Gua sha facials 101: everything you need to know

A derm sounds off on the viral trend.

gua sha, gua sha board, gua sha facial, jade roller, stone, beauty, skin, skincare

Here’s a thing about me: I only like factual, science-backed skincare. Even if something is trending on my Instagram feed or in my group chat, I’m fully skeptical until I’ve got my dermatologist‘s input (sry, I don’t like messing with my skin!). So when I started noticing gua sha—a skincare technique that’s derived from traditional Chinese medicine—being offered at some of my favorite ~self-care~ spots I wasn’t suuuuper confident that a stone (and a really pretty stone, at that) could make me look like Zendaya or Gigi Hadid. That’s why I immediately called up a derm and a gua sha expert to figure out everything there is to know—including, yes, whether or not the technique actually works.

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The GUA SHA facial ? For the last 2 years I have been refining my explanation of what the ancient Chinese ritual of Gua Sha is and what it does. To get right to the point in simple, less scientific terms, I always tell my clients that Gua Sha assists in bringing out the best version of your skin. ✨ Of course I do go into detail about the lymphatic system, what that does, why it matters for skin health and how to support it, how Gua Sha helps with tension, headaches, congestion, texture – the list goes on. . . . With it’s rise in popularity you could read about Gua Sha all day, but once you feel it you’ll understand why it’s found it’s way into the holistic skin world and even beyond that. After receiving Gua Sha, you’ll be able to feel a noticeable difference in your skin as well as in your mood. You’ll feel a little more weightless from the lymphatic pathways being cleared and deeply relaxed due to the activation of your parasympathetic nervous system – aka the “rest and digest” system. . . . I almost always offer a little Gua Sha massage in my facials but to truly experience the magic that it is and reap all of its benefits, having a full Gua Sha facial is an experience worth trying. The reason I wanted to do a 90 minute Gua Sha facial is because this ritual is not one to be rushed. It’s meant for your body and mind to slow down and let your skin be treated with quality care. . . . If you’re looking for Gua Sha in your area I would highly recommend finding someone who’s completed a training course specifically for Gua Sha. If you’re near me here’s what’s included in the facial I offer??: . . -consultation and skin analysis -thorough cleanse -a custom made @botniaskincare exfoliating mask, mixed after analyzing your skin -full neck and face Gua Sha massage (about 45-50 minutes) with my white jade @nefelicorp tool . . . If you want to know if Gua Sha is right for you please feel free to reach out. Or click on the link in my bio to find out more. Happy Gua Sha-ing! ✨?

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What are the benefits of gua sha?

Welp, tbh, it depends on who you ask, and what school of thought (or, more accurately, training) they subscribe to. According to Sandra Lanshin Chiu, acupuncturist and founder of Treatment by Lanshin in NYC, there are actually two types of gua sha—facial and body.

Body gua sha—a technique thought to stimulate the flow of blood, fluids, and energy within the body—is fairly aggressive (the pressure is heavy enough that it’s not uncommon to be left with hickey-like marks post-treatment). But facial gua sha (a newer, more modern variation) is gentler, and instead involves ‘slowly stroking and massaging the face and neck to improve circulation and release tension, which can leave it less puffy and more glowy.’

But even though the results of gua sha are often immediately noticed (the zillions of post-gua sha selfies on Insta are proof), the effects haven’t exactly been backed by science. ‘There’s very little, if any, literature that proves the relationship between gua sha, increased blood flow, and lymphatic drainage,’ says Dhaval G. Bhanusali, MD, FAAD, a dermatologist at Hudson Dermatology and Laser Surgery. ‘I’m sure it can provide temporary improvement in appearance through basic massaging, but I’m not convinced the effects will last more than a few minutes.’ Womp, womp.

The good news? Dr. Bhanusali says gua sha is ‘relatively harmless,’ so there aren’t any real concerns in getting—or giving yourself—a facial massage, as long as you aren’t expecting to come out of it with a new face.

How often should you gua sha?

Down to try out gua sha for the first time? Consider booking an appointment with a specialist—since you’re applying pressure onto your face, it’s a smart idea to have a professional do it first so you have a sense of how it should (and shouldn’t) feel. Once you’re ready to take your practice to the comfort of your own bathroom, though, there are a few things Chiu suggests you keep in mind:

  • Three is the magic number. ‘I recommend practicing facial gua sha at least three times a week in order to maintain the results of your at-home practice,’ she says. ‘Some people prefer to do it in the morning, others enjoy it before going to sleep, but for me, a quick facial gua sha is my favourite way to prep my skin for makeup.’
  • Using with products is key.’Start with a hydrating mist or alcohol-free toner followed by a facial oil or a moisturiser to prep your skin and get the necessary “glide,”‘ says Chiu. ‘Skin that isn’t freshly hydrated may result in some ‘sha,’ or red marks—they’re not permanent, but it’s not what you’re going for.’
  • Don’t chill your tools. ‘In traditional Chinese medicine, we generally avoid using cold tools on the skin and body because cold constricts circulation,’ she says, suggesting you keep your gua sha tools at room temperature, not in the fridge or freezer. Noted.

If you’re still feeling intimidated, YouTube tutorials are a great place to start. ‘It’s actually pretty simple and repetitive, so once you know the steps, it only takes eight to ten minutes,’ says Chiu. This video is a great introduction for first-timers:

What shape gua sha is the best?

‘Stone quality, design, and craftsmanship matter when choosing a tool,’ says Lanshin. ‘As with any product you use on your face, do your research and don’t be afraid to ask questions.’ That means you’ll want to choose your gua sha tool for function—even though that cutely shaped device might look pretty on your vanity, that doesn’t mean it’s the best one for your face and skincare concerns.

So should you gua sha or not?

At the end of the day, there are two types of people: Those who need a shit-ton of data and their dermatologist’s stamp of approval before they do anything to their face (hi, it me), or those who don’t really buy into Western medicine and are game to try out alternative treatments.

If you fall into the latter, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take a stab at gua sha—especially since you’re now equipped with every piece of knowledge you could need (yeah, yeah, you’re welcome). And, TBH, I might just break my own rules and try it, too—at the very least, it’ll be relaxing AF, right?

Want to give gua sha a go? Here are a couple of tools to try:

1

Ecologic Quartz Gua Sha Board

R285Ecologic

This board is made from clear quartz in the traditional, easy-to-use shape

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2

Rose Quartz Heart Facial Sculptor

R550Celluvac

This pretty pink gua sha board is shaped like a heart and perfectly Instagrammable

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This post originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com.

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