and rollers. “A roller is suitable for self-massage at home when you need to depuff skin and maximise skincare absorption. While gua sha tools have sharper angles which allows you to apply more pressure to your skin for increased circulation and release tensions on certain pressure points. We use rose quartz which harness wonderful healing power by emitting a soothing vibration to dissolve toxic emotions that are trapped inside of you. It's the perfect stone for facials to help the clients relax and unwind as it restores ones emotional state and brings a sense of peace” says Kew. She also warns against trying gua sha at home, if untrained. “Performing gua sha on your own face could potentially result in bruising or burst capillaries. Do remember that you are dealing with lymphatic drainage and lymph nodes, so if you use the wrong stroke or perform it in the wrong direction, you could also end up blocking the nodes or cause swelling or toxins to be accumulated at the wrong places,” she says. 

Kew does note that the treatment can result in breakouts, due to its purging properties and that it is unsuitable for those with rosacea, dermatitis and those who have implants, and recent fillers or Botox on the face.

Hot and Cold Stones

Not all hot stone massages are created equally. It takes skill and precision not only to achieve the right temperature that will not burn the skin, but to use the stones in a fluid manner. If you’ve experienced treatments where you were rudely awakened by the sound of rocks clanging together, then you would know the importance of a seamless process and well thought out massage protocol. The warm jade stone massage at the St Regis Singapore’s Remède Spa, is one of the signature treatments there. According to Amanda Ooi, the director of the Remède spa, it uses jade stones, as it is the only stone that can hold both hot and cold equally. “The fusion of deep tissue massage and fluid movements emphasises the relaxing effect of warmth and the smoothness of the stones, transporting the receiver into a zone of deep comfort and security,” says Ooi. The massage uses warm and then cold stones for a specific reason. “When the stones are heated, the therapist can work deep into the muscle tissue, encouraging a release of muscle tension without bringing discomfort to the guest,” she says.

“Alternating between hot and cold treatments during a massage also provides a deep penetrating effect on the body’s physiological system and this ‘vascular gymnastics’ stimulates vascular flushing for the circulatory system and strengthens the body’s self-healing process,’ says Ooi. “Rounding up the treatment with usage of soothing cool jade stones after a heated treatment works as a vascular flush for the body due to the changing temperatures, allowing improved blood circulation with constricting and releasing of blood vessels, that eventually aids in the flushing of toxins, tightening of muscles and boosting of metabolism in the body,” says Ooi.

As not all stones are created equal, the spa also pays deep attention to the kind and quality of stones used. The jade stones at Remède Spa are custom-made with a premium grade of minerals, and are mined, cut, shaped and polished uniquely, resulting in a stone that glides smoothly on the skin. They are also non porous and do not harbour bacteria,” says Ooi. Besides the use in massaging, the warm stones are also placed on the seven chakra points in the body to encourage a harmonised and balanced transformation of the negative energies into positive ones. Some of the more immediate results are the relief of tension, and a better quality of sleep after.