Is Gua Sha Use the Same as Lymphatic Drainage? April Brodie Weighs In

April Brodie is one of Australia’s respected integrated facialists, who incorporates the effectiveness of Gua Sha and the therapeutic ability of Lymphatic Drainage, showcasing her expertise across luxury spa experiences and evidence-based clinical treatments. Ariana Pezeshki speaks to April Brodie about separating fact from fiction, and why Gua Sha’s fall short in true lymphatic drainage.

I’m April Brodie and I live and breathe all things skin, and have spent nearly four decades continuously honing my craft with a relentless drive to learn and improve every day. Embracing a unique approach, I aim to offer experiences that stand apart from the rest. This deep passion enables me to connect profoundly with my clients and fuels my quest to seek and fuse new techniques from around the world into my treatments.

Establishing my signature Integrated Facial Privees in Melbourne, Sydney, and internationally, I cherish diversity and excitement. These Exclusive one-on-one spaces inspired by the atelier/Privee concepts in the US and UK, provide the perfect setting for my signature Buccal and Bee Venom treatments, and I’m currently developing a new facial treatment.

April Brodie

What led April to the beauty industry?

From a young age, I had a profound interest in skin and began creating my own masks and creams using magazines like Dolly as my beauty bible. In 1982, fate led me to a boy at my school bus stop whose mother had just opened a beauty salon. This encounter led me to embark on work experience and a traineeship, immersing myself in the blossoming Australian beauty industry. I was captivated by the experience, juggling work alongside my studies and soaking up every additional course and workshop wherever possible. This marked the beginning of my passion for learning.

Subsequently, I had the privilege of working with Ella Bache, renowned for their incredible education program and stellar reputation. I managed two of their clinics and worked in three. After some overseas travel, I ventured into the world of spa treatments, working at one of the first Australian hotel spas at Jupiter’s Casino on the Gold Coast. Eventually, I returned to Melbourne and fulfilled my dream of owning my first clinic.

My advice for clients to treat their skin effectively is to focus on overall skin cell function and prioritise the skin’s barrier to achieve peak conditions. A healthy skin barrier acts as the first line of defence, allowing skin cells and components to function optimally.

A disrupted skin barrier leads to inflammation, sensitivity, and bacteria which can cause breakouts. Moisture and hydration play essential roles in maintaining a healthy skin barrier, along with balanced use of active ingredients and exfoliants, daily sunscreen, a healthy diet, adequate sleep and stress reduction.

Australia’s first qualified Cecily Braden Gua Sha Practitioner

I am incredibly grateful to have trained with Cecily Braden, a worldwide expert in modern Gua Sha. Her knowledge, expertise, and methodology align seamlessly with my core beliefs and Cecily has pioneered an amazing fusion that combines traditional and contemporary Gua Sha, created specifically for our industry and the demands of modern clientele. I’ve spent years adapting and perfecting these techniques, and combining them with other methods and practices I’ve learned around the world to create my signature April Brodie fusion experience.

Is Gua Sha a fashionable fad or a legitimate lymphatic drainage solution?

There is a common misconception that Gua Sha is synonymous with lymphatic drainage. However, Gua Sha is primarily a tissue treatment that impacts blood flow and fluidity. While massage indirectly affects the lymphatic system, it is not the same as lymphatic drainage. Gua Sha can act as a catalyst and assist in lymphatic flow while providing its own unique benefits. By working on the musculature and the circulation below the skin’s surface, Gua Sha enhances blood circulation, releases muscle tension, relaxes facial muscles and reduces stress – all factors that influence skin health.

The true method of lymphatic drainage is the Vodder technique, which is still used today in the medical field post- surgery and to treat lymphedema. I’ve trained in this method and incorporated it, alongside Gua Shaas as part of my signature April Brodie Integrative approach. Gua Sha may seem like a fad due to its recent surge in popularity, but Gua Sha is an ancient healing technique that has now been adapted for everyday beauty benefits. When used correctly, Gua Sha can be a powerful skin treatment tool, and those who understand the movements and what it’s really doing below the surface will appreciate its long- lasting benefits.

Gua Sha is not true lymphatic drainage, but it can act as a catalyst to assist with lymphatic flow and has its own distinct benefits and uses. Facial Gua Sha is very new compared to traditional ancient Gua Sha practices. Traditional Gua Sha involves very firm, vigorous scraping of the skin, whereas modern Gua Sha focuses on creating movement in the underlying tissue to support the skin’s natural functions. Gua Sha’s primary advantages are its ability to enhance blood circulation, release muscle tension, relax facial muscles, and reduce stress. Stress hormones are responsible for inflammation in the tissue, so reducing stress through Gua Sha can indirectly impact the skin’s health.

What other benefits does Gua Sha offer?

Gua Sha offers multiple benefits beyond its potential impact on the lymphatic system. This technique directly influences the skin and the facial muscle tissue, as well as the skin’s vascular network. By increasing the blood flow to the facial tissue, cells receive more nutrients and oxygenation, resulting in boosted skin health.

Gua Sha is also a powerful method of facial massage. Although it may not directly target the lymph nodes, its ability to relieve facial muscle tightness and tension can indirectly affect facial lymphatics, especially when used in conjunction with evidence-based lymphatic drainage techniques.

Trends come and go, I’ve witnessed numerous trends in my 40-plus years in the industry. While some have proven to be valuable, others haven’t stood the test of time. I’ve seen many cycles of treatments, ingredients, technologies and techniques phase out of popularity only to resurface later. Some of these have been adapted, fused, and modernised to give even better results than the original. I’ve learned that knowledge and experience are paramount in distinguishing between fleeting fads and proven methods. Truly understanding the skin’s anatomy and physiology, lifestyle factors that influence it, and how cosmetic ingredients and technologies work allows you to distinguish between fleeting fads and proven methods Just as it’s impossible to be good at a new hobby the first time you try it, it’s taken me decades to master the Integrative Facial experience I offer today.

This article originally appeared in the September-October 2023 print issue of Professional Beauty.

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