Gua Sha 101: Everything You Need to Know About the Face-Sculpting Technique

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If you’re anything like me and were gifted with a naturally round face, you’ve likely looked into every option for adding definition to your features, from filler to contour to firming masks and more. For me and many others, filler or other cosmetic treatments aren’t in the cards just yet, so the next hottest option for face snatching that continues to arise across social media is the infamous gua sha.

If you’re on TikTok or Instagram, you’ve definitely seen users toting the benefits that using a gua sha has had on different areas of their face, from their jawline to cheekbones, chin and more. While the results are incredible, many people (myself included) are left with tons of questions about how gua shas work and how to do it correctly. Does the type of gua sha matter? Do you apply your skin care before or after? How long should you gua sha for and how much pressure should you apply?

If you’ve ever found yourself pondering any of these questions, we’ve got you covered. Ahead, skin-care experts walk us through all things gua sha to help kickstart your face-snatching journey the right way.

What is gua sha?

As medical aesthetician and founder of Skincare by Amy Peterson explains, “Gua sha originates from traditional Chinese medicine and has been used for centuries to promote circulation, relieve tension and improve the appearance of the skin. It involves gently stroking the skin with a smooth-edged tool to stimulate lymphatic drainage, reduce inflammation and improve the skin’s complexion.” Expert aesthetician and founder of Educate Your Skin, Nerida Joy, adds, “Gua Sha-ing dates back to the Stone Age from ancient China where smooth stones were used as a form of medicine to heal and relieve pain on certain areas of the body.”

“Gua sha, meaning ‘to scrape sand,’ is an ancient Chinese technique that was traditionally used to aid in the movement of Qi, or energy flow and increase circulation,” says Lin Chen, CEO and founder of self-care brand Pink Moon. While the practice has many other benefits, Chen claims that it’s still used for that exact reason. “Gua sha is also excellent for shortening acute illnesses like colds and flus and releasing tension,” she says.

According to Omaha, NE dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, MD, this practice offers similar effects to that of a facial, just in the comfort of your own home. “The benefits include better circulation and potential relief from neck and facial pain,” he says. “The main concern with the gua sha massage is to make sure that the device is not used in a rough manner. Firm, but gentle pressure is the most important thing to remember. There is no benefit in too much pressure, which can often lead to bruising or actual skin damage.”

How does gua sha-ing work? What are the benefits?

While the before and after images we see online lead us to believe that using a gua sha can totally transform the face, many individuals don’t fully understand what exactly using a gua sha does and why it provides such incredible results. “Gua sha-ing offers various benefits, including promoting lymphatic drainage,” begins Peterson. “It also reduces puffiness, stimulates circulation and aids in the absorption of skin-care products. It can also help alleviate muscle tension and is known to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and promote a more radiant complexion over time.”

According to Chen, “Gua sha helps carve out a time in your day to slow down, show your skin some love, and ease the tension we’re all feeling right now.” She also explains that the tool is not only used for the face: “I’m using my gua sha now more than ever—sitting in an at-home desk causes tension in the neck, chest and upper shoulders,” she says.

Beverly Hills dermatologist Dr. Sheila Farhang reiterates that the benefits of using a gua sha are both physical and mental. “In my opinion, the biggest benefit of gua sha-ing is its ability to aid in detoxification,” Dr. Farhang begins. “By encouraging lymphatic drainage, gua shas help to flush out toxins which ultimately helps to reduce puffiness and inflammation. Draining excess swelling also helps sculpt the face. Another advantage of gua sha-ing is improved circulation. The ‘scraping’ action of gua sha stimulates blood flow and circulation, which can help deliver more nutrients and oxygen to the skin and muscles allowing the skin to look less dull and more rosy and refreshed. This also contributes to improved muscle tone and a lifted appearance.”

Celebrity facialist Candace Marino claims that with daily use, gua sha can help give us that “lit from within” glow we’ve been so desperately trying to achieve. “Because gua sha promotes blood flow, it allows for oxygen-rich blood cells to re-energize the face,” she says. Marino also explains that gua sha purportedly improves lax skin and wrinkles, delivers a sculpted appearance, aids in lymphatic drainage and is an incredible technique for decreasing puffiness.

How long does it take to see results?

While most facial treatments take some time to deliver results, FaceGym global education manager Sophie Perry says you can see results immediately with gua sha. “That’s the beauty of the practice,” she says. “Of course, more maintenance offers more dramatic results, but my top tips are to work slow, with repetition and intention. Once you begin to notice the many benefits if offers, the practice becomes truly addictive!”

In terms of how long you should be using the tool at a time, Perry says a few minutes a day makes a great difference. “Even aiming to keep up with your gua sha practice a few times per week is great at boosting the lymphatic system and maintaining healthy fluid movement as well as lifting the facial contours.”

How do you gua sha at home correctly?

Chen has two to-do’s before face meets tool: Start with a clean face and prep your skin with an emollient like a face oil or balm. “With the stone at a 15-degree angle, begin at the base of your neck with the tool’s long straight edge and glide upwards towards the jawline. Then, transition towards the center of the neck with the same straight edge, continuing to move towards the jawline. Repeat three to five strokes per area and switch to the other side.”

Next, Marino recommends focusing on the chin. “Gently glide the tool up the throat towards your face, along the soft area under your chin. Then, gently press and hug the middle of the chin and guide the gua sha out along the jawbone until you meet the earlobe, ensuring that you’re still performing about five strokes per area.”

“Place the tool under the cheekbone using the flat straight edge again and keep gliding the tool up to the earlobe. If you’re experiencing a headache, make sure to gently wiggle the tool back and forth once you hit the earlobe,” says Chen. “Continue by placing the curved points on the cheekbone and gliding the tool towards the temple.”

Finally, after gently sweeping the tool under the eyes, “press the gua sha into the center of the forehead above the brow bone, and with a long stroke, move out towards the temple,” says Marino. “For what I like to call the ‘big sweep,’ move the tool from the center of your forehead, under the hairline, down your temple to your ear, and then down the side of the neck.”

“For best results, focus on the specific areas of tension or concern such as the jawline, cheekbones, and forehead and repeat each stroke five to ten times for best results,” says Joy.

What not to do when gua sha-ing

Like any trending skin treatment, without the proper guidance it’s easy to make an array of mistakes. According to Joy, one of the biggest mistakes people make when using a gua sha is using too much pressure and not enough product. “The other error I see is people being too aggressive with them on their face and neck. You must use gua shas with a product that gives you a beautiful slip on the skin.” Joy also adds that she “personally would not recommend using gua shas with an active such as retinol,” since “creating heat through gua sha movement and friction could cause a reaction and irritation on the skin.”

“Cleaning your gua sha tool before and after each use to prevent the buildup of bacteria is also important,” Dr. Farhang adds. “Overdoing it, especially in those who have inflammatory acne, rosacea, etc., is another mistake. While gua sha can be beneficial, excessive trauma to inflamed skin can worsen the skin.”

“Gua sha is a great practice for everyone,” says Perry. However, it has a few contradictions: “It should not be performed over broken, inflamed skin conditions. Also, pregnant ladies are recommended to avoid working certain areas such as the sides of the neck and mouth area.”

Gua Sha Tools to Try

Now that you have all the information you need to know about how to gua sha at home, here are some of our experts’ favorite gua sha tools to help you get started.

1 / 4

Bliss Rose Gold Rescue Rose Quartz Gua Sha ($12)

“The Bliss Rose Gold Rescue Rose Quartz Gua Sha is a great options for those who want to start gua sha,” says Dr. Farhang. “It is made of rose quartz which is a great stone, is affordable and has both the classic dolphin shape and square shape for nose and eye area.”

BUY NOW – $12

2 / 4

Ginto Face Sculpting Tool ($230)

“My favorite tool for gua sha-ing at home is the Ginto Face Sculpting Tool,” says Peterson. “It is a 24-karat plated gua sha tool and embedded with solar panels. It fits perfectly in the hand and is also travel friendly!”

BUY NOW – $230

3 / 4

Mount Lai Jade Gua Sha Lifting Tool ($30)

As Dr. Farhang mentioned, jade stone is known for its cooling benefits, so if you’re looking to sculpt the face and combat puffiness, Mount Lai’s The Jade Gua Sha Lifting Tool is a great option.

BUY NOW – $30

4 / 4

Tweezerman Stainless Steel Gua Sha ($27)

No one does beauty tools like Tweezerman, and the brand’s stainless steel gua sha is a great option for anyone worried about the fragility of stone gua shas. Plus, you can pop the stainless steel tool in the freezer for some added cooling benefits while you sculpt.

BUY NOW – $27

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