Gua sha is an ancient technique, but, thanks to TikTok, a slew of new beauty lovers are being exposed to it for the first time. Essentially, it’s a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practice that uses a stone for a skin-sculpting treatment. Before you go massaging yourself with one of the tools, however, there are some rules you should follow in order to have a proper gua sha facial.
Unlike the also popular jade roller, gua sha is a flat stone used for healing modalities. “In Chinese, gua means scrape,” says Dr. Ervina Wu, PhD, a licensed acupuncturist and doctor of TCM with beauty brand YINA. According to her, the tool is used to stimulate blood flow, release toxins, promote lymphatic drainage (aka the pathway of fluids within your body that can lead to puffiness when stagnant), activate various qi points (or energy channels) within the body, and relieve muscle tension — and it’s been used to treat everything from dizziness to abdominal woes.
Facial gua sha has been growing in popularity. And it’s for good reason: “It has incredible benefits for the skin,” says Stephanie Zheng, esthetician and founder of Mount Lai, a TCM-based beauty brand (who tells Bustle she learned the technique by watching her family members use the tool). When used on the facial muscles, gua sha reduces facial tension, puffiness, and signs of fatigue, explains Nicolas Travis, founder of skin care brands Allies of Skin and PSA. The end result is a complexion that looks more lifted and radiant.
Rather than follow the tips from a random TikTok, get familiar with these three golden rules for a proper gua sha facial, straight from AAPI beauty insiders.
1. Prep Your Skin
Trying to do gua sha without prepping your skin with product beforehand is akin to rug burn... but on your face (no thanks). “The tool should glide and gently stretch the skin instead of tugging or pulling,” says Zheng. Not only will it be more comfortable when you’ve got something on your face for slip, but it won’t irritate or harm your complexion when the tool easily slides. This means applying a hydrating cream, serum, oil, or balm before using the stone. By keeping your skin moisturized, you’ll reduce the friction between your face and the gua sha tool, explains Travis.
2. Angle The Tool Properly
At the wrong angle, you risk creating agitation by digging the stone’s edge into your skin. Instead, Zheng says you should lie it flat at a 15-degree angle. The idea is to create strokes that mimic that of lymphatic flow — essentially from the middle of the face out to the edges, and then up and down the neck, she explains.
3. Watch Your Pressure
It’s important to be conscious about how much pressure you’re exerting — less is more, in this case. “There's no need to harshly press the tool into the skin in order for gua sha to be effective,” says Zheng, as the lymphatic system is right underneath the skin and doesn’t take much to stimulate.
Zheng advises starting your facial in the middle of the face. Then move your stone out towards the hairline, going over the same section a few times in a sweeping motion. Once you’ve finished your home treatment, expect your visage to look tight, fresh, and awake. Her tip? Give yourself the facial at least once a week for just 5 to 10 minutes for best results.
Nielsen, A. (2007). The Effect Of Gua Sha Treatment On The Microcirculation Of Surface Tissue. Explore (NY). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17905355/
Dr. Ervina Wu, LAc and PhD, of YINA
Stephanie Zheng, esthetician, founder, and CEO of Mount Lai