Gua sha is an ancient practice believed to pre-date the Stone Age but, thanks to TikTok, a new generation are beginning to understand how they can integrate this technique into their beauty and wellness routines. However, knowing which tool to buy, what technique to opt for, and how to prepare your face to try gua sha at home may all feel a bit overwhelming. With that in mind, I’ve spoken to some beauty experts to find out everything you need to know, including how to use a gua sha tool with total ease.
What is gua sha?
Gua sha hails from traditional Chinese medicine and was initially used to treatment two conditions: “the abrupt, immediate, sudden collapse of the body from heatstroke” and “seasonal diseases, like a cold virus,” as Vogue writer Meng Jin discovered from Ping Zhang, DOM, L.Ac, a New York–based traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner and expert. The skincare benefits were discovered much later.
These days, the “scraping” tool used on the face and body is common in facials and at-home self-care rituals. “Gua sha has truly stepped into the limelight recently. It’s a technique of facial massage that’s been practiced in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to boost lymphatic drainage and blood circulation,” explains Jennifer Rock, dermal facialist and founder of skincare brand Skingredients.
What are the benefits of gua sha?
Experts agree that using a gua sha tool and the gua sha technique can have real visible results when it comes to the health and appearance of our skin. Charlotte Ferguson, psychotherapist and founder of wellness and skincare company Disciple, explains that there are many ways using the tool can benefit you.
“Regular practice will increase blood flow to the face; boosting circulation supports healthy cell renewal which in turn will reduce inflammation on the skin,” she begins. “Facial massaging aids in promoting lymphatic drainage, and using gua sha on a regular basis will help detoxify the lymph nodes and get rid of excess fluids, which helps clear up dull or acne prone skin.”
She finishes: “Regular use will also see collagen production increasing and facial muscles firming. The face has over 40 muscles all with different functions working together to show expressions and contain stress, so relieving the skin via gua sha will result in a brighter, more even complexion.”
Which stone/material should you buy your gua sha in?
There are plenty of stones and materials to choose from these days with gua sha tools. Our best gua sha tool guide helps to break down which you should be investing in, but this concise stone exploration may also help:
Jade: Jade is perhaps the most common stone used in roller and gua sha tools. Why? “It’s a naturally cool gemstone that feels super soothing on skin,” explains Rock. The stone is also thought to have balancing qualities.
Rose Quartz: Thanks to its calming properties, rose quartz “is said to be particularly great for sensitive or rosacea-prone skin,” says Rock.
Black Obsidian: Disciple’s Firm Face tool is made from black obsidian, and Ferguson explains that it is “formed from cooled molten lava and is packed with microscopic minerals making it perfect for reducing inflammation,” and is often considered “the most sustainable” stone to opt for in gua sha.
Metal: While metal may not have traditional healing properties in the same way crystals do, it’s great for summer. “It can be wonderful if you tend to get puffy,” says Ferguson, making it “a must for hayfever season, when I love to store mine in the fridge.”
Blue Aventurine: According to skincare brand Neighbourhood Botanicals, this vibrant stone “resonates with the upper chakras, from the mind to the heart, and is especially stimulating to the Third Eye and Throat Chakras.”
Opal: Opal is a lovely stone that is said to intensify emotions and stimulate creativity, making it a unique choice for gua sha.
How to use gua sha on your face
“I usually perform gua sha as part of my night time self-care routine for a moment of zen and calm before bed,” says Ferguson. “This is easy to incorporate as the repetitive strokes are calming and therapeutic.”
Whether you use your tool at night time or in the morning, it’s important to prep the skin accordingly, says celebrity facialist and founder of Su-Man skincare Su-Man Hsu. “A gua sha facial can be done with long, short, press or circular motions,” she says. “Whichever strokes you use, you need to make sure your skin has enough oil or cream to allow you to perform the technique. I recommend my Cleansing Gel/Oil cleanser for this as it glides on to your skin , in order to avoid overstimulating the tissue with the strokes.”
When it comes to technique, Su-Man recommends the following: “I recommend using long strokes from inner to outer and upwards mainly, although the neck is different as sometimes you need to activate it by stroking in downwards movements.”
To see how it’s done, there are several YouTube tutorials that are super helpful. If you want a longer, more in-depth routine and explanation of the technique, Sandra Lanshin Chiu’s video is perfect, while Glow Recipe’s short clip is ideal if you want a fast summary.
I also really like Green People’s step-by-step guide, which you can follow here:
STEP 1: Cleanse your face and once it is dry, apply 3-4 drops of your favourite Green People facial serum or oil to help the Gua Sha glide over your face and neck.
STEP 2: Hold the Gua Sha at a 45° angle and press it against the right-hand side of your nose. Slowly pull the Gua Sha towards your right cheekbone and repeat this motion 3 times. Repeat this step on the other side of your face.
STEP 3: Press the Gua Sha tool against the middle of your chin and, using a sweeping motion, move it across your jawline.
STEP 4: Gently sweep the Gua Sha under both eyes, taking care not to press on the skin too hard.
STEP 5: Finally, sweep the Gua Sha over your eyebrow, working towards your hairline
Using gua sha on your body
You may not be aware that you can actually use gua sha on your body too. According to Grayson Hart, Co-Founder of Pure Sport CBD, the technique can help to increase blood flow and have an anti-inflammatory effect on muscles.
“When using the gua sha for the body, you can use our CBD, Muscle & Joint Balm or an oil or balm of your choice. Apply the product and rub it into the skin where you are wanting to use the gua sha to relieve pain or tension, or to destress, relax and improve circulation.”
When it comes to technique, “there are many different ways you can use the gua sha stone on your body,” says Hart. “You can use the points of the gua sha stone and move them in small circular motions while applying pressure, on muscles or around joints. You can also move in firm even strokes across muscles, for example around the neck (trapezius), arms, chest, legs or back. Keep the strokes light to begin with then increase pressure until its firm, try around ten strokes per area and more if needed.”
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