One of the positives to come out of years of quarantining was learning how to do so many beauty, wellness, and self-care practices at home. And we’re exploring self-care and wellness practices from many other cultures; one that’s seeing huge popularity now is that of Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM. Within this world of herbs, acupuncture, and more comes a wonderful beauty and health treatment known as gua sha. Ahead, what it is, why you’ll want to try it, and how to get started!
What is Gua Sha?
Ancient Chinese practice, dating back to the paleolithic age (so, technically, gua sha is Paleo?!).
As a cornerstone of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), it was used as a medical treatment before a beauty treatment. It essentially translates to ‘scraping’ in English — the scraping of skin to move inflammation, or stagnant qi (energy). Think of it as a massage tool of sorts.
“Gua Sha is a treatment that was traditionally used in China to treat musculoskeletal disorders, and to reduce pain and stagnation in the body,” says Melanie Zenor, gua sha practitioner, owner of The Zen Wellness, and doctoral student of acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Diego, CA. “The aim of this treatment is to disperse Qi in the body, which helps to reduce pain and inflammation.”
But there can be some benefits in terms of a more aesthetic application, too. Think: beauty treatment. “Today, this practice is often used as a beauty treatment,” says Zenor. “Gua Sha means ‘to scrape,’ and the tool is used to scrape the skin — either to relieve pain or for aesthetic purposes for the face.”
The Benefits of Gua Sha
Facial massage, in general, can provide a host of benefits, and the practice of gua sha specifically has its own unique ones as well. Medically, says Zenor, “In treatments, Gua Sha is used to improve circulation, and decrease muscle pain and tension.” But when it comes to beauty, this practice can help to “depuff the skin, reduce redness, improve circulation, help reduce acne, contour the face, and minimize fine lines and wrinkles.” Sounds pretty amazing, right?
How to Use Gua Sha
Today, we can use Gua Sha at home whenever we’d like — and that’s just what I did! A few years ago, I took some online classes that shared facial exercises and sculpting that gave me a loose knowledge, but Zenor taught me the more traditional process.
Before we get to specifics, here are her general tips:
- When using the gua sha on your face, always work in an upward motion, with light pressure and short strokes.
- Be extremely mindful of pressure; do not use too much pressure in the face! Some redness is normal during and after use, but bruising is possible with use of too much pressure.
- Always clean your tool before and between uses with isopropyl alcohol.
- For facial gua sha, avoid sharing this tool with others.
You’ll need a facial oil or serum to help the stone glide across your face; I used a nourishing, oily (but not greasy!) serum from Dr. Loretta (the cult favorite Intense Replenishing Serum). I got the added benefit of massaging the skincare into my face while also getting the independent benefits of gua sha.
As for what exactly you’re doing with the stone? The best way to explain the how-to process, IMO, is visually. This video from Gothamista is the best one I’ve found — straightforward, simple, and easy to follow. The primary areas you’ll focus on are the forehead, cheekbones, jaw bones, and neck.
Tips on Choosing a Gua Sha Tool
Zenor has some recommendations when it comes to choosing the right tool for your own gua sha practice.
“For beauty treatments, jade or rose quartz are the best two options,” she says. “Jade is best for skin that is more prone to redness and acne, while rose quartz is best for more mature skin as it boosts circulation and collagen production to help decrease fine lines.”
You can also use a tool for gua sha on other parts of the body. “For any body treatments, traditionally a tool made of Water buffalo horn is used, but there are now a variety of materials that can be found,” she says. “I would suggest avoiding the usage of plastic gua sha for any type, but stainless steel is a good option.”
Our Top Favorite Gua Sha Tools
I use two at home: a jade gua sha (given to me by Zenor after she gave me my first gua sha facial!) and a snow quartz gua sha from Floramye. My jade tool is quite similar to this one on Sephora, but it doesn’t need to be expensive! In fact, you can find one for about $5 on Amazon. Just be sure it’s real jade or rose quartz, as she recommended. The lopsided V-shape (with one arm a bit longer than the other) is the standard shape and, realistically, the only one you need to get started.
My 1 Week Gua Sha Experience
Admittedly, I’ve done gua sha on and off for a few years now, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been consistent with my routine!
This week of committing to a daily practice was beneficial for my face and mind. The extra minutes carved out for some facial massage and quiet time created a wonderful mental space for more pause and reprieve from the business of life.
To boot, my face is depuffed, my skin feels healthy and vibrant, and as the teens say on TikTok, my jawline is looking pretty “snatched.” This practice definitely helped to create more of a sculpted appearance (probably thanks to decreased puffiness!), which was a total confidence booster.
In general, it feels wonderful to take better care of my skin. It’s an act of love to your body (and your largest organ), and emotionally it’s nice to do something that’s just for you. It doesn’t have to cost a ton of money or take a ton of time — a five-dollar jade stone, a little bit of moisturizer or oil, and a few minutes, and I was on my way to feeling a little better each day.
Given the benefits of facial massage and skin care, plus the documented benefits of gua sha itself, there’s no reason to not try this ancient self-care practice. There is such a low barrier to entry, and you’ll be glowing in a matter of days — you have to check this out!