You may be familiar with gua sha facials, even if you think you don’t know what they are. Have you seen those half moon-shaped stone massagers intended to be used on your face as part of your skincare routine? Probably on social media? Yeah, that’s gua sha. But the bigger question is: Does it work?
TikTok skincare gurus, columnists and beauty influences have been raving about gua sha facials for a while now, but do they actually work or are they just another fad? Do these facial tools really help to clear your skin, reduce wrinkles and even change your face shape? That last one might seem a little far-fetched, but, for some, it’s not out of the question.
Here’s everything you need to know about gua sha facials.
The Basics of Gua Sha
Based in ancient Chinese medicine, gua sha is rooted in the idea that massaging your face helps to increase blood flow, oxygen levels and lymphatic flow. Why? The healthier your face is, the better you look. The word literally translates to “scratch” or “sand” and refers to scratching away your skin’s toxins.
Gua sha incorporates tools made from quartz or jade, purported to contain healing energies, and that are designed to fit the contours of your face, giving you the most benefits out of a gua sha massage possible. The tool works the stone into your face’s meridian lines, releasing pressure and tension.
Best Gua Sha Stones
Primary Benefits of Gua Sha
The main benefits that gua sha practitioners report include…
- Increased blood circulation
- Short-term decrease in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
- Increased lymphatic drainage and circulation
- Relieved stress and muscle tension from stress, anxiety or even jaw issues
- Reduced sinus pressure
- Tighter skin
- Reduced cystic acne sizes
- Reduced cystic acne flare-ups
- Reduced visibility of acne scars
- Reduced under-eye dark circles
- And a brightened complexion
Beyond the physical benefits, though, gua sha also can be used as a part of a self-care routine to help relieve stress and ground oneself in the present moment.
Related: Why is Retinol Serum So Popular?
How to Give Yourself a Gua Sha Facial
Incorporating a gua sha facial massage into your skincare routine is easy. It relies a lot on how you feel and is self-guided, without any hard and fast rules. All you need is a rose quartz or jade gua sha stone.
- Start with clean skin. The only thing that should be on your face should be a facial oil, moisturizer or serum if you plan on using one. Otherwise, keep your face free of makeup and other substances.
- Use the stone to gently press into your skin, using the stone’s natural curves to fit along the contours of your face. Be sure to press the stone beneath your eye and then over your eyes. Incorporate long strokes between your neck and forehead. You want to cover each area of your face about eight times total. You can add oil or serum to your stone, but it’s not required.
- Be careful not to rub back and forth, in opposite directions, too much, as that can irritate your skin. Also, because gua sha increases circulation and lymphatic flow, just like any massage, you’ll want to drink some water after your gua sha facial. Additionally, avoid exercise and hot showers right afterward.
The whole process should only take about a minute. You can do gua sha facials as frequently as every day, but you should notice results even if you’re only doing the facials two or three times per week. (And, if you want more guidance, definitely check out the #guasha hashtag on social media channels such as TikTok).
Gua Sha Side Effects
The only real side effect that you might experience when practicing gua sha is a little redness or, in rare cases, bruising or burst capillaries near the top of the skin. The more common minor redness, however, is nothing to worry about. The amount of redness you see will correlate to how sensitive your skin is, as well as how hard or fast you’re using the stone against your skin.
You should not, however, use a gua sha stone if you’ve been undergoing chemotherapy, have recently had surgery, have a clotting disorder, are diabetic, take a blood thinner or are pregnant. Some say that the increased blood flow caused by gua sha facials can negatively impact those with cancer, who are pregnant or even those who are menstruating. You should also not use a gua sha stone on broken, swollen or irritated skin (such as skin that’s experiencing a rosacea outbreak or sunburned skin). Additionally, don’t use a gua sha stone on skin that’s been treated with dermal fillers or Botox, and don’t rub the stone over prominent facial veins.
What Can Gua Sha Not Do?
While gua sha can definitely be an enjoyable part of a skincare or self-care routine, it’s not a 100% fix for all of your skin woes. There are certain things that gua sha just can’t do.
For example, while it’s often used for its anti-aging effects and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, that’s all credited to the increased blood flow. Gua sha facials can’t reduce the appearances of those lines and wrinkles permanently, or even long-term.
Also, while gua sha facials can help to reduce puffiness, as it increases blood and lymphatic flow, they can’t actually remove fat. If someone claims that gua sha facials sculpted or changed the shape of their face, it’s likely that the circulation simply reduced puffiness in highly visible areas, such as around the neck or jawline.
Picking Out a Gua Sha Tool
If you want to buy a gua sha stone, you have quite a lot of options.
It’s recommended that you purchase a jade stone if you intend to use it at night, but a rose quartz stone if you intend to use it during the morning. Other gua sha materials beyond rose quartz and jade include black obsidian, which is said to contain rejuvenating, repairing and strengthening properties, and amethyst, which is purported to reduce negativity and stress.
You can also find gua sha stones in a variety of shapes. While the concave, half-moon shape is the most popular, you can also find gua sha stones with rugged edges that look a little like a comb, as well as square stones.
Here are a few popular options.
This award-winning Hayo’u Beauty Restorer massager is on the pricier side, but it’s renowned for its benefits and authenticity. Made from 100% Xiuyan jade, it’s reported to help relax facial muscles and stimulate collagen production.
This more budget-friendly rose quartz stone is available from Herbivore. It helps to increase elasticity and stimulate circulation for lessened puffiness and tension. Reviewers say it’s an excellent choice for use with serums and oils, and it’s helped them to legitimately relieve puffiness and soreness.
Want something more unique? You can also opt for a heart shaped stone.
But jade and rose quartz aren’t the only materials that are used to create gua sha stones. This option is made from buffalo horn, which is known for its healing properties. Buffalo horn is purported to help heat and cool the blood for greater detoxifying effects.
Whatever you find the case to be when you use it, you will notice this stone’s affordability and that it’s conveniently available on Amazon.
The Pink Moon Duo is a nice option for those who want to incorporate an oil or serum into their gua sha routine but who don’t really have an idea of where to start or what oil or serum to buy. The dual pack comes with both the gua sha stone, as well as a sunflower and moringa oil, for all the benefits of a gua sha facial, plus added hydration and skin protection.
This option is a little more pricey, at $80, but it receives rave reviews, with buyers saying the combo is incredibly relaxing to use and that they can visibly notice increased facial firmness after use.
This YINA stone is made from bian, a stone traditionally used in Chinese medicine and known for its pointed edges and micromeritic limestone content. Rather than the traditional half-moon shape that you’ll see with many gua sha stones, this one offers a ridged, wavy edge for better pinpointing spots of pressure and stress.
Caring for Your Gua Sha Stone
Once you’ve picked out and purchased your gua sha stone, you’ll want to care for it. Always work with a clean gua sha stone to prevent the spread of bacteria. You can simply clean your gua sha stone in warm or boiling water, or, if you’re really worried about the cleanliness, in very diluted bleach and water solution. You can also use rubbing alcohol to clean your stone between uses.
Before using your gua sha stone, you might find it helpful (and more stress-relieving and rejuvenating!) to store your stone in the fridge, allowing it to get cool before your facial. This can not only feel great, but it also can help enhance certain benefits, such as skin tightening and reducing puffiness.
Other Gua Sha Stone Uses
But you don’t have to limit your gua sha tool use to only your face. Gua sha stones are also used in full-body massages to give your entire body the same circulation-improving benefits.
Reported benefits when using gua sha massage for other areas of your body include…
- Chronic pain relief
- Joint pain relief
- Overall muscle pain relief
- Declines in liver inflammation
- Relief from migraine headaches
- Relief from discomfort when breastfeeding
- Relief from perimenopausal symptoms
- Relief from anxiety symptoms
To self-massage your back using your gua sha stone, run the stone gently from the upper part of your spine, on one side of your vertebrae, to the bottom part. Repeat on the other side. You can also run the stone from your mid-upper back, where your spine is, to the edge of each shoulder.
Don’t Want to Do the Hard Work Yourself?
If giving yourself a gua sha facial sounds like a lot of hard work, you can actually book gua sha appointments with many professionals who also practice other forms of traditional Chinese medicine, such as acupuncture. Do a little research and see if an acupuncturist near you offers either gua sha facials or full-body gua sha treatments. You can expect a professional gua sha treatment to be a little more intense than what you do at home but also more effective.
A professional gua sha facial doesn’t take long, only about 15 to 20 minutes; however, for a full rejuvenating spa or health and wellness treatment, book your gua sha facial along with either a full-body gua sha experience or some acupuncture or another type of facial. As is the case with every professional beauty treatment, your cost will greatly depend on where you go. In general, you can expect to pay anywhere from $25 to $200 for a gua sha facial.
Is Gua Sha Right for You?
There are only a few instances in which gua sha might not be a good fit for your lifestyle. For everyone else, gua sha can be a beneficial practice that not only helps you feel better but helps you look better, too. While you might not see such dramatic sculpting effects as you might hear about on TikTok, you will definitely notice reduced puffiness, increased circulation and a brighter, more relaxed complexion.
You might also be interested in: Why You Need to Buy a Jade Roller (and How to Best Use One)
Best Gua Sha Stones:
- Hayo’u Beauty Restorer Face Massage Tool
- Herbivore Rose Quartz Gua Sha Stone
- SUPVOX Natural Buffalo Horn Gua Sha
- Pink Moon Over the Moon Duo
- YINA Bian Stone