As social media influencers bring Asian-inspired techniques to the mainstream and give them a new name, Asian wellness experts are trying to preserve the integrity of their cultures’ rituals.
Brands and influencers advertise ‘Gua Sha’ as a wrinkle-reducing alternative to Botox and cited to discharge lymph. However, this technique was used to relieve pain, prevent fevers and other ailments millennia ago, as “Gua” means “scraping” and “Sha,” refers to the “redness”.
“While Gua Sha can produce cosmetic results, it’s important for people to understand that this result comes from its ability to boost internal health as a valid Chinese medical technique,” Sandra Lanshin Chiu, creator of the New York City-based health company Lanshin, told National Public Radio (NPR).
Aavrani co-founder Rooshy Roy used coconut oil on her hair and turmeric in family meals. Growing up, she was teased for smelling like curry and having unwashed hair.
The once mocked South Asian hair care technique has become hugely popular in Western culture as hair oiling was trending on TikTok. Rooshy thinks it’s important that Asian cultures don’t get lost in all the excitement, but she also thinks it’s good that the traditions that made her feel different when she was younger are now being embraced by a new generation.
In the U.S., beauty writers and influencers advocate the 5,000-year-old hair oiling as “hair slugging”. Sri Lankan Shalini Seneviratne, the founder of coconut oil brand Wildpatch, thinks it’s disappointing to see that it took “a new, cool name” for Western media to legitimize hair oiling.
Her company sources materials from Sri Lankan farmers to benefit South Asians from its western demand, “It would be so wrong not to give credit where it’s due and not to support people whose culture I’m promoting,” Shalini told NPR.
While Sandra uses Lanshin’s platform education followers about the benefits of facial Gua Sha, in part to combat misinformation, the South Asian founders promote their brands in a mindful, holistic approach that is based on the ancient Indian mind-body-spirit wellness rituals of Ayurveda from the Indian subcontinent.