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While Gua Sha facial massage is totally having a moment right now, it’s actually nothing new. Gua Sha is an old-school natural beauty treatment that has its roots in traditional Chinese medicine. It’s been around for thousands of years, and has gained popularity in recent months due to its incredible health benefits, including clearer skin, reduced puffiness, and fewer wrinkles.
I personally started incorporating Gua Sha facial massage into my nightly routine about a year ago. Since introducing Gua Sha facial massage, I’ve noticed a dramatic reduction in puffiness, wrinkles, and tension in my face and neck. I’ve also noticed improved lymphatic flow and a reduction in inflammation. It’s no wonder people consider facial gua sha to be natural Botox!
What is Gua Sha?
Gua Sha is a natural technique that involves instrument-assisted massage with a Gua Sha stone, sometimes also called a Gua Sha board. The name Gua Sha—pronouced gwah shah—comes from the Chinese word for “scrapping”. Traditionally, gua sha is done on different parts of the body. A Gua Sha stone is scraped across the skin with pressure to relieve pain and tension, and promote circulation to the area.
While traditional Gua Sha is more intense and can sometimes leave red marks, Gua Sha for your face is much simpler and gentler. It’s performed with a light hand, and can be done in less than 10 minutes within the comforts of your own home.
What are the Benefits of Facial Gua Sha?
To put it simply, facial Gua Sha is like yoga for your face. Gua Sha breaks up the tension in your facial and neck muscles, and encourages lymphatic drainage. It also improves circulation, which allows for accelerated healing. When done regularly, the long-term effects are powerful. You’ll likely notice a reduction in the appearance of wrinkles, dark eye circles, and puffiness. Because it improves circulation and breaks up tension in muscles, some people also experience brighter skin and less congestion and breakouts.
If you’re wondering why Gua Sha provides these benefits, it all has to do with movement. You’ve likely heard sitting is the new smoking. Being sedentary is linked to many health issues, and that’s also true of our skin. Our skin is our largest organ, and is nourished and healed through movement and circulation.
Your lymphatic system is your largest circulatory system in your body. It clears out waste and toxins through a network of lymph vessels and nodes. It’s actually fairly similar to the circulatory (blood) system, except for one major difference: blood is pumped through the body by the heart. The lymphatic system doesn’t have an internal pump. Instead, physical movement is what encourages the movement of lymph.
The lymph system is all throughout the body, but it’s especially robust in the face and neck. Without movement, lymph can become stagnant. This can lead to puffiness, dullness, congestion, and inflammation.
Choosing the Right Gua Sha Stone
Gua Sha stones are small, smooth stones that fit comfortably in your hand. They can be made out of jade, rose quartz, or other similar materials and come in a variety of shapes.
Gua sha stones typically have a long, smooth edge, round edges, divots, and some have a comb edge. The two most popular stones are the teardrop-shaped Gua Sha stone and long-edged Gua Sha stone. The teardrop stone is the best one to start with, as it fits comfortably in the hand and has one divot that perfectly hugs contours and bones, like along your brow line. A long-edge stone is great for breaking up tension in the neck and jaw, and typically has a scalloped edge that can work into different areas more intensely, like under your jaw and behind your ear. I recommend investing both, as they each serve a different purpose.
Gua Sha tools also come in different thicknesses. The thicker the stone, the less intense it will feel. If you’re trying Gua Sha facial massage for the first time, go with a slightly thicker, teardrop stone.
How to Use Your Gua Sha Stone
You’ll use the different edges of your Gua Sha stone to perform massaging strokes or “sweeps” on different parts of your neck and face. Generally, you want to start with your neck, and work your way up to your forehead to create a pathway for proper lymphatic drainage. Here’s some quick tips for using your stone:
- When performing sweeps, use light pressure. Lymph fluid is right under your skin, so gentle strokes are sufficient. You can use more pressure when performing sweeps on areas with more tension, like your neck and jaw.
- Always hold the stone at a 15 degree angle. This will give the stone more contact with your skin. Avoid holding it at a 90 degree angle.
- Make sure that you’re pulling the Gua Sha stone across your skin with sweeps, not pushing the stone.
- If you need to, anchor your skin with your opposite hand so that your skin isn’t pulled during sweeps.
How To Gua Sha on Your Face (Step-By-Step Tutorial with Video)
Step 1: Prep Your Skin
Before performing facial Gua Sha, make sure your skin is freshly cleansed and toned. Then, you’ll want to apply a face oil or moisturizing cream to help the tool glide across your skin. You want your skin to be slippy, but not so slippy that you can’t get tension with the stone. I love Beautycounter’s face oils for this. Use the #1 Brightening Oil if you want brightening effects, or the #3 Balancing Oil if you have combination or acne-prone skin.
One of the easiest ways to perform Gua Sha facial massage is right after your morning or nighttime skin care routine. After cleansing and toning, apply all of your normal moisturizing products, including a serum and moisturizer. If your moisturizer isn’t cream based, simply apply a facial oil on top of your moisturizer. Perform after your morning skin care routine to reduce puffiness, or after your nighttime skin care routine to release tension.
I personally love doing it after my nighttime routine while I’m sitting in bed watching TV. I currently use the entire Countertime collection prior to performing Gua Sha, which is safe anti-aging skin care that is ultra hydrating and promotes collagen production. I wash my face with the Countertime Cleansing Oil, then use the Primally Pure Everything Spray as a toner, and then apply the Countertime Radiance Serum and Tetrapeptide Supreme Cream as a moisturizer. The Supreme Cream provides the perfect amount of “glide” for the stone, and doing Gua Sha after my nighttime routine helps to work those nutrients deeper into skin. If you do it after your nighttime routine, make sure to apply your eye cream after you do Gua Sha on your face.
Step 2: Perform the Sweeps
Gua Sha is easier to demonstrate than explain, so I’ve put together a Gua Sha Facial Massage Video Tutorial with step-by-step instructions. I’ve also written out an easy 5-minute beginner-friendly Gua Sha facial massage sequence below.
Perform 3-5 sweeps in each placement. Of course, you can spend more time on a specific area if it feels right. At the end of each stroke, wiggle the stone a bit to encourage movement and release.
As a general rule, upward sweeps lengthen, release tension, and firm, while downward strokes help to detoxify, drain, and reduce puffiness. All strokes on your face should start midline, and then sweep out to encourage drainage.
Remember—there is no one way to Gua Sha. Experiment with this to start and you’ll soon find what works for you.
- NECK: Start on the left side. Beside the spine, sweep from the base of the neck up to the hairline using the straight edge.
- SHOULDER: Sweep from the top of the shoulder to the bottom of the ear.
- NECK: Beside the throat, sweep from the base of the collarbone to underneath the jawbone.
- CHIN: Using the large round edge, sweep from underneath your chin to right underneath your earlobe.
- FACE: Sweep from the middle of the face to hairline along the jawline, jaw muscles, cheeks, underneath the eye, and eyebrow. Facial strokes should start midline, and work outward. Use the divot in the stone to hug bony areas like the eyebrow bone. Use the teeth of the comb to work on areas of discoloration or fine lines.
- FOREHEAD: Using the long straight edge, sweep from between the eyebrows up to the hair line. For frown lines, anchor your eyebrow with one hand and use the comb on frown lines.
When you’ve finished all the areas of your face, it’s time to drain! Finish with short downward strokes along the hairline and around your neck to help everything drain. Do your neck and shoulder stokes in reverse. The, repeat on the right side.
If you have Botox or injectable fillers, you shouldn’t perform Gua Sha on your face.
If you have acne, broken skin, or areas that are inflamed, you can still perform Gua Sha on your face, just work around those areas when performing sweeps. Afterwards, you can cool your stone in a bowl of ice water and place it directly on top of the inflamed area. Apply light pressure and wiggle it around a bit. Follow up with a safe anti-inflammatory acne treatment, like Beautycounter’s Countercontrol SOS Spot Treatment, which has salicylic acid.
It’s time to Gua Sha!
While this was a pretty comprehensive overview of Gua Sha for your face, the beauty of Gua Sha facial massage is that it’s simple and accessible. All you need is a Gua Sha stone, a facial oil, and a sequence to follow. Even if you only have a minute or two at the end of the night, do a couple sweeps. Consistency is key!
Got questions about how to do Gua Sha on your face? Ask them below! Happy to help in any way I can.