Get ready for smoother and plumper skin.

By Rachel Jacoby Zoldan and Tessa Petak
Updated Jun 17, 2021 @ 5:15 pm
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If you've been on Instagram or TikTok (or just not living under a rock) then you've probably noticed that one of the most ancient beauty tools is taking over the world, one contoured and plump face at a time. Yes we're talking about the gua sha.

Known for delivering real noticeable results, like firmer, smoother skin and less wrinkles, acne, blemishes, and eczema, this little hand-held stone is a God send. Sound too good to be true, right? Well, we consulted skincare and traditional Chinese medicine practicing experts to find out the most effective methods to use your little tool in order to deliver the best results.

So if you're looking for real changes you can see, like tauter skin, or enhancements without injectables (it's often referred to as the Botox of the East) you should really invest in a gua sha stone and commit to practice. So without further ado, read on for everything you need to know about facial gua sha.

What is Gua Sha?

"Facial gua sha is a relatively new 'cosmetic' treatment derived from traditional gua sha, which is practiced on the body, and is an important technique in traditional Chinese medicine," says Sandra Lanshin Chiu, L.Ac., acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist, and founder of Lanshin, a healing studio. "Facial gua sha uses a smooth tool, often jade or quartz, to slowly stroke the face and neck, improving circulation and releasing tension."

Chiu adds that the practice dates back a long time - some records suggest as far back as the Paleolithic era. "Historically, tools were made from various types of materials like stones, coins, horns. Gua sha was used to treat pain and illnesses as serious as cholera," says Chiu. Today, gua sha is still used by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners to "treat pain and boost immune function," she adds.

"The gua sha technique, which translates to 'scrape wind,' was primarily first used on the body to release toxins and relieve pain in tired, sore, or injured muscles," says Anna Lam, of Ginger Chi, a natural boutique in New York that carries its own line of gua sha tools and jade rollers. "By 'scraping' with repeated strokes on the surface of the skin, the gua sha helps stimulate new blood flow and draw out stagnation in the problem areas to help generate metabolic cell repair and healing," Lam says.

But fear not, because while the traditional practice for your body is much more aggressive, resulting in bruising, Chiu says facial gua sha is meant to be performed at a much slower speed with much less pressure. In fact, when it comes to your face she says to take the "less is more approach."

How Is Gua Sha Different From Other Tools?

According to Chiu, the strokes applied during the gua sha process create stretching of the skin, which leads to myofascial release (face muscle relaxation and improvement of circulation).

Now using a jade roller does have some benefits, like more effective product penetration, lymphatic circulation, and overall relaxation. But the jade roller is a pretty simple tool - there's only one shape and one motion to a jade roller.

A gua sha, on the other hand, has a unique shape with different edges that when used correctly can contour your face, improve circulation, penetrate products, and relax tense muscles. Its benefits come from the motion, rather than the material.

The scraper is used in stroking motion "over the facial curvatures in an attempt to bring new blood to the surface and promote lymphatic drainage," says Lam. "Gua sha relaxes tension in facial muscles which can cause lines. It's kind of like exercise for your face - with regular use, gua sha can tone skin and promote increased skin elasticity."

What Are the Benefits of Gua Sha?

As Lam pointed out, over time consistent practice can lead to noticeable results, like clearer, brighter, tighter, younger-looking skin with less wrinkles, fine lines, and blemishes. Chiu agrees, adding that's not even where the benefits stop.

"Improved circulation creates visible changes: reduced puffiness, smoother complexion, softened lines, reduced sagging, sculpt and lift to facial features, adds volume to sunken features, and it can even help acne heal faster," says Chiu. Though she adds not to use a gua sha on inflamed or open and picked skin. Instead cover with a pimple patch before using.

If you're also hoping for some more immediate results in the meantime while you wait to see the changes, gua sha does have some pretty nice immediate benefits, like releasing tension or relieving a headache.

"Facial gua sha is wonderful for releasing knots in the face, neck, and shoulders," says Chiu. "Many of the benefits are immediate so it's an ideal technique for relief from headaches, sinus congestion, or a tight/painful jaw."

How Do You Choose a Gua Sha Tool?

Pick the tool that you feel most drawn to as there's no one model that works best, says Lam. "They should all be carved with curves, rounded knobs, and points to fit within the curvatures of the face and press down on the meridian points," or pressure points in which traditional Chinese medicine practitioners believe vital life energy known as Qi flows through.

Same goes for the crystal you choose for your gua sha: Find your favorite and stick with it. There's rose quartz, jade, amethyst, and tiger's eye recently, too. "Each stone is known to have different healing properties, but all should provide similar results as it's more about the gua sha technique than the crystal of choice," says Lam. However, jade was traditionally used "because it's cool to the touch and has detoxifying properties," she adds.

So you really can't go wrong with which stone you use. It's more about the shape of the tool and the motion of the ocean. Our favorite, most versatile tool is the Lanshin Pro Gua Sha ($125, net-a-porter.com)

How Do You Use the Gua Sha Tool on Your Face?

Lam says the whole thing is pretty straightforward - provided you use a light touch. "Hold the gua sha tool with the curved side to your face and glide it gently up and out, starting with the neck, jawline, chin, and around the mouth, between three and five times per area," says Lam. "Then sweep across cheeks and gently glide under the eyes, across your eyebrows and from your forehead up to your hairline."

Chiu adds that slow strokes with medium pressure is the most effective way to see results. Too hard and fast can result in "sha," or red marks. As for how often you do this treatment, Lam recommends at least a few times a week for best results. Chiu says practicing gua sha daily is the best way to maintain. Anytime of the day works - work it into your bedtime routine or before you apply makeup for a fresh, glowy, and contoured base.

VIDEO: Face Rollers vs. Gua Sha

Skincare: Before, During, or After?

"Gua sha is best done after both cleansing the face and applying a moisturizer or facial oil," says Lam, "as the gua massage not only gives your skin a 'workout,' but also helps products' nutrients absorb better into skin."

Chiu recommends even trying a gentle facial mist or alcohol-free toner to add some moisture to your skin. Using the gua sha on too dry of skin can lead to irritation, she says.

Chiu adds that incorporating gua sha into your nightly facial routine is a great way to stick to the practice. After washing your face and applying oils and moisturizers, sit back with your favorite Netflix show and your gua sha and enjoy some relaxation.

Can Gua Sha Replace Injectables?

While gua sha won't deliver the same immediate and drastic results as injectables, such as Botox and other filler, after consistent and proper use, you can notice some of the same changes. Chiu just notes that in order to maintain changes, you'll need to practice daily or at least three times a week.

"Gua sha is a practice intended to invigorate the healthy circulation of muscles and tissues that feed the skin, so I look at it as a health practice that has 'cosmetic side effects' like glowing skin and softening lines," says Chiu.

She also says that practicing gua sha correctly will create a plumpness in your skin and could actually replace filler.

"I'm able to increase the appearance of plumpness to cheeks," she says. "I think for those who feel hesitant about fillers, it's worth trying facial gua sha first."

The Bottom Line?

Is it as good as Botox? Definitely not. But it certainly has it's benefits after consistent practice, like a tighter, brighter, tauter, and smoother skin. And what's not to love about that? Plus, according to traditional Chinese medicine, the whole point of gua sha is to improve circulation and create a healthy energy, so embracing that mindset will just leave you pleasantly surprised when you start to notice cosmetic improvements.

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