What Are Jade Combs?
This is everything you need to know about jade combs, including their cultural relevance.
Whenever Calgary-based medical esthetician Vivian Lau was sick as a child, her mother would drag a metal soup spoon down the back of her neck, scraping the skin until reddish-blue marks would appear.
Years later, after seeing images of people using pretty gua sha tools on their faces online, Lau ordered a jade gua sha tool for herself and fell in love with how it felt. For those who aren’t familiar, gua sha is an ancient Chinese medicinal practice, which involves using a tool (such as a stone or spoon) to scrape the body to promote blood circulation and heal illness. After seeing how popular gua sha was, Lau enrolled in a course all about facial gua sha and began offering gua sha facials at her Calgary skincare boutique Kintsugi Studio. But after doing some of her own research online, Lau realized that what she was doing was another version of her mother’s spoon scraping practice.
“The way we use [gua sha] now, and the way I use it in my practice, is totally different from the traditional method which was for more medicinal purposes,” says Lau.
Gua sha tools, which you can now find at virtually any beauty or wellness store, are typically made of jade, rose quartz or another polished stone. Jade combs are a tool that can be used for facial gua sha, though users often use the toothed side of the comb for scalp massages and hair growth stimulation.
Here’s everything you need to know about jade combs, from its traditional roots to the benefits of using this gua sha tool.
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What are jade combs?
Like the name suggests, jade combs are combs made from jade. However, there are also combs that do the same thing made out of other stones like rose quartz or bian stones, which are black stones used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Jade combs have unique uses and benefits when used on the scalp and hair, but they also do double duty as gua sha tools as well. According to Lau, some jade combs have both teeth that you can use on your hair and scalp as well as a contoured side that you can use on your face and body. Others are shaped like normal combs with teeth on one side and a smooth part that you grip on the opposite side.
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What are the benefits of using a jade comb?
Like gua sha, using a jade comb on your face and body can help with lymphatic drainage. The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and organs that maintains our fluid levels, absorbs fats from the intestines and then transports them to our blood stream. The lymphatic system also helps protect the body against pathogens (think about when the lymph nodes in your neck swell up when you’re sick). Gua sha tools aid in lymphatic drainage by manually moving the stagnant lymph fluid that causes skin puffiness and inflammation. The other major benefit of using jade combs is that they can promote blood flow into the scalp, which might help with hair growth (though there isn’t too much science to back up the claim that blood flow equals hair growth).
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How to use a jade comb
There are a few ways you can use a jade comb. If your jade comb has a contoured side, you can use it just like you would use a facial gua sha tool and scrape your face and body with it.
You can also run it through your hair to boost blood flow to your scalp. “I usually brush with a hair oil like jojoba oil which is great for growth,” says Lau. First, apply the hair oil and make sure you’re holding the comb almost flat against your head (at a 15 degree angle or less). Start at your hairline and brush your hair up and back. Use pressure—but not so much that it hurts. Then, move to the back of your neck and stroke up towards the top of your head. If you have curly or kinky hair, work in shorter strokes to avoid getting tangled.
While you’re up there in your hair, you can also give yourself a relaxing scalp massage. Lau suggests taking the comb edge of your tool and running it along the hairline (where you have the frontalis muscles), the area right above your ears (where the temporalis muscles are) and the occipital ridge which is right at the back of your scalp at the base of your spine. Massaging your scalp, particularly these areas, lowers your blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormone levels — all of which helps you destress and relax. “You get this tingling sensation that activates your parasympathetic nervous system which helps you relax.”
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What is the cultural significance of jade combs and gua sha?
Lau’s family, and many other Chinese families (my own included), used spoons to scrape the body to treat ailments like colds and heat stroke. Nowadays, recent western trends downplay the medicinal roots of gua sha and jade combs and instead highlight the beauty benefits, such as improving the skin’s appearance.
The way the wellness industry markets and aestheticizes gua sha products and jade combs divorces the tools from the original practice. “It’s a modernized version of gua sha for sure,” says Lau. “It’s important to recognize that and pay tribute to the roots of the practice.” For her part, Lau is planning on attending acupuncture school to learn more about traditional Chinese medicine so she can stand behind her brand with more knowledge and represent the practice properly.
“When it comes to my world, the beauty world, we see a lot of people who ignore the cultural relevance and who are not using gua sha properly, even on the face,” says Lau. “It makes these practices look like just a trend, not something that’s been done for centuries.”