Everything You Need To Know About Gua Sha

In addition to elevating the aesthetic of your vanity, gua sha and facial rollers can provide demonstrable benefits to your skin. Here, skincare experts share their tips on how the practice can complement cosmetic procedures.
Beauty
Written by Amber Katz
03.30.2020
Everything You Need To Know About Gua ShaYulisitsa/Shutterstock

In addition to elevating the aesthetic of your vanity, gua sha and facial rollers can provide demonstrable benefits to your skin. While temporary, the sculpting and lymphatic benefits are as real as they are visible. If you don’t believe us, try massaging half your face to see the difference a two-minute session can make! To better understand the ancient rituals and their modern benefits, we tapped a few gua sha and facial massage experts to get their tips on how these practices can complement (and maybe even sub for) cosmetic procedures.

The Benefits of Facial Massage Tools

The main benefit of facial massage is its ability to remove toxins and bring new, oxygenated blood to the area. “Clearing the toxins not only helps your glow but also prevents issues like acne and fine lines due to environmental stressors,” says Ranavat Botanics founder Michelle Ranavat, whose Kansa Wand was developed with this in mind. “To balance your skin’s composition, its reaction to hormonal acne and overall glow, add a facial massage tool.”

But you’ll have to be realistic. If your concern is skin composition (think: brightness, breakouts, minor fine lines, etc.), then facial massage tools are great. If your concern is loose, sagging skin and elasticity, “cosmetic procedures will provide more dramatic, lasting results,” Ranavat says.

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Both gua sha stones and roller devices can be great additions to anyone’s beauty routine, as they provide consistent results over time, says Ashley Brown, director of education at Odacité. “They can be a fantastic way to relieve puffiness, encourage a brighter complexion through blood circulation, and release muscle tension held in the face, which, in turn, encourages a more youthful complexion,” she explains.

While facial massages can ultimately complement in-office procedures, it is important to consult with your board certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon. For instance, Brown advises anyone who has received neurotoxin injections or soft-tissue filler to refrain from engaging in the practices simultaneously at first. “Advise with your provider on the appropriate length of time to wait before incorporating these tools,” she says.

The History of Gua Sha

“Everything old is new again,” says acupuncturist Elizabeth Trattner, AP. “As we look for ancient remedies for modern health and beauty, gua sha has solid clinical scientific evidence that facial rollers cannot touch.”

‘Gua sha’ is broken in two words. ‘Gua’ refers to a tool used to scrape the skin, while ‘sha’ is the redness that appears from the scraping. It is translated from the word ‘sand,’ Dr. Trattner says, and has been part of Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. It was common to use tools like horn, stone, and, yes, jade to scrape the skin.

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“Gua sha increases surface micro-circulation by 400 percent,” Dr. Trattner explains. “While helping with myalgia in the body, gua sha upregulates heme oxygenase in the immune system, so it helps with oxidative stress in the body, helps decrease inflammation, and helps regulate allergic reaction.” Gua sha therapy has been shown to help with respiratory and hepatic issues as well, she says.

Gua Sha in Aesthetic Medicine

Dr. Trattner spent two years practicing Chinese Medicine with a plastic surgeon and says gua sha can help both pre- and post-op. “Before going in for surgery, get a lesson from a cosmetic acupuncturist to learn the correct pressure for gua sha,” she advises. “This will help optimize the skin before surgery.

When done properly, gua sha may even accelerate healing. “After surgery, it can help with post-operative swelling that can last for months,” she shares. “Many women come to see me for facial swell after surgery to help drain lymph and depuff the face, neck, and chest.” While both gua sha and facial rollers increase blood flow and provide relief, Dr. Trattner maintains gua sha is more efficacious.

Despite the benefits, she, like Brown, encourages patients to consult with their doctor before resuming a gua sha or jade rolling regimen after certain procedures. In the case of dermal filler, for example, she advises avoiding the treatment area to prevent disrupting the placement of the product. “Wait several weeks and either roll or gua sha around the area and the injection site,” Dr. Trattner says.

How to Use a Gua Sha Tool

Whether you’re using a beauty tool or putting on your favorite skincare product, Brown says it is always best to apply in upward strokes to discourage the sagging and loss of elasticity caused by too much tugging on the skin. “Work from the center of the face, outwards, and then ‘drain’ by guiding your tool down your jaw, behind your ear, and finally down the sides of the neck,” she explains. “The main goal is to be able to lift and sculpt. We do this by encouraging lymphatic drainage.”

In the case of gua sha, specifically, Brown says the tool should always lie flat against the skin and be applied with light to medium pressure. You can also check out Odacité on IGTV to see step-by-step gua sha tutorials designed for different skin concerns.

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Oh, and don’t even think about starting your massage without first applying an oil. As Ranavat explains, the base is necessary to yield the optimal results. Ideally, you want to use a serum or oil that is a medium weight. “This allows you to have the glide and slip on the wand without feeling the heaviness of a thicker oil,” she explains, adding that her Radiant Rani Illuminating Serum is made with anti-inflammatory herbs like turmeric and saffron that also lock-in moisture.

Brown agrees on the oil tip. “A good oil is absolutely key to yield the best results with your gua sha,” she says. “It avoids unnecessary tugging and allows the tool to effortlessly glide against the skin.” She recommends the Odacité All-Embracing Serum in tandem with the Crystal Contour Gua Sha because it is infused with watermelon seed oil, which hydrates without leaving behind a greasy residue.

A Sample Neck Routine

If you’re looking to jumpstart your gua sha or facial rolling routine but don’t know where to start, Ranavat offers this program to try with her Kansa Wand or other facial massage tool. Before you start, don’t forget to apply a serum or oil for best results.

Front of the Neck

  • Place the tool on the front-left side of the neck, slightly above the collarbone
  • Stretch the skin by gently sliding the wand inward toward the middle of the collarbone
  • Repeat on the front-right side

Side of the Neck

  • Place the wand on the left side of the neck, below the ear
  • Slowly move the tool down and back up
  • Repeat on the right side

Back of the Neck

  • Place the wand on the back of the neck, near the hairline
  • Gently slide the wand down the neck toward the spine
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AMBER KATZis a freelance writer for AEDIT.
tagsSkincareExpert OpinionSelf Care
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