Gua sha facials and at-home gua sha tools are becoming more and more popular… and for good reason. You’d be surprised at what this simple face massage can do!
By stimulating circulation and lymphatic flow, gua sha keeps skin healthy, clear, and youthful. Here’s everything you need to know.
“No flow, no glow!” These words forever changed my skincare routine.
Spoken by a holistic esthetician as she held up a jade gua sha scraping tool on her Instagram stories and I thought “What the heck is that!?”
I’d already given the whole jade face roller trend a try and decided it wasn’t for me — really, the rollers don’t do very much beyond helping massage products more deeply into the skin — so I was a bit skeptical.
But it turns out that gua sha facial massage is on a whole different level…
So what is gua sha? …and how do you pronounce that?
First of all, facial gua sha is very different than body gua sha. Because Google search “gua sha” and most of the images you’ll see are of bruised backs! So don’t worry — facial gua sha isn’t nearly so aggressive.
However, both have been used in east Asian medicine traditions for centuries as a way to stimulate the body’s natural healing processes.
Gua sha face massage is all about stimulating lymphatic flow and circulation.
I had NEVER considered lymphatic flow to the face and neck even though I’ve long been supporting lymphatic flow throughout the body with dry body brushing, my favorite the legs-up-the-wall yoga pose, and even hot and cold showers a.k.a. cheap at-home hydrotherapy.
Because the lymphatic system is a key detoxification pathway — it transports and detoxes cellular waste — and part of the body’s immune system BUT IT HAS NO PUMP! And so things very easily get stagnant, especially since most of us are so sedentary these days (hello, desk jobs and so much time in the car!).
For the body this means impaired detoxification and suppressed immunity. For the face it means puffiness, inflammation, and dullness.
Unlike the lymphatic system, the circulatory system does have a pump (the heart).
That being said, increased circulation to the skin means increased oxygen and nutrients to the skin as well. This aids the cellular repair and regeneration process, and boosts overall skin health.
Poor circulation to the skin is also said to contribute to pigmentation, inflammation, and slower healing.
Gua sha benefits every skin type, from breakout-prone to aging skin.
It’s no surprise that gua sha facials are becoming more and more popular!
Since stagnant lymph leads to fluid retention and puffiness, gua sha is the ultimate remedy. I’ve noticed the biggest improvement under my eyes.
Increased lymphatic flow and circulation give your skin an undeniable glow!
Stagnant lymph and inflammation can contribute to new breakouts and slow the healing of existing breakouts.
It’s also been said that gua sha also helps purge oil from pores, helping to keep them clear. While I don’t exactly know if this is true, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence suggesting that gua sha helps reduce breakouts.
SMOOTHED MUSCLE TENSION
The slow, deliberate strokes used during gua sha facial massage help ease muscle tension by breaking up fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds and runs through our muscles. Fascia provides structural support to the skin, giving it lift and tone, but it can also carry a lot of tension and adhesions that restrict circulation of blood and lymph.
By helping to break us fascia and soothe muscle tension, gua sha helps keep wrinkles away (especially those 11s between the eyes!).
It’s such a relaxing evening routine, and has helped me become more aware of just how much tension I hold in my facial muscles!
If you also hold stress in your face, you need gua sha.
But you don’t need to book a spa appointment to get the benefits of a gua sha facial.
You can get all these gua sha benefits right in the comfort of your own home (and at a fraction of the price!).
Plus, gua sha is best and most effective when done regularly.
All you need is a gua sha tool and to understand the basics of the gua sha facial massage technique.
Scrapers and spoons and mushrooms oh my! Which to choose?
There are a number of different gua sha tools to choose from. Most are made of either jade or rose quartz.
NOTE: You won’t see face rollers on this list! Rollers do NOT move lymph and stimulate circulation nearly as effectively as these tools.
GUA SHA SCRAPING TOOLS (a.k.a. GUA SHA BOARDS)
Gua sha scrapers come in a wide variety of stones, shapes, and sizes. Some have little ridges and resemble a comb (like mine pictured here), rounded groves to stimulate pressure points and especially work the jaw, or different curves.
When using a gua sha scraper, it’s important to hold it more flush to your skin rather than perpendicular to your skin, which can cause irritation.
GUA SHA MUSHROOMS
I LOVE how easy these are to hold and the fact that you use two at once.
This two-at-once thing is a big deal for me. Because as much as I LOVE skincare, I know that I’m far more likely to stick with a regular gua sha facial massage practice if it’s going to be less consuming. And remember: gua sha is best and most effective when done regularly.
I actually love them so much that I recently added these rose quartz gua sha mushrooms to the Body Unburdened store!
Once you have your tool, you need to master the gua sha technique. Don’t worry: it’s incredibly simple!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: Gua sha should NOT be practiced on those with Botox or fillers, or pregnant women as it can stimulate certain acupressure points that need to be avoided during pregnancy.]
There are a number of different techniques and no “right” one as far as I can tell.
That being said, there are a few key gua sha facial massage rules to stick to:
Your skin needs to be properly lubricated before beginning your gua sha facial massage so the tool glides easily over the skin. I recommend using a face oil, like Body Unburdened Beauty Blends!
Related: The Best Face Oils By Skin Type
ALWAYS MASSAGE TOWARDS THE LYMPH NODES
Because we don’t just want to move the lymphatic fluid around, but also drain it.
Lymph nodes are concentrated around the ears, beneath the chin, down the sides of the neck, and around the collarbone.
So for the face, we want to move in long, single strokes from the middle of the face out towards the ears.
For the neck, we want move in long, single strokes down to the clavicle.
THE NECK IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS THE FACE! MAYBE EVEN MORE
Honestly, if you’re going to ignore your neck, it’s not even worth massaging your face.
Because not only do we need to drain the lymphatic fluid from the face, but then away from the face and down the neck.
So I repeat: do not neglect the neck!
USE SINGLE, LONG STROKES MOVING IN ONE DIRECTION: TOWARDS THE LYMPH NODES
So for example, if you’re moving from your chin out towards your ears, you lift the tool from your face once you reach the ears, rather than massaging back in the opposite direction (which would be away from the lymph nodes).
A GENTLE BUT FIRM PRESSURE IS ALL YOU NEED
That urge to press as firmly as possible? Resist it! It’s not necessary to move the lymph and you don’t want to accidentally bruise yourself or cause inflammation.
Simple gua sha facial massage how-to:
Start with your neck, moving in downward strokes. Repeat each stroke 3-6 times before moving on (I recommend more strokes if only practicing gua sha a few times a week, but you can get away with fewer if practicing daily!).
Move all the way around the neck to the sides of your spine, and be sure to get up around your ears where there is a concentration of lymph nodes.
After you’ve massaged your entire neck, it’s time to move on to your face. Start with your chin, moving from the middle of your face towards your ears. Repeat the process while moving up your face to your forehead.
Finally, repeat the process in reverse: moving back down the face from the forehead to the chin, then down and around the neck again.
Have you given facial gua sha a try?
And tips from your own experience to share with us?
Or are you feeling inspired to give gua sha a shot and have any questions?
Please let us know in the comments below!