Those beautiful Gua Sha stones look ultra-fun to use. But guess what? They also deliver amazing Gua Sha benefits for your skin, as well. In our guide to the ideal Gua Sha routine, you’ll discover when to use this unique massage (and when not to), what you need for your routine, and step-by-step instructions on how to create this self-care practice at home.
What is Gua Sha Massage for Face?
The first question you might have is…what is a gua sha massage for the face? More than another ordinary beauty tool, the Gua Sha tool was first used as a facial massage device by Dr. Ping Zhang, a PhD in Oriental Medicine with over 20 years experience in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), as a way to improve the look and feel of skin.
Long used in TCM, Gua Sha is a method that uses a flat tool with curving surfaces to address a variety of conditions. This technique was only used on the body in the past, but Dr. Zhang formulated a way to use this massage for the face to stimulate a sense of vibrant energy and visibly rejuvenate the appearance of skin. A much gentler massage than that of Gua Sha body massage (which can leave marks on the body when done traditionally), think of facial Gua Sha massage as having properties that can encompass acupressure and deep tissue massage. Versions using a lighter touch can encourage lymphatic drainage.
When performed by a certified esthetician, facial Gua Sha works the skin and tissues of the face, giving the skin a bright, radiant glow. It’s useful for sending fresh circulation to the skin and encouraging a firmer, more youthful appearance. With consistent use, Gua Sha long term results can help skin to resist the appearance of sagging.
Even better news. Basic Gua Sha can be learned by anyone and is easy to do at home as part of your healthy skin routine!
What are Gua Sha Benefits for Your Skin?
Aside from the above mentioned Gua Sha benefits to skin, you may have some specific issues you’d like to address with this type of massage. Let’s take a look at other ways Gua Sha massage can help your skin.
Does Gua Sha slim your face?
Because Gua Sha helps to visibly decrease swelling and puffiness in the skin, it can give the face a slimmer, more toned appearance.
Does Gua Sha help with acne?
Gua Sha can help create more clarity to the appearance of skin, but care should be taken when dealing with acne prone skin. When using Gua Sha massage during a breakout, avoid the affected area, and massage areas of the face underneath the area of the breakouts like the neck, and decollete. This goes for other skin conditions, like rosacea, too. This will help avoid spreading bacteria and causing pain or inflammation in the skin areas that are already disturbed.
Working the areas underneath the acne breakout or inflammation can help circulate fresh lymph and remove cellular toxins. This gives your body a better chance to heal the skin.
What is Gua Sha lymphatic drainage?
The lymphatic system is part of your immune system, removing bodily waste and white blood cells that help to prevent infection. When lymph fluid builds up, lymphatic drainage is often used to reverse the appearance of puffiness, dullness, and other less than attractive qualities in the skin. A 2015 beauty study showed a link between skin sagging and reduced functioning of the lymph system. Research published in a peer-reviewed journal showed enhanced blood and lymphatic flow after Gua Sha.
Gua Sha stone lymphatic drainage massage uses light or featherlight pressure to stroke the skin, encouraging fluid drainage.
Lymph nodes are located all along the side of the head along the hairline, along the jawline, and down the sides of the neck. Unlike your blood circulation, the lymphatic system has no pump and relies on muscle contractions and movements of the tissue to cause the fluid to move.
Lymph is where the byproducts of cellular activities accumulate. If lymph is not moved routinely, a lot of “trash” can build up in lymph, causing cells to work less efficiently. It’s like if you were to go for two weeks without taking any dishes to the sink to be washed. Those dishes pile up on available surfaces and get moldy, and soon you have no place to do anything else.
When you have acne, rosacea, or ongoing inflammation in the skin, it’s like having friends over and never cleaning up. You’re making even more cellular waste than usual due to the inflammation. Instead of one person's worth of dishes, you have three or four. You can imagine how quickly this becomes a problem!
It might seem amazing that you could improve the look and feel of your skin by only massaging your neck, but due to all the lymph nodes in that area, this can make a significant difference. When you pull lymph down through the neck nodes, fresh fluid can be pulled upward. This is like cleaning your house daily. Every time friends come over, you are taking all the dishes to the sink and washing them so they never pile up.
When you encourage the downward flow of lymph from the face, it’s taken to the major nodes further down in the chest, cleaned, and recirculated.
This makes it important to always start with the neck when doing Gua Sha. Do not skip it! If you do not start things moving in the neck first, it will cause a “traffic jam” in your lymph nodes when you stimulate movement from above. Without activation of the neck, fluid moved down the face will get stuck instead of moving easily to the major nodes in the chest.
If you are short on time, only do the neck and you will still see a benefit to your face.
Does Gua Sha improve circulation?
Gua Sha massage feels relaxing and tension-relieving because it increases circulation to fascia, the thin membrane covering the muscles in your body. A 2007 study showed that Gua Sha caused a fourfold increase in microcirculation and a decrease in feelings of muscle pain, with some persistent pain relief. And a 2011 study showed that body Gua Sha provided significant relief in neck pain severity.
If your goal is to relax the muscles and activate the fascia you can use a medium pressure with your tool. Using medium pressure will not activate lymph flow, but you can alternate your routines so that you get both lymphatic drainage and deeper tissue stimulation.
When to use Gua Sha?
For best results, make facial Gua Sha a part of your regular routine. Everyday is optimal, but try to get it in at least 2-3 times weekly. It’s best to perform the massage on clean skin, following the instructions we outline in the next section.
Is Gua Sha safe?
Yes, when done as directed. Always use a gentle touch when giving your skin a facial Gua Sha massage. While body Gua Sha massage can result in broken capillaries and an almost bruised appearance, facial massage should never do so. You may see some slight redness, especially on the forehead, but this should dissipate quickly and not leave lasting marks. As stated above, if your skin is broken out, red, or irritated before doing the massage, avoid those areas when performing Gua Sha.
What are other Gua Sha benefits?
- Decreased appearance of hyperpigmentation and discoloration
- Visible improvement of dark undereye circles and puffiness
- Smoothed appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
- Decreased appearance of sagging skin
- A sculpted and lifted appearance to the face
- An appearance of vitality and health
How long does it take Gua Sha to work?
Gua Sha facial massage shows immediate visible results in decreasing the appearance of puffiness and improving the appearance of smooth, toned skin. For best results and lasting effects, perform massage regularly.
What tools should I use to do Gua Sha?
You do need a tool to do Gua Sha. This technique relies on the firm edge of the tool to produce results, so you can’t just do it with your hands.
It’s possible to do Gua Sha even with the back edge of a spoon if you’re a minimalist or on a budget. The most common tool used for Gua Sha is made of polished, smooth stone with different curved edges. Optimally there should be a longer, more gently curved edge and at least one part of the tool with a more pronounced curve to give you the option to work on the edge of the jaw or target delicate areas like under and above the eyes.
The tool should be sturdy and not be too thin, and the edge should be very smooth to avoid damaging the skin.
Some tools also have a toothed edge or specialized curves for detailed moves to break up adhesions in areas like the naso-labial folds.
Often tools are made of jade, rose quartz, moonstone, obsidian, opalite or other natural materials. You may find that you enjoy using these beautiful stones to enhance your skin rejuvenation routine. It’s easier to stay excited about your new habit if you have tools you look forward to using.
Make sure to always clean your tool after Gua Sha to remove oil residue.
It’s important to look for natural stone tools that have been created by fair labor practices. These tools are often made by hand in developing countries by artisans. There are concerns about labor abuses from mining of natural stones and their processing. Look to see if the company you are purchasing from states whether they have checked on the labor practices used to create their stone tools.
You will also need a good toner to mist the face and a quality facial oil to provide some lubrication to the skin. Properly hydrating and lubricating the skin will allow the tool to glide well.
Creating Your Gua Sha Routine at Home
Now, let’s get to the good stuff. How to use Gua Sha at home. Our Blissoma estheticians provide step-by-step Gua Sha directions on how to perform the massage yourself.
Professional Gua Sha Video Tutorial for Lymph Drainage Benefits
Esthetician Gua Sha Video Tutorial for Skin Rejuvenation and Relaxation
Here is another Gua Sha video routine for skin rejuvenation demonstrated by Jen, our staff esthetician who handles our skin consultations. It's good to try a few different ways of using your tool so you can get a feel for what Gua Sha techniques benefit your skin the most.
Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is general in nature and for informational purposes. It is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. None of the statements on this site are a recommendation as to how to treat any particular disease or health-related condition. If you suspect you have a disease or health-related condition of any kind, you should contact your health care professional immediately. Please read all product packaging carefully and consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise, supplementation or medication program.