Social media makes me do crazy things (especially Instagram). I know I’m not the only one who gets completely mesmerized by a perfectly styled photo, and don’t get me started on tutorials. All it takes is for a friend to DM me something and poof—I’ve somehow managed to buy whatever was sent and then some other things I probably definitely didn’t need. My purchasing cycle is very Ariana Grande: I see it. I like it. I want it. I got it. So I guess you can consider me an advertiser’s dream target.
But trust me: Some good does come from my shopping habits. Like the time an old manager sent me this amazing video of a woman using a gua sha tool. Had she not, who knows when I would have gotten my hands on my very own? Though it should be said that I didn’t immediately buy one; I caved when I started seeing them all over my feed and thought it was a sign.
At first I was skeptical: Was I really going to see a more lifted and contoured face? It only took a few weeks of regular use for me to become a true believer, and it turns out there are a ton of gua sha benefits I wasn’t even aware of. “The treatment is meant to bring blood and oxygen flow to the area treated so that the body can more efficiently process buildup of blood and toxins,” says herbalist, acupuncturist and founder of Vie Healing Mona Dan, LAc., MTOM. Intrigued? Here’s everything else worth knowing…
What is gua sha?
First things first: The actual translation of the word is “scraping.” Now let’s really get into it… “Gua sha is a traditional Chinese medical instrument used to enhance blood flow through the method of ‘scraping’ in one direction along the skin,” says Dan. So why is it just now having its moment in the spotlight? Dan thinks it’s because more people are aware of the benefits.
“Traditionally, we use the tool for the purpose of increasing circulation and releasing stagnant blood and toxins,” she says. “It’s used on the back and larger body parts for the most part, but in a more aggressive manner [ed. note—don’t google gua sha unless you’re okay with seeing a lot of scary-looking red backs!]. But the benefits definitely translate when used gently on the face to increase blood circulation, which increases elastin and collagen. It helps with lymph drainage and increases blood flow, giving skin a glow as it gets more lubricated with clean blood under the dermal layer.”
Anyone can, especially those who are on the fence about Botox. “The use of this tool along with facial acupuncture is healthier for skin; it plumps and stimulates muscle tone instead of causing atrophy, and is truly an incredible way to keep skin youthful-looking,” says Dan. Though if you’re having any sort of breakout or irritation, it’s best to wait until skin is more clear.
For results, you want to use it at least once a day. For even better results, twice a day for just five to 10 minutes each! Before “scraping,” be sure to slather on—and I mean slather—an oil of your choice. You need the lubricant to last through the scraping. It’s also worth noting that you need to use light pressure; if you’re too vigorous you’ll cause bruising, which is definitely not the point. You’re doing this to release stagnant toxins and fluid, which can be drained from the right and left lymphatic ducts between collarbones. To cover more surface area, keep the gua sha tool at a 15º angle to the skin, where it’s almost flat, and always use an upward motion following the contours of your face. Remember: Upward motion = lifted skin; downward motion = saggy skin.
How does it differ from jade rolling and other tools?
For starters, Dan says the shape is important. It’s also a matter of preference and the area you want to target. You also don’t need a well-oiled face for jade rolling (it just needs to be clean and moisturized), while you do for gua sha. They both can be made of anything from super-polished wood to metal to precious healing gemstones like rose quartz, amethyst, and jade.
The key difference? “Jade rolling is mainly a lymphatic drainage massage and is great for people with puffiness,” explains Lamees Hamdan, MD, founder and CEO of Shiffa. Gua sha, on the other hand, is a facial release massage—like foam rolling, but for your face. “My own FaSha Clear Crystal Quartz Tool is specially designed with different edges, because fascia is multidirectional, so to properly release tightness, you need to use it a little differently than the jade roller,” says Hamdan.
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions. See our full health disclaimer here.