If you’ve scrolled through skin care TikTok, you’ve almost certainly come across someone doing gua sha — a beauty treatment using the ancient yet buzzy facial sculpting tool that’s taken social media by storm. If you want to try it for yourself, it’s important to know the best practices — and that includes having the right face oil for gua sha massage.
“Gua sha involves using half-moon-shaped stones to massage the face in a specific pattern that boosts circulation and promotes lymphatic drainage,” Dr. Azadeh Shirazi, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at La Jolla Dermatology, tells Bustle. And while it may seem like a modern fad due to its surge in popularity on social media (#guasha currently has over 770 million views on TikTok, FWIW), it’s actually rooted in centuries-old traditions. “Gua sha is a simulation technique that was formalized by Chinese medicine and practiced by professionals, passed down as a therapeutic means within Chinese households,” says Ada Ooi, celebrity facialist, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) expert, and founder of 001 Skincare, adding that contemporary gua sha tools have been adapted from those used in ancient Chinese medicine practices and specifically designed to treat the different contours of your face.
To use these tools properly, keep scrolling for expert intel on gua sha.
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Gua Sha Facial Benefits
When you’re gliding your gua sha stone against your skin, it works to help enhance circulation and promote lymphatic flow to reduce puffiness, explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Shirazi echoes this and points to the technique’s primary benefits of reduced inflammation and facial tension relief.
Many people also find that doing gua sha helps sculpt their face and define the jawline, adds Shirazi. “That’s typically due to enhancing lymphatic drainage,” she explains, adding that the face “puffs up” overnight because fluid collects in the face and around the eyes when you lie down. “After a round of gua sha, your cheekbones look more sculpted as the excess fluid is flushed into the body’s natural detoxification [process],” she says.
Using Face Oil During Gua Sha
One of the most important elements of your gua sha treatment is your facial oil. “When massaging the skin, you want to make sure that you are using a topical treatment that reduces friction,” says Dr. Michelle Henry, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in NYC. Celebrity esthetician Mimi Luzon agrees, clarifying that using face oil before you massage allows the gua sha to glide easily, which prevents unintentional pulling or tugging on the skin.
“It’s important to have something that provides enough slip so that you can truly move the [tool] along the facial contours,” says Shiri Sarfati, a Miami-based beauty expert and licensed esthetician. For the job, oils tend to work better than serums, she explains, adding that serums simply aren’t “slippery” enough. And if you're naturally oily or acne-prone and hesitant to douse your face in oil, don’t fret: Sarfati and Henry assert that non-comedogenic oils should be fine for your skin, which include formulas that use grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, hemp seed oil, and sweet almond oil.
How To Properly Use Gua Sha
Once you’ve obtained your topical oil — and fully cleansed your skin before applying it — it’s time to massage the skin. Zeichner suggests an “out and down” application as opposed to upwards movements. “The goal is to remove excess fluid from the skin,” he tells Bustle. “So you want to use the tool in the direction that lymphatic fluid normally flows in.”
And remember: While the intention may be to promote drainage, there is no need to use excessive force on the skin — gentle pressure will do the trick. “Heavy strokes can lead to bruising, irritation, and broken capillaries,” Shirazi warns. Simply glide the gua sha in feather-light strokes and work towards the sides of the face, and you’re good to go.
Shop Face Oils For Gua Sha
For A Luminous Finish
Shirazi suggests Mario Badescu’s Rose Hips Nourishing Oil, which leaves skin hydrated and nourished without a greasy after-effect. What’s more, rosehip oil is has a multitude of benefits, ranging from brightening your complexion to fading hyperpigmentation.
For A Calm Complexion
Zeichner suggests pairing this vitamin-packed product with your gua sha facial, as it’s formulated with antioxidant-rich camellia oil, sunflower seed oil, jojoba oil, omegas 3, 6, and 9, and more. Together, the nutrients help soothe the skin and leave it healthily illuminated.
For Skin Protection
Klur’s potent antioxidant blend of super-moisturizing squalene, Coq10, and vitamins C and E works together to protect and strengthen the skin’s natural barrier so it’s nice and supported for your sculpting treatment.
For A Brightening Boost
Henry suggests Byroe’s Pear Serum Oil for facial massage, pointing to its powerhouse roster of ingredients like vitamin C and red algae — the latter of which protects skin while drawing in moisture. “It’s packed full of antioxidants which are very useful in building [an] environmental shield and reducing the chance of collagen degradation,” she tells Bustle.
For Sensitive Skin
Shirazi recommends Drunk Elephant’s Marula Oil, which moisturizes and protects the skin. Rich in antioxidants such as tocopherol (vitamin E) and omega fatty acids, this oil is also suitable for all skin types — including the super sensitive.
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Yang, M., Zhang, H., Yue, R., Shi, Q., & Bian, Y. (2018). Gua Sha attenuates thermal hyperalgesia and decreases proinflammatory cytokine expression in serum in rats with lumbar disc herniation induced by autologous nucleus pulposus. Journal of traditional Chinese medicine = Chung i tsa chih ying wen pan, 38(5), 698–704.
Yuan, Q. L., Guo, T. M., Liu, L., Sun, F., & Zhang, Y. G. (2015). Traditional Chinese medicine for neck pain and low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PloS one, 10(2), e0117146.
Ada Ooi, celebrity facialist, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) expert
Dr. Azadeh Shirazi, M.D., board-certified dermatologist
Dr. Joshua Zeichner, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital
Dr. Michelle Henry, M.D., board-certified dermatologist
Mimi Luzon, celebrity aesthetician
Shiri Sarfati, licensed esthetician